Monday, July 23, 2012
Surprisingly drought tolerant
Most of my plants are succulents, perfectly suited to my arid gardens. However, Mother Nature devised a diverse landscape for many reasons and with what my ability, experience, and environment will allow, I try to observe her principles. Besides, there are so many other plants I love! One prerequisite though...they must be able to thrive, not just survive, with little water. Over the years, I have been astonished at the drought tolerance of many plants I previously assumed were water thirsty. Many are indigenous to the semi-arid or subtropical regions of the world, but not all. Sometimes, it just comes down to soil and microclimates. Here are a few I recommend for the frost-free, semi-arid garden. Keep in mind they are mature plants and more capable of handling dry periods. I omitted the obviously well suited California Native plants, as that will be a future post!
Echium candicans, "Pride of Madeira"
Beautiful, strappy, blue-gray leaves throughout the year with conical towers of purple flowers in spring. Although it will tolerate year round irrigation in sandy soils, I never water my plants. In summer, many of the leaves drop, exposing the dark, twisted branches/trunk.
A drought tolerant fern? Technically no, but this one gets honorable mention because it can go a relatively long time in summer without water. Pictured is a 30 year old plant that has built up several layers of moisture retentive dead fronds and decaying material behind
the growing point. As you can see by the sparse growth on the ground under this fern, I don't water often!
Vitex agnus-castus "Chaste Tree"
This beautifully spicy scented shrub/small tree produces spikes of lavender colored flowers in spring. It is also known to have valuable medicinal properties. My husband thinks it's Marijuana! Vitex is winter dormant in my area, losing all of its leaves by late fall. It's growing in almost pure clay, and get's only a few soakings in summer.