Hot dry summers are a reminder that water is a precious commodity and so drought-tolerant plants should be considered wherever possible. The fact that you are looking for drought tolerance does not mean that the plants have to be boring as this list of ten perennials proves. I found this article by Kym Pokorny over on the OSU Extension Service website which gives some tips on making the transition to waterwise plants and then lists ten perennials for this situation.
Pacific Northwest gardeners are faced with the pleasant dilemma of choosing from an encyclopedia-length list of perennials that grow in our friendly climate, and many of those thrive in low-water situations.
?This year has shined a spotlight on the need to incorporate more drought-tolerant plants in the garden,? said Gail Langellotto, a horticulturist with Oregon State University?s Extension Service. ?I think that?s a trend that?s going to continue.?
To transition the landscape to water-wise plants, she suggested starting with a small area such as a parking strip or an already-dry area of the garden. Conversely, keep high-water plants in areas naturally moist or that have well-amended, claylike soils that tend to hold water longer.
Even low-water plants need regular irrigation for the first two years while roots get established, Langellotto said. After that, a good soak every two weeks, less in milder weather, is sufficient.
Before planting, consider installing a drip system or soaker hoses, which direct water most efficiently. If using a sprinkler, Langellotto said it?s a good idea to periodically check to make sure they?re delivering the correct amount of water to the proper areas. Use a rain gauge or other container to measure.
?A lot of drought-tolerant plants have a double benefit,? Langellotto said. ?They?re great for water conservation, but also for attracting all kinds of bees.?
To get ideas of how to garden with water-wise plants, visit one of the OSU Master Gardener demonstration gardens around the state. To find the closest, call a Master Gardener hotline or your county Extension office.
Here are Langellotto?s recommendations for drought-tolerant perennials:
- Bisphop?s hat (Epimedium): Typically, it?s difficult to find an exciting plant for dry shade situations, but this evergreen perennial fits the bill. The plants come in various sizes from very short ground covers to two-foot mounds. Heart-shaped leaves set off the dainty flowers that look like tiny, upside-down bishops? hats, hence the name.? Hardy to Zone 5.
- Catmint (Nepeta): A plant consistently rated in the top three for attracting bees, catmint is just as beloved by people. And why not? This free-blooming beauty cranks out lavender-blue flowers on upright, two-foot stems from spring until fall. Hardy to Zone 4.
- Hellebore (Helleborus): A good candidate for the difficult situation of dry shade, though this evergreen perennial will also enjoy some morning sun. Even before the snowdrops of spring, hellebores put forth their flowers. The blooms traditionally were greenish-white, but now come in purple, rose, yellow, some lined, spotted or speckled with darker colors. Most recently doubles have hit the market. Hardy to Zone 6.
See more at OSU Extension Service