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Drought Resistant Gardens


 It's 93 degrees out today; too hot to walk my pampered pooches by 8 am. And I have a big backyard with a lot of thirsty plants that are going to need water. The Midwest is always hit or miss with the weather; some of you live in zones that are dry nearly year round. One way to defeat the capriciousness of Mother Nature, establish an eco-friendly garden, and lower your water bill is to plant drought resistant perennials. And no, they don't all have to be cactuses...cacti. There are plenty of lovely plants that you can enjoy with a minimum of work and worry.

One caveat; when you first plant, you will need to make sure your garden receives consistent water so that the roots can establish themselves; usually there will be instructions on the plant itself for how long this will take; if not, there's always Google. After that, your plants will need occasional heavy watering (or a good rainstorm), but they will not have to be babied and watered on a daily basis. When you do water, aim for the roots; surrounding your plants with mulch will also help keep the moisture in the ground where it is needed.

One more caveat: during particularly dry seasons, your plants may not always flower, but they should survive to bloom again when they are watered or it rains.

So what are some of these fabulous, easy to care for plants? Let's start with the ones that will add color to your landscape.

Four O'Clocks

These trumpet-shaped lovelies come in white, yellow, pink and variegated colors and will grow in mounds that can reach 3' in height. The flowers appear late in the afternoon (just in time for happy hour) and have a nice fragrance.



Yarrow comes in yellow, red, white and pink. They feature clusters of tiny flowers with soft, fernlike leaves; the leaves are almost prettier than the flowers. They bloom from mid-summer through to the fall. Yarrow will top out at about 3' and they love the sun.

Hairy Beard Tongue aka Penstemon

There is so much to love about this flower, not the least of which is the name. They come in a lovely cream color that is streaked with violet and flower late spring to early summer. The Hairy Beard Tongue will grow to be about 18" tall and does well in shade or sun.

Purple Coneflower aka Echinacea

Yes, that Echinacea. The Purple coneflower is ridiculously easy to grow and maintain. They attract bees and butterflies, always a good thing. Purple coneflowers like full sun and can grow up to 5' in height, but generally top out around 3'.

Allium aka Ornamental Onion

Butterflies and bees love allium; deer and rabbits, not so much, so keep that in mind if you are planning a vegetable garden. There are several varieties of allium and they are available in various colors. I have the "chive" variety growing in my yard; they bloom in early summer with bright purple balls balanced on slender stalks about 12" tall. Allium prefers full sun. Oh, and you can eat them.


Golden Marguerite

This beauty offers daisy-like flowers in shades of yellow and will bloom all through the summer. Super easy to grow, golden marguerite likes lots of sun and will attract butterflies. It will grow 2-3' tall.


 Rock Cress

This lovely perennial is in the mustard family and you can eat the leaves and flowers. Popular for borders, rock gardens, hillsides, rock cress hugs the ground and will trail over ledges. They like plenty of sun. The ground cover variety is a rich purple; wall rock cress comes in white and pink.


Butterfly Weed

This flame colored flower blooms all summer long and the bright colors attract the birds and the bees...and the butterflies. Hummingbirds love them, birds, bees and other beneficial insects do too. The butterfly weed is cousin to the milkweed and will grow from 12 - 36" tall.


Here's a list of other drought-friendly flowering perennials to consider for your garden:

  • Bee Balm
  • Black-Eyed Susans
  • Blazing Stars aka Ajuga
  • Bougainvillea
  • Butterfly Bush
  • Cleome
  • Cardinal Climbers
  • Coral Vine
  • Cosmos
  • Day Lilies
  • Desert Rose
  • Crown of Thorns
  • Hostas
  • Indian Blanket Flowers aka Gaillardia
  • Indian Pink
  • Lantana Camera
  • Lavendar
  • Russian Sage
  • Salvia
  • Sedum

Remember the plants will need to be "established" before they will be truly drought resistant; make sure you follow directions for each type of plant. Consider the use of rain barrels to conserve water for when you do need to nourish your garden; its an eco-friendly way to keep your garden growing in a conscientious way when water is hard to come by.


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