Dealing with drought is one of the toughest parts of maintaining an outdoor landscape, especially in notoriously dry areas like northern and southwestern Virginia. Without regular showers, you’re often forced to water your landscape by hand, which can be time consuming and costly.
Thankfully, there are certain species that can take the heat. And with a few tips, you can keep them going strong with little to no additional watering.
No Species are Drought Proof, Only Drought Tolerant
First things first, you need to understand that no species of plant is totally drought proof. No matter how hardy the species, it will require some watering, even if it’s minimal. What’s more, many plants, although drought tolerant, will simply survive drought, not thrive. You may find that some of the species mentioned in this post will start to look a little ragged in times of drought.
Don’t worry. They’ll make it through. They just won’t look fantastic while they do it. If you’re in search of a completely drought proof solution, investigate succulents and other plants adapted to desert conditions.
Stick With Native Species
As a general rule of thumb, species that are native to your area will do well in times of drought. After all, they’ve spent many years adapting to your local climate. You can find a comprehensive list of plants native to your area at plants.usa.gov
Choose Mulches Carefully and Avoid Gravel
If you’re trying to reduce maintenance by planting drought tolerant species, you may be tempted to toss some gravel or crushed rock on your landscape to avoid having to reapply mulch. Don’t do that! In hot, dry climates, landscape covering is extra important, and gravel can cause some serious problems. First, let’s make the case for wood mulch. Wood mulch serves two crucial purposes for plants: it retains moisture, and it buffers heat. Even for drought tolerant plants, having moisture nearby on the ground’s surface is immensely helpful. Plus, having a layer of ground cover to regulate soil temperatures can mean the difference between weathering the heat and succumbing to it. Covering your landscape in mulch reduces plant stress, keeps soil at a favorable temperature, and makes moisture available to your plants. River gravel, crushed rock, and pea gravel are a different story. These landscape covering materials retain the sun’s heat, cause your landscape to become dry as a bone, and effectively bake plants. If you were to cover a landscape in gravel, allow it to sit in the sun for several hours, and measure its surface temperature with an infrared thermometer, you’d likely see readings upward or 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
A Few Plants for Any Tough Climates
Although you should seek out species native to your area, there are plenty of drought tolerant plants that thrive in the majority of the Continental U.S.
Black Eyed Susans – These bright yellow daisy-esque flowers aren’t just drought tolerant; they’re beautiful too.
Viburnum – Making up a genus of over 150 drought hardy species, Viburnum contains plenty of gorgeous planting options.
Evergreens – There are many drought tolerant evergreens. For example, juniper can withstand very dry climates while still thriving.
Dogwood – The genus Cornus is full of species commonly referred to as dogwoods. Most are drought hardy, and they have beautiful blooms and bark.
Ornamental Grasses – Ornamental grasses like zebra grass, blue oatgrass, and leatherleaf sedge are all good additions to your drought tolerant landscape. With a little careful research and consultation, you can create the perfect drought tolerant landscape. Use this brief guide along with the advice of your local landscaper to reduce water use and keep the outside of your home looking lush and green.
1.Photo by Bert Kaufmann
2.Photo by Rudbeckia Hirta
3.Photo by John Fowler