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Home  :  Drought Tolerant Perennials

Drought Tolerant Perennials

Drought Tolerant PerennialsAsk any experienced gardener and they will tell about different times when they have had issues with watering. You may never have had to worry about water shortages but sometimes even depending on spring rains at some point in certain areas we have to abide by new water rules or deal with what Mother Nature is handing out. While some gardeners continue uphill battles keeping their gardens watered others are now trying to work with climate changes. They are replacing high maintenance, water hungry annuals and perennials with drought tolerant ones that thrive with little or no attention on a yearly basis. There is now a wide selection of drought tolerant plants available on today’s market. You can choose from beautiful flowering plants in a multitude of colors and sizes. Just keep in mind that some are more tolerant of dry conditions than others.

What do drought tolerant plants look like?
The description in itself "drought tolerant" most likely makes one think of cacti or desert plants and of course, these plants are definitely tolerant of dry conditions, but there are also many others to consider. Often, drought tolerant plants have a unique leaf structure such as:
Fine lacy foliage-reduced leaf surface means less water lost through surface evaporation
Thick, succulent or waxy leaves-thick leaves store more moisture
Hairy or fuzzy leaves-fine hairs keep moisture trapped at the leaf surface.

Most drought tolerant plants also have deep roots that seek moisture well below the soil surface. Some send up masses of fine feeder roots to collect available moisture at the surface and send it down below to the main roots.

Where do drought tolerant plants grow best?
Most drought tolerant plants perform best in hot, dry climates in full sun and well-drained soil. The most obvious form of this climate is desert, but you might not think that parts of the average homeowner's yard which are perpetually dry are perfect places to grow drought tolerant plants. They are extremely effective where it is difficult to water or where water evaporates quickly such as on sunny slopes or next to pavement. The best practice for drought tolerant plants is to group them together in the areas you wish them, so they're easier to manage.

Here are some general guidelines for the culture of drought tolerant plants.
SOIL - Well-drained, loose soil is best. Loose soil allows the roots to grow deep where the moisture is held. Many, also benefit from the addition of organic matter to the soil, which helps add nutrients and hold moisture. If your soil is heavy, add small rocks or coarse sand to improve drainage.
WATER - Even the most drought tolerant perennials require supplemental water until they are
established. The smaller the root system, the more water they'll need, but the general rule is one inch of water per week (including rain). Less frequent but deep waterings are better for plants than more frequent but light waterings because it encourages them to send their roots down deeper into the soil. As the plants begin to grow and thrive on their own, gradually decrease the amount of supplemental water.
MULCH - Mulch your drought tolerant perennials with about two inches of organic material such as shredded bark or leaves. Do not use stone as a mulch--it holds heat and reflects light which can damage the plants.
FERTILIZER - Use fertilizer sparingly on drought tolerant plants. If they begin to show signs of decline or discoloration, it's time to fertilize.
DIVISION - Most drought tolerant perennials will perform admirably for years without being divided.
Exceptions include the most vigorous or prolific perennials such as daylilies, hostas, and tall bearded irises.

The following plants have been reported to be drought tolerant in many areas of the country. We offer each variety in different forms – Plants or Seed. Each is marked accordingly.

Drought Tolerant Suggested Plants

Yarrow – Available in Seed and Plants
Queen Anne’s Lace (Bishop’s Flower) – Available in Seed
Hollyhocks – Available in Seed and Plant
Butterfly Weed - Available in Seed and Plants
Astilbes – Available in Plants
Indigo - Available in Seed and Plants
Blackberry Lily - Available in Plants
Butterfly Bush - Available in Plants
Daylily - Available in Plants
Hostas - Available in Plants
Candytuft - Available in Seed
Gloxinia - Available in Bulbs
Bearded Iris - Available in Plants
Lavender - Available in Seed and Plants
Blazing Star- Available in Seed and Plants
Blue Flax- Available in Seed
Rose Mallow- Available in Seed
Catmint - Available in Plants
Evening Primrose- Available in Seed
Peonies - Available in Plants
Poppies- Available in Seed and Plants
Beard Tongue- Available in Seed and Plants
Sage- Available in Seed and Plant
Cornflower- Available in Seed
Valerian - Available in Plants
Snow-in-Summer- Available in Seed
Coreopsis- Available in Seed and Plants
Creeping Phlox - Available in Plants
Pampass Grass - Available in Plants
Sweet William- Available in Seed and Plant Form
Black-eyed Susan- Available in Seed
Foxglove- Available in Seed
Coneflower- Available in Seed and Plant Form
Sage- Available in Seed and Plant Form
Hens & Chicks - Available in Plants
Blanket Flower- Available in Seed
Painted Daisy - Available in Seed
Creeping Thyme- Available in Seed and Plant Form
Baby’s Breath- Available in Seed
Lenten Rose - Available in Plants
Mullein- Available in Seed

Vermont Wildflower Farm - March 2012
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