Landscape with drought-tolerant plants
By Carrie Dunlea
During the early and oftentimes rain-drenched days of spring, it can seem like there may never be a time when plants will struggle to get their share of water. But drought can affect any area, and arid climates in particular. Ensuring gardens can survive drought takes patience and forethought.
Drought can be particularly troubling for avid gardeners because it can wreak havoc on lawns and gardens. In addition to causing changes in the physical appearance, including wilted, dried out leaves and stalks, drought can weaken the integrity of plants. This makes plants more susceptible to disease and attacks from plant-preying insects, according to Better Homes & Gardens. In addition, it can take years for plants to recover from drought.
So, what can gardeners do? While they may not be able to prevent damage to plants from a Texas drought, there are ways gardeners can prevent future drought damage.
• Water well infrequently. Get plants used to a thorough watering every week or every other week. This will help develop strong, deep roots rather than shallow ones that will need frequent watering to thrive. “In-line drip tubing releases water slowly, reducing water loss to evaporation and runoff,” says Tim Hartman, Texas A&M AgrilLife Extension Program Specialist.
• Choose drought-tolerant plants. Homeowners can work with garden centers and landscape professionals to create gardens that are full of water-wise plants and flowers. North Texas Municipal Water District suggests that North Texas homeowners choose Coneflower, Rudbeckia, Black and Blue Salvia, Texas Star Hibiscus, Garden Phlox, Skullcap, Fall Aster or Coral Honeysuckle when planting.
• Apply a layer of mulch. Mulch can protect delicate plants and the rest of the landscape by reducing the evaporation of soil moisture. Texas A&M AgrilLife Extension Service suggests adding a 3-inch layer of plant derived mulch, such as native hardwood, to reduce the amount of water required in the landscape.
• Skip the fertilizer. Since fertilizers encourage plant growth, it’s best to skip them during drought, as growing plants require extra water.
• Invest in rain barrels. When it rains, maximize the amount of water that can be collected by connecting rain barrels to downspouts on the house. This pure water can be used to water gardens when dry weather returns and it will help reduce your water bill as well.
• Use organic materials. Amend the soil with organic materials, like compost. The Grow Network advises that light, fluffy soils with air pockets in between the soil particles route water efficiently during floods and retain moisture for plants. Therefore, such soils can perform very well during drought.
Gardens can survive drought with simple actions and smart planting.
Top drought-tolerant plants for North Texas
Wichita Blue Juniper
Althea/Rose of Sharon
Rusty Blackhaw Viburnum
Lantana (*multiple varieties)
Gulf & White Cloud Muhly
Mexican Feather Grass
Source: AgriLife Water University