Q&A: Drought-Tolerant Annuals

I have a sunny patio where I put containers of blooming annuals last summer. I had a hard time keeping up with the watering. It seemed like I needed to water before and after work or they would wilt. Can you recommend annuals that can withstand some dryness?

Answer: In general, containers tend to dry out much more quickly than the ground does. The biggest caveat for growing vegetables in containers, for instance, is that they will likely need to be watered at least once a day if not two or three times, particularly if they sit in full sun on a stone or cement patio. Drought-tolerant vegetables are few and far between. Lucky for you there are a number of rugged but pretty flowering annuals that will look good with less than daily watering. The following have a size and habit that make them suitable for containers:

  • Blanket flower (Gaillardia pulchella): daisylike flowers in yellows, pinks, reds and orange
  • Nasturtiums
  • Gazania (Gazania regens): daisylike flowers in vivid, hot colors
  • Marigolds
  • Rose moss (Portulaca grandiflora): extremely tolerant of heat and drought. Succulent leaves and stems form a mat that spills over the sides of the pot. Warm and cheery cup-shaped flowers.
  • Sunflowers
  • Geraniums (Pelargonium): very tolerant of drought because of their thick, water-storing stems.
  • Zinnias

You might also consider buying or making self-watering containers for your patio. These are pots that have a built-in reservoir of water. The soil in the pot wicks water from the reservoir as it dries. You can buy them, such as the EarthBox, or make your own. Erik Knutzen offers a PDF of instructions and a how-to video on his blog, homegrownevolution.com.

Images courtesy of the Missouri Botanic Garden PlantFinder

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Need plants that can stand up to the sun? Check out Success with Sun-Loving Plants

Looking for more specific flower information? Check out this Annuals guide

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