Brian Minter: 75 great drought-resistant plants for hotter summers

Using plants that are more heat and drought tolerant is an important consideration when making landscaping and gardening decisions

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Our cooler spring weather, with some late mountain snow falls, is helping delay the inevitable drought realities coming this summer, but still, we need to plan our gardens more thoughtfully for when the hot weather arrives.

Planting less is not necessarily environmentally good because plants of all species contribute so much good to our planet. From producing oxygen, opening up soil to allow in air, to providing food for microbes and producing nectar and pollen for beneficial insects, as well as providing food for birds and wildlife.

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Water is becoming less available during the summer months, so we need to grow plants that require less water to thrive. We also must use water  more efficiently by means of drip systems and soaker hoses rather than sprinklers. Rain barrels are more important today, and many folks are now beginning to use underground cisterns to capture all the rainwater from their roofs via eaves troughs.

The soil we use for planting needs to be enhanced with organic matter that will help retain moisture. Mulches around plants will hold water and cool the ground.

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Using plants that are more heat and drought tolerant is an important consideration when making landscaping and gardening decisions, such as using Perovskia. Photo by Minter Country Garden

Where we plant is also an issue. Many sun-loving plants will tolerate heat, but it’s important to understand that between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. the sun is at its most intense, and that’s when plants are at greatest risk of heat stress. Trees are wonderful air coolers and great providers of oxygen, however, try not to plant under their drip lines because larger trees can extract water from the soil each summer day and transpire that moisture into the atmosphere. If you need an underplanting, a tenacious ground cover is the best solution.

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Using plants that are more heat- and drought-tolerant is an important consideration when making landscaping and gardening decisions, and it can be more complex than most folks realize. For example, after last winter’s severe cold, it’s clear that heat- and drought-tolerant plants, whether perennials or shrubs, must also be cold hardy for their particular zone to ensure they survive.

The other issue is the perception that, once planted, they will immediately cope with the demands of heat and drought. All plants need time to become established before they can be expected to perform to their full potential. Not only do they need to be planted in appropriate soil to suit their specific needs, but they also need to be well cared for until they settle in, which may take a year or more.

Many perennials, once established, are well suited to challenging heat and drought situations. It is also important to select varieties with a long blooming period and attractive foliage. As we plan our choices and colour schemes for the late spring and summer months, I hope the following list will help with your selections. Please remember there are many other plants which are also very resilient to heat and drought conditions. Observation and trialing will give you a better sense of what works on your patio and in your garden.

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Heat- and drought-tolerant plants, whether perennials or shrubs, must also be cold hardy for their particular zone to ensure they survive. Photo by Minter Country Garden

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What are the best heat and drought-resistant plants?

Perennials:

• Achillea
• Artemisia
• Baptisia
• Bergenia
• Centranthus
• Coreopsis
• Delosperma
• Echinacea
• Eryngium

Euphorbias (non-invasive varieties)

• Gaillardias
• Hemerocallis
• Bearded Iris
• Kniphofia
• Lavender
• Liatris
• Limonium
• Oenothera
• Perovskia
• Polygonum
• Romneya coulteri
• Sedum family
• Sempervivums
• Thyme
• Verbena

For dry shade

• Japanese Anemones
• Brunnera
• Hostas
• Most Ferns

Bulbs

• Canna Lilies

Annuals

• Cleome
• Cosmos
• Cuphea
• Gaura
• Gazania
• Geraniums – interspecific varieties
• Helichrysum
• Lantana
• Petunias
• Portulaca
• Santolina
• Vinca major

For dry shade

• Begonias
• Coleus
• Impatiens
• Mimulus
• Vines
• Wisteria
• Campsis radicans (non-invasive)

Grasses

• Fescues
• Muhlenbergia rigens
• Pennisetum
• Hakonechloa
• Miscanthus
• Pampas Grass

Grasses for dry shade

• Carex family

Trees

• Albizia julibrissin
• Rhus
• Quercus
• Robinia
• Populus tremula Erecta
• Magnolia grandiflora

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Shrubs

• Caragana
• Cotinus
• Cotoneaster
• Escallonia
• Hypericum
• Mahonia
• Photinia
• Pyracantha
• Rugosa Rose
• Taxus

Evergreen shrubs

• Cedrus family
• Juniper
• Most Pinus
• Taxus

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