By Bonnie L. Grant
Let’s face it. Water costs money, is in short supply as our climate changes and, yet, it is essential for us, animals and our landscapes. This means water management is crucial to ensure there is enough to go around. Using drought tolerant plants in your garden is a great way to save water and use it responsibly. Along with good practices like mulching, infrequent but deep watering and watering at the right time of the day, choosing water responsible plants can help chop your utility bill in half while still providing you with a lush landscape.
Some of the best plants to choose are succulents, low moisture shrubs and herbs. Many other plants that are drought tolerant will need to be established before that tolerance kicks in. With that in mind, install plants in fall, if possible, to take advantage of any late season precipitation and give plants time to establish before hot, dry summer arrives. Here are 10 excellent plants for drought to try in the landscape.
1. Southern catalpa – If your garden needs dimension, try the Catalpa tree. It may grow up to 40 feet tall with a nice elegant arching branch structure. It is also native to North America, which makes it easy to establish.
2. Mahonia – Mahonia is another native which has a unique appearance. Leaves are often green touched with red or bronze, deeply toothed (almost serrated) and the plant produces a lovely yellow flower and berries. This guy has three seasons of interest without being a water hog.
3. Cotoneaster – A low growing plant that makes an excellent ground cover, cotoneaster, like Mahonia, has several seasons of interest and produces bright red berries for birds to munch upon.
4. Chaste tree – This little guy only grows up to 20 feet in height but it produces a haze of bright blue flowers in spring. The blue is absolutely electric and the small leaves are attractive and persistent. Chaste tree can be kept sheared as a bush or let go to produce a small tree.
5. Eucalyptus – These plants are native to Australia and they are reliably drought tolerant once established. Unfortunately, some species are not hardy if temperatures dip below 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-6 C.) Most species of eucalyptus only get 20 feet in height but be careful, as some can get over 50 feet.
6. Windmill palm – Windmill palms have all the exotic charm of a large palm but only grow 20 feet tall. The big fronds help the plant conserve moisture. Windmill palm is one of the most cold hardy palms and can grow in most zones.
7. Agave – You don’t have to have a desert landscape to enjoy the century plant. It grows slowly but water usage is low and it is reliably hardy down to 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 C.) and can tolerate light freezes with thick mulching. In time, it will produce a spectacular ivory floral spike.
8. Juniper – An aromatic hedge or simply a stand-alone shrub, juniper produces blue berries and has bluish green foliage. It is tolerant of hard shearing, which makes it an easy plant to keep in any habit that you prefer.
9. Sarcococca – If you have ever been outside in late winter to early spring and smelled the most intoxicating scent, you might be near sweet box. Sarcococca, or sweet box, is a small evergreen shrub with glossy green leaves and fragrant white flowers followed by edible fruits.
10. Yucca – Not to be outdone, yucca is our last recommended plant due to its drought tolerance, ease of care, wide range of adaptability and glorious structure. The various species may grow from 2 to 6 feet in height but all have a liking for hot, dry areas, making them perfect for the drought bitten landscape.