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Favorite Drought-tolerant Perennial Plants

ice plant

Ice plants (Delosperma) are one highly drought-tolerant ground cover.

Text by Amy Grisak for the July/August 2018 issue of Horticulture.

Wise plant choices are key when dealing with wind and drought. Fortunately, with more gardeners understanding the importance of conserving water, there is an increasing selection of varieties from dry regions around the world. Choose plants that thrive in these environments for the best results. Here are a few favorites:

Ice plants (Delosperma): These low-growing succulents stop the show with daisy-like flowers of yellow, lavender and brilliant copper. They’re also recommended in wildfire-prone areas thanks to their water-retaining qualities. USDA Zones 5–9.

Beardstongues (Penstemon): Everyone can find a penstemon they love among the genus’s mind-boggling array of colors, forms and variations. Popular hybrids include the bright P. xmexacali Pikes Peak Purple (‘P0075’) or the vibrant red P. pinifolius ‘Compactum’. Zones 4–9.

Stonecrop (Sedum): Tall ‘Autumn Joy’ is a hard-to-beat favorite, but there are dozens of other varieties to explore that thrive in hot, dry conditions. Zones 3–9.

Salvia (Salvia): There are few genera as varied as Salvia, which offers interesting foliage in some species and knockout blooms in others. Cultivar S. nemorosa ‘Mainacht’ (‘May Night’) is much loved, but delve deep for other colorful options, too. Zones 4–9.

Yarrow (Achillea): The yarrows bloom throughout the summer with little fuss, offering flat-topped flowers in delicious shades like strawberry, peach and paprika. Zones 3–9.

Columbine (Aquilegia): Blooming in colors from pale yellow to deep purple, columbines brighten spring and early-summer gardens with little care. Zones 3–8.

Manzanita (Arctostaphylos): Look for the evergreen species that vary from low-growing groundcovers to taller shrubs. They grow well in difficult conditions, providing good soil protection with plenty of visual appeal. Zones 4–8.

Buckwheat (Eriogonum): These wildflowers boast beautiful light yellow flowers that is a boon to native bees and insects. Zones 4–8.

Blanket flower (Gaillardia): These durable, bright flowers shine in the harshest conditions. Standing roughly a foot tall, they come in the brilliant yellows, oranges and reds of the sunset. Zones 4–10.

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