Drought Tolerant Landscape Plants


It’s been called “the drought of 2016.” The lack of rain this year and the specter of town irrigation bans across New Hampshire has led to a lot of questions about drought tolerant landscaping. We hope that this is merely an odd dry period and rain will fall more regularly in 2017. However, it’s not a bad idea to consider water conservation when designing a landscape. The official term in traditionally arid climates is called “Xeriscaping.”

Drought tolerant landscape plants root deeper. The goal of xeriscaping is to replace turf grass with plants and ground covers that do not require frequent watering. This is not New Mexico, and cactus will not grow here. However, there are certain drought tolerant perennials, trees and shrubs that, when combined, create quite a colorful and textured landscape:

  • Blue Spruce
  • Hydrangea
  • Knockout Roses
  • Butterfly Bush
  • Sedum
  • Yucca
  • Coneflower (Echinacea)
  • Tickseed (Coreopsis verticillata)
  • Blanket Flower (Gaillardia)

..and many, many others.

Don’t forget shade. A key component to water conservation is having mature deciduous trees to absorb the heat of the sun. Choose a fast-growing, spreading tree like River Birch (Betula nigra) or Thornless Honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos inermis). The ideal location for a deciduous tree is south or southwest exposure. They will provide shade through the hot summer; however, when they drop their leaves in the fall they will allow sunlight through. For ornamental flowering trees, we would suggest Crabapple, Japanese Tree Lilac, or Stewartia.

Groundcovers galore! There are many types of groundcovers that tolerate drought – not only in the sun but also the shade. Sun-loving groundcovers options like Creeping Flox, Sedum (acre or bloodgood), Candytuft (Iberis sempervivens), Creeping Thyme (Thymus serpyllum) or Bugleweed (Ajuga repens) will provide year-round color and interest. In the shade, look to Dead Nettle (Lamium), Sweet Woodruff (Galium ordoratum), Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense), or the ever popular Periwinkle (Vinca minor) to provide consistent foliage interest along the ground.

All plants need water. We encourage our clients to make every effort to conserve water. All plants need water – even cactus! In the summer, deep but less frequent watering is required by most plants. If you are concerned about your plants surviving, or you need your irrigation system calibrated to save water, or you are interested in a landscape plan that is more drought friendly, please call our office to schedule a free “drought-scaping” consultation!

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