Drought Tolerant Plants Make Gardening With Little Rain Easier

By Nikki Tilley | July 25, 2022
by Nikki Tilley
July 25, 2022

Summers here in North Carolina can get hot and humid, but that doesn’t mean it’s always wet. Oftentimes, the hit and miss evening showers we tend to get, if we’re lucky, go right around us, so unless I’m out there watering for about an hour or two each day, the ground will easily become bone dry – and sometimes it’s as hard as concrete even when I do. So when it’s hot and dry, I need plants that can take the heat and tolerate drought.

Gardening with Little Rain

The majority of plants in my garden are drought tolerant. However, that doesn’t mean they’re fully immune from dry conditions. Until drought tolerant plants are well established, you have to keep them watered. Thankfully, much of my garden has now reached this point, although I’m continually adding new plants and changing things up. And though they may be tolerant of dry conditions, this doesn’t mean they can survive this way for prolonged periods. They still require water.

In my garden you’ll find drought tolerant plants like sedum, coneflowers, rudbeckia, and coreopsis. There’s also rosemary, dianthus, penstemon and spirea. Annuals that work well for both the heat and dry conditions include zinnias, petunias and marigolds. These also propagate easily by seed, and if I’m really lucky they will seed themselves when I shake or scatter the seeds across the bed. I do this with many plants and love the surprises that pop up later. I have found a number of plants that actually do quite well in the garden, despite the fact that they’re not always labeled as drought tolerant. My daylily flowers happily grow in the toughest conditions, irises too. This is one reason why I am constantly adding more. My rose of Sharon is nearly indestructible here. I know I can depend on them regardless.

Drought tolerance in the landscape isn’t the only thing my plants need to withstand though. Heat resistance is a must. Not all plants can hold up to it, let alone remain halfway pretty during the peak of summer. Of course, nowadays it feels like summer much earlier as the temps keep rising higher and higher – we already hit near triple digits just in the month of June, when normally this doesn’t happen until late July to August. Even with adequate care, plants with both heat and drought tolerance can wilt by midday. Luckily, once it cools off a smidgeon in the evening they will usually bounce back, especially with another refreshing drink of water. You can (and should) water in the morning but, trust me, before reaching noon, that soil will be dry again.

Native plants in my area are another welcome addition to the garden. Not only are these more adapted to our weather, but they also provide shelter and sustenance for local wildlife. And they in turn help spread the love throughout the landscape when their droppings reseed the area. These volunteer plants, like those that result from shaking seedheads in the garden, can be some of the hardiest growers too. And with all the heat, stifling air and lack of rain in my particular location, I can use all the help I can get.

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