Plants that tolerate dry conditions (The News Gazette)

Read at : Google Alerts – drought-tolerant plants

http://www.news-gazette.com/living/2013-09-07/plant-suggestions-hot-dry-sites.html

Plant suggestions for hot, dry sites

Sandra Mason

Unless you live on a houseboat, your Illinois landscape includes a hot and dry site. Maybe it’s the extreme inferno zone between the sidewalk and the street. Or maybe it’s not quite as obvious (but just as arid) on the sunny south side of your house.

Our first Midwestern inclination in these sites is to buy sun-loving plants and then provide a ton of water and mulch.

Many of us are mulch evangelists (telling all to go forth and mulch); however, not all plants are mulch lovers. Plants that are native to rocky, gravely areas, such as lavender, may suffer and even perish in high organic matter soils and organic mulches.

If a favorite plant is testing your gardening ability, do your (home)work by discovering the plant’s home. Plants native to areas where abundant leaf litter from trees and other plants is the norm will love organic mulch. On the other hand, plants native to sandy, rocky areas may rot from organic overdose and are best mulched with pea gravel, poultry grit or sand.

Plants with silver to gray, fuzzy leaves can be a good clue to their ability to tolerate, even thrive, in hot, dry areas. Fuzzy perennials include lamb’s ear, rose campion, Russian sage, yarrow and several Artemisia (Silver King, Silver Queen and Silver Mound). Annual fuzzy wuzzies include licorice plant and dusty miller. However, the same characteristics of silver, fuzzy leaves also makes them good candidates for melting out (rotting) with high summer humidity or high rain periods.

Drought-tolerant plant lists are as common as corn in Illinois and sometimes just as hard to traverse. When we study drought-tolerant lists, it’s best to read the fine print and attempt to understand the terminology.

By name, drought-tolerant plant lists include plants that tolerate dry conditions; however, some plants, such as anise hyssop, Agastache spp., require dry conditions. I know right now it’s a faint memory, but this distinction becomes important when we have rainy periods in spring and fall.

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About Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.
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