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Rhonda J. Ferree

Rhonda J. Ferree
Former Extension Educator, Horticulture

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Rhonda Ferree's ILRiverHort

Rhonda Ferree's Horticulture Blog
Gloriosa daisy on 6-11-12
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Drought Tolerant Plants

I am amazed by plants that can grow in very hot, dry conditions. In fact, certain plants seem to thrive in the hot, dry weather. Since I garden in the even drier sands of Mason county, I have tried to use drought tolerant plants, whenever possible. Here are some plants that have worked well for me over the years.

The old standard annuals seem to do best for me in drought years. These include nicotiana, celosia, marigold, zinnia, and petunia. We water these plants a couple times a week and they do fine, considering the conditions.

Nicotiana is also called flowering tobacco. It is easy to grow and especially valuable for hot, humid areas. Plants are seven to ten inches tall. Flowers are one to two inches across with five distinctive petals. 'Avalon Bright Pink' was an award winner in 2001 and the nightly aromatic variety 'Perfume Deep Purple' won in 2006.

Celosia are also heat and drought tolerant. I've grown both the plume and crested types. Celosia are so drought tolerant that they rot is the plant is too wet (or too cold). I have to plant these in an unirrigated area.

Marigold and zinnia grow in all types of situations, as long as there is full sun. I particularly like the Profusion zinnias, especially the Fire and Orange varieties.

Although most of my yard has in ground irrigation, my perennial bed is not uniformly watering. The plants doing well there include black-eyed Susan, purple coneflower, yarrow, and sedum. This makes a lot of sense since these are native plants that do well in our dry prairie conditions.

I have been particularly impressed with a new variety of purple coneflower that I added this year. Each of the double, pompom-like flowers are sturdy and last for several weeks.

I can also see a difference in the shrubs in my yard, particularly those where the irrigation heads don't reach. The burning bush doesn't like the hot, dry weather and so I have had to give them additional water. I also have several lilacs that are drying up. My red twigged dogwoods develop yellow leaves very quickly if not watered almost every day. And, my new hydrangea collection must have extra water to prevent daily wilting.

Hopefully, you have some plants in your yard that look good in this year of extremes. Keep watering your plants, remembering that thorough deep watering is better than daily sprinkles. Don't forget the established trees, especially evergreens that will need water going into the fall to assure that they don't have major winter injury.

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