CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- With all of the talk about energy and water conservation, we should think about planting drought-tolerant plants. Not only ecologically correct, these plants make life easier for the gardener who doesn't like to water.
One of my favorites is the blanket flower (Gaillardia x grandifolia). I first noticed it growing along the pathways at our favorite beach, Bald Head Island, more than 15 years ago. I planted it at home, figuring that if it could withstand the hot, dry conditions of Bald Head, my yard would be paradise for the little daisylike perennial. I've added it to several beds as it is bright, blooms throughout the summer, and it thrives on neglect.
I love sedum and sempervivum of every variety. I've got them growing everywhere. The only problem with some of them is that the deer love them as well. Plant them where the deer don't roam.
Coneflowers, coreopsis, dianthus, dwarf Russian sage, verbena and purple salvia all round out my no-water plan. I've added many ornamental grasses for texture.
As for annuals, there's blue salvia, dusty miller, lantana, zinnias, ageratum and wax begonias. I'll use a lot of these in containers around the deck.
Extension agents at North Carolina State University recommend several shrubs that will survive a moderate period of limited moisture.
"Drought tolerance does not mean the plants prefer hot, dry weather or that they will not be adversely affected by extended dry weather," explained Erv Evans, consumer horticulturalist.
"Some decrease in growth or flowering can be expected during a period of limited moisture. Severe drought can result in increased insect and disease pressure, a decrease in leaf size and number, and an overall decline in growth rate and plant vigor. High temperatures and wind, heat and light reflection from nearby hard surfaces, and high fertilization can increase the potentially damaging effects of low moisture on plant growth and survival. Fall-planted trees and shrubs have demonstrated an increased ability to survive moderate moisture levels compared to those transplanted in the spring or summer."
Some of the shrubs suggested include spirea (Snowmound, Bridalwreath, Bumalda, Vanhoutte, Japanese and others), viburnum (Burkwood, Pragense, Laurustinus), pyracantha, nandina, northern bayberry, beautybush, juniper, many hollies, euonymus (Japanese, winged, spreading), cotoneaster, beautyberry, boxwood and barberry.