Weeks without rain, smaller than average winter snow packs, higher than normal summer temperatures and more people than ever before have put an undue strain on Metro Vancouver’s water supply.
We all have to do what we can to preserve our water resources. Lawn watering is one of the biggest consumers of fresh water and that’s why summer watering restrictions have become the norm. At time of writing, Metro Vancouver is at Stage 2, meaning you can only water your lawn once per week, and only in the morning. You are still allowed to hand water your flower beds, vegetable gardens and containers as necessary. With that said, it is important to plan our gardens to minimize our water use. The easiest way to do this is by making sure we simply put the right plant in the right place. You can also water effectively. Check out this Youtube Video on Summer Watering Techniques
While many plants are drought tolerant once established, they still need ample moisture until their roots grow and become established. The plants mentioned in this post need less water than others. So without further ado, here is a collection of great drought tolerant plants for your garden.
Drought Tolerant Perennials
An often underused perennial group, Sedums are a succulent that stores water in its leaves. They available in upright and spreading varieties in a number of different colours. Flowers appear in late summer in shades of white, yellow, pink or near red depending on the variety. Tough and dependable. Prefers full sun and well drained soil. Growth can be up to 1-2ft in height and spread.
Lavender is one of the most popular perennials for the summer garden. Thin green-gray stems give way to violet-lavender coloured blooms. Both foliage and flowers are fragrant. Great drought tolerance make it ideal for hot and dry areas. It can also be used as a cut flower. Full sun and well drained soils are recommended. Use as a specimen, an informal low edge, in rock gardens or in containers.
Echinaceas or Coneflowers are popular summer blooming perennials that grow in attractive clumps. Growers have spent countless hours hybridizing Echinaceas to create dozens of new varieties. The classic Echinacea is light pink to purple in colour. Newer varieties are available in a multitude of colours including yellow, orange, red, white and even green. These drought tolerant perennials prefer full sun and well drained soils.
Red Hot Poker
Red Hot Poker plants have grass-like green foliage and tall flower spikes in shades of yellow, orange and red. Flowers are often described as ‘torch-like’. Prefers sun and well drained soil.
A large group of semi-evergreen perennials originally from the Mediterranean. Euphorbias feature vertical or arching stems that are borne from a single crown. Stems tend to be bare at the base and leafy near the top. Flower heads are attractively unique and eye-catching. May need the occasional hard prune to keep it looking nice. Available in many varieties and colours. Gives a great hot climate look to the garden. Prefers full sun and well drained soils. Size and spread differ by variety.
Long upright light coloured stems and flowers in shades of purplish blue give Russian Sage a boost in the drought tolerant garden. This attractive, yet tough plant tolerates cold, poor soil and drought! Needs full sun and a well drained soil.
Tough, hardy and reliable Artemisia is a great perennial for the drought tolerant garden. White to silvery gray foliage gives a clue to its drought tolerance. Foliage can be either finely delicate to coarse. A trouble free, low maintenance plant for the full sun and well drained soil.
Nepeta x faassenii
A perfect perennial for rock gardens, containers and borders. Aromatic foliage and flowers attract butterflies and bees. Catmint blooms from early summer to early fall. Grows 1-3ft high and wide, depending on the variety.
This popular edible is often used as a kitchen herb more than an ornamental plant. Pine needle-like foliage is highly aromatic and can grow up to 5ft tall depending on variety. Needs full sun and well drained soil. Can be grown in the garden or in a pot. Harvest as needed for the kitchen! May need some winter protection if the temperatures get low or too wet.
Hens n Chicks
Low growing, rosette forming evergreen perennials ideal for use as groundcovers, in rock gardens on vertical walls. Single hens give birth to chicks allowing the plant to grow into clumps 1-2ft wide over time. Plant in groups for great effect. Likes full sun and well drained soils.
Drought Tolerant Ornamental Grasses
While many ornamental grasses are low maintenance and waterwise, these four are some of our favourites.
Mexican Feather Grass
Wispy thin green blades give way to golden tan, almost blonde summer flower heads. This lovely warm season grass forms clumps 1-2ft tall and wide. Very drought tolerant and beautiful when planted in groups.
Blue Oat Grass
Blue Oat Grass is an upright growing, clump forming grass with stiff blue-gray blades. Blonde flower clusters form above the foliage. Clumps can grow 2-3ft tall and wide. Very commonly used in boulevards and low maintenance landscapes. Prefers full sun and well drained soils.
Fescues are a large group of low growing, clumping forming, drought tolerant grasses with silvery, blue-gray foliage. Great when planted in groups in rock gardens or when used as an accent plant. As a warm season grass, it can be cut back in spring. Tolerates sun or part sun.
An ever popular clump forming plant, Pampas Grass is a native of South America and features stiff, sharp blades with clumps of feathery white to pink flowers held on top of tall spikes. Grows quickly and can reach 8ft tall depending on variety. Prefers sun to part shade and well drained soil.
Other Drought Tolerant Plants
This attractive and popular evergreen features glossy, dark green foliage and blue bottle-brush like flowers in late spring through early summer. Loves the sun and well drained soil. Needs very little water once established. Grows to form a mid-sized shrub 6-12ft tall and wide. Looks good all year round and does well in seaside locations too. May need from winter protection if it gets cold. A sheltered location away from wind and wet weather is ideal.
While we can’t honestly say they are our favourite conifers, Junipers are particularly well suited to dry environments. They are available in many types, ranging from large upright growing trees to ground-hugging, spreading varieties. Colour is typically green to blue-gray depending on the variety
These desert plants have spiky, pointed leaves and do well with very little water. They grow a long taproot and can usually find the water they need on their own. Large white flower spikes add interest when they bloom in early summer. Several varieties are commonly available including ones with variegated foliage. Full sun and well-drained soil are necessary. While they can tolerate our winter temperatures, it is often too wet for them – make sure they do not sit in wet soil during the cooler months.
Another plant from the desert, Agaves are succulents with beautiful, structural shapes that make them ideal for modern gardens. Wicked spikes and thorns force people and pets to keep their distance from these plants. Needs exceptionally well drained soils in our climate. It’s probably best planted in containers that can be protected during the winter. Many varieties and sizes of Agave are available.
This vibrant, twining vine has beautifully coloured, papery flowers in summer. Flower colour ranges peachy-yellow through red , all the way to purple. Nasty thorns on the vine make it an ideal barrier plant. Needs full sun and dry, well drained soil. Does exceptionally well in desert locations. We find that it thrives on neglect and may survive our mild winters when given shelter and good drainage.
While there are many other drought tolerant plants available at Art’s Nursery, these selections give you a sense of the variety and options that are available for your garden. If you have any questions about being water-wise, give us a call or drop by and visit us in person. As always, call ahead to confirm availability as our selection is always changing.