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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Best plants for dry areas.

The best way to find plants to suit your yard is to go to a local Botanical garden. They will have plants best suited to where you live. This takes into account temperature extremes, water requirements,  resistence to local garden pests and exposure to the elements particular to your region.

Traveling all over the United States visiting several gardens and stopping at many rest areas along the way I noticed which plants seemed best suited for different areas. The western states being dry was a new experience for me but I learned a great deal. The following is a list of plants  I observed growing quite well in this arid and seemingly tough area in which to garden.

Daylily (Hemerocallis Fulva)

The native Daylily is the common orange daylily found at the side of highways growing wild. These endure any hardship. Their fleshy roots give them all they need to survive a dry spell and intense heat. Hybrids like “Stella de Oro” can be seen all over the arid southwestern US.


This 3-4 feet high and wide shrubby perennial, also called Russian Sage, has greyish-green foliage and a mass of tiny lavender-blue flowers giving it a hazy appearance from a distance. Great for the back of a perennial border or as a see-through hedge.


“Baccata” and “Rostrata” both have sword shaped leaves in a dull green color, between 2-4 feet long. “Rostrata” grows 2 feet tall spires with white flowers and “Baccata” has reddish-brown blooms and produce edible fruits.  “Elata” also called the Soaptree Yucca grows slowly to 6-20 feet tall with leaves 4 feet long and with white flowers.

Red-Hot Poker

This is a beautiful and unusual flower. Also called Torch-lily, it has long, narrow leaves (3-6 feet depending on variety) and the flower is a long stalk with many tiny tubular florets in  yellow, orange and red. They look great in flower arrangements and are adored by butterflies.


“Lanceolata”, or Lance-leaf Coreopsis, is a perennial which grows 1-2 feet high with bright yellow, double blossoms 1 ½-2  inches across. Wonderful as a cut flower. Coreopsis “Moonbeam” is a nice perennial growing 2 ½ to 3 feet high and half as wide with pale lemony-yellow flowers and feathery leaves. “Zegreb” or “Tickseed” has golden yellow blooms.

Silverlace Vine

Fast growing with long, heart-shaped, glossy, green leaves and a huge mass of tiny cream-colored flowers forming a cloud  make this plant a must-have to quickly cover (up to 100 square feet in a season) a fence, arbor or even to use as a ground cover on a sloping bank.


Yarrow is the common name for this plant which comes in many pastel colors with white and yellow being the most widely available.

Russian Olive

This multi-stemmed small tree or large shrub grows pale greyish-green oblong leaves and tiny insignificant pale yellow flowers in the spring. The fragrance is immense and intoxicating. Tiny bright red inedible berries follow in summer through autumn if the birds don’t get at them first.

Evening Primrose

Pretty 1-2 ft high perennial growing four petaled flowers in pink, yellow and white. Spreads swiftly and looks great in rock gardens or as a tall ground cover for rocky slopes.


Also called Blanket flower because its colors call to mind those colorful woven serapes of Mexican fame. Daisy-like flowers are mostly multi-colored in bight yellow, bronze and red. “Grandiflora” is a 2-4 ft tall perennial with 3-4 inch wide flowers. Very long bloom time,  self-sows readily, great cut flower and is excessively pretty.


Also known as the Gayfeather this perennial has tall (depending on variety 3-5 feet) narrow plumes of fluffy white or purple flowers sticking out of  grass-like leaf-clusters. Blooms from top to bottom, is a great cut flower and tolerates heat, dry conditions and poor soil.


Botanically known as Linum and from which linseed oil is derived, this 1-2 ft tall self-sowing annual or short-lived perennial blooms continuously from late spring to summer and even into fall depending on cultivar. Flowers come in ruby red, light blue, golden yellow or bright white and all have wiry stems and slender greyish-green leaves.

Fountain grass- known botanically as Pennisetum is an ornamental clumping grass with  arching leaves and feathery flowers. The flowers are subtly-colored, frothy plumes which swayed delightfully in the breeze. It grows between 1 and 2 feet tall and when in bloom its flowers, depending on variety can be pink, white or black and double the height of the plant.


The Mexican Sunflower as it is known, this 6 ft. tall and multi-branching beauty will self-sow and bring tons of hummingbirds, bumble bees and butterflies  to your garden. Flowers are 3-4 inched across in bright orange-yellow with tufted centers. Makes a wonderful temporary hedge or backdrop. Tolerates high heat, poor soil and dry conditions.

There are many other plants I saw growing happily in arid gardens  with amazing  tolerance to  intense heat, poor soil and dry conditions.  I didn’t even mention the many cacti and succulent plants which are the most tolerant of arid places. These I picked out in tree, shrub and flower forms show a variety of  shapes, sizes, colors and types of plants. Surely one of them will do well in your particularly dry section in the yard.

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