By Keri Byrum
Because of increasing demands on limited water supplies throughout the country, many of us are starting to rethink how we garden. While we may have a very rainy season during the summer months, dry conditions are not uncommon and deserve our attention. Using drought-tolerant plants for your yard and landscape saves precious resources and money.
Thanks to our high amounts of rainfall throughout the year, Gulf Coast gardeners do not have to resort to rock gardens as xeriscape (low-water) landscapes. If you are like me, you want to keep a beautiful garden while reducing the need for extra watering. Fortunately, we can select drought-tolerant plants that need little or no supplemental water during dry periods. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Lily of the Nile (Agapanthus orientalis). Beautiful blue or white balls of flowers sit atop the strappy green leaves of this drought-tolerant plant. Flowers grow throughout the summer months, and the number of large flowers increases as plants age. Over time they form large clumps and become dense enough to eliminate weeds.
- Crown of thorns (Euphorbia milii). Extremely drought tolerant, these are now available in a wide range of colors, from deep red to light yellow. They need no supplemental irrigation and bloom April through October. When deciding where to place them, keep in mind that large spines cover these plants, as the name suggests.
- Native plants, including Coontie (Zamia floridana). This evergreen plant grows to just 2–3 feet tall and works well in foundation plantings or borders. Glossy, featherlike leaves emerge from the ground and develop a vase-shape form. Not all native plants are drought tolerant, but most are well suited to growing without irrigation.
- Ornamental grasses and Lomandra Breeze (Lomandra longifolia). Grasses add movement to the garden, as well as a soft texture that works well in large plantings or against more rigid shrubs. This grasslike plant is an Australia native and extremely drought tolerant. It is an evergreen, so you do not need to trim it back yearly, as most grasses require.
Keep in mind that drought-tolerant plants need time to root into the soil so they don’t depend on additional watering. Even the toughest plants need extra care when first planted. Figure on watering new plants throughout their first growing seasons.
Creating a beautiful, drought-tolerant garden is attainable for your landscape this year. Many available plants add color and texture without needing an irrigation system or extra water to grow well. Now is the time to start transitioning your landscape to plants with lower thirst … and heightened beauty.
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