Drought-tolerant plants for your garden
The recent prolonged heat wave and drought conditions have taken their toll on gardens in central Ohio.
According to the Del-Co Water Company, a Delaware County water supplier, water is being consumed at a record pace. In late June, the company set a mandatory one-week ban on watering lawns. That ban was lifted on July 7, but mandatory irrigation and sprinkling restrictions are in place limiting lawn watering to two days a week. Hand watering of gardens, shrubs, and trees is permitted any day. The company urges customers to conserve water wherever possible, and unless the weather pattern changes, the company believes it may need to add further restrictions “to preserve enough water for domestic and other indoor uses.”
While this year is worse than most, nearly every year people complain about the lack of rain during the heat of summer. We can’t change the weather patterns, but there are some things that we can do without running up huge water bills to minimize the impact of a drought on our yards.
One method is to group your plants according to the amount of water they use. This way you can maximize the impact and minimize the need for supplemental irrigation by having the water-hungry plants together in a limited area of your garden or landscape.
Another way is to grow plants that require low or very low water zones. But, as a word of caution, since drought-tolerant plants thrive in arid climates, many do not do well in clay soils that are poorly drained. Before planting a drought-tolerant garden in clay soils, you may need to amend the soil by mixing in peat, manure, and/or compost. Also, many drought-tolerant species may not perform well in years when rainfall is plentiful.
You can find many informative bulletins and factsheets about the yard and garden at ohioline.osu.edu/lines/hygs.html. This includes the factsheet HYG 1643–94 by Michael T. Loos, which has a list of trees, shrubs, and perennials that do not require much water and are appropriate for the Ohio landscape. While his list is long, it does not pretend to be complete. Today’s article highlights just four attractive drought-tolerant perennials from that list that fellow Delaware County Master Gardener Volunteers have used successfully.
Russian Sage (Perovskia spp.,) is a large, woody perennial with gray foliage and tiny blue flowers. Depending upon the variety, it can grow from three to five feet tall and up to five to six feet wide — the plants need lots of room and should not be crowded. Russian Sage likes full sun and blooms from early summer until fall. Russian Sage needs to be pruned back close to the ground, preferably in the spring so wildlife can enjoy the foliage during the winter.
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is a three to four foot high plant that is native to prairies in the eastern United States, including Ohio. Tall stems are topped with a single flower that is in the shape of a badminton shuttlecock, when fully open. The flower is two to four inches across and has a prominent domed brownish center surrounded by light purple petals that typically point downward. It prefers full or partial sun and well-drained soil and typically blooms in the summer. The flowers attract butterflies, and the seed heads attract songbirds during winter. Purple Coneflower needs to be pruned in late winter or early spring.
Blanket Flower (Gaillardia spp.) is an eight to 24 inch high perennial with large daisy-like blooms. They come into flower in June and are red, orange, yellow, or a combination of these colors. Blanket Flower is native to the western plains states and is the state flower of Oklahoma. It prefers full sun and tolerates hot, dry soils. It tends to be short-lived in moist, fertile soils. Blanket Flower attracts bees and butterflies.
False Indigo (Baptistia australis) is a North American native plant that reaches two and a half to three and a half feet at maturity. It grows slowly at first, but will form an attractive three to four foot wide mound in two to three years. The blue flowers are lupine-like and appear in late May and early June. The plant forms a deep taproot, which makes it difficult to transplant, so young plants need plenty of room. False Indigo was used by Native North Americans and early settlers to produce a blue dye. The plant prefers full sun and may need to be staked when grown in partial shade. Since baptistia is a legume, this plant can fix nitrogen, and, therefore, requires minimal fertilizer.
If you would like to rearrange the plants in your landscape garden according to their water needs or create a drought-tolerant garden, now is the time to start thinking about it. Ideally, you should wait until mid-August or September, when the weather has cooled off before giving your garden a major overhaul. This should help minimize the impact of transplant shock. Also, new plantings, even drought-tolerant plants, need to be watered more frequently to help get them established.
Master Gardener School to be offered
The OSU Extension in Delaware County will be offering a Master Gardener School starting in February 2013. If you are interested, please contact the Extension Office at 740–833-2030 for an application and more details.
Seventh-annual Master Gardener plant sale
The Delaware County Master Gardener Association will hold its annual plant sale at the Delaware County Fairgrounds from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 28 and from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. or until everything is sold. The plant sale will be held in conjunction with the original Delaware Country Farmers Market.
The plant sale will feature numerous varieties of colorful annuals and perennials such as hostas, daylilies as well as many other varieties of perennials at very reasonable prices, selection varies depending on participation from local Delaware County Nurseries. Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer questions about plant care. This event is open to the public. All proceeds will go toward education and beautification projects through the Delaware County OSU Extension and Master Gardener program.
This is a great event to acquire plants to beautify your garden and help our community at the same time.
Nancy Traub is an OSU Extension Master Gardner volunteer.