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Drought Tolerant Plants
by Brian Minter
by Brian Minter


Brian is President of Minter Country Garden, an innovative destination garden center and greenhouse growing operation. He is a gardening columnist, radio host, international speaker and author.

His website is located at

June 3, 2001

The warm weather experienced in mid-May has had an effect on our gardens. Early cool weather plants have really taken a beating and are fading quickly. Pansies, mimulus, dianthus and stocks are starting to go downhill rather quickly, but fortunately, there's still time to plant heat-loving and drought-tolerant colour to keep our gardens looking good until fall.
There are a few things to bear in mind when planting at this time of year. During warm spells, do your planting in the early evening so your plants have at least overnight to acclimatize. It really helps for the first day or so to lay some Remay cloth over new plantings to filter out the worst of the sun's intensity and allow those roots to take hold. It's also a good idea to prepare your soil with a generous amount of damp peat moss, well-rotted manure and some starting fertilizer to speed up the rooting process. Be very particular about the plants you purchase. Plants that have been sitting in crowded boxes too long and look tall, hard and lanky will not perform well for you. Choose either fresh new plants or ones that have been repotted into larger four or six inch pots. 
It's wise to choose plants that not only love the heat, but once established, will also tolerate some drought. On the top of my list are gazanias. These beautiful, huge daisy-like flowers are just a blaze of vibrant orange, yellow and bronze shades all summer long. They add an unique flavour to any garden, and for the very best effect they should be used in groups or mass plantings.
Portulacas (Moss Rose) are right behind them for a great show in dry conditions. Their wonderful flowers are simply breathtaking with masses of vibrant bright double blooms that just don't quit. They thrive in sunny, dry hot spots but remember: they do poorly in rich heavy soils. Portulacas should also be used in mass plantings, and they will often seed themselves for another great display next year. Mesembryanthemum, or 'Livingstone Daisy' fits into this category of heat-loving plants as well.
For shady areas, impatiens, browallia, balsam, tuberous begonias and coleus perform like magic with a minimum of water, once they are established. Also check out the variegated double impatiens for a stunning display. The very popular New Guinea impatiens and sun tolerant coleus are wonderful for both partial shade or sun.
Old-fashioned cosmos is another great drought-tolerant plant. Try the 'Sensation' mix as a background plant or use it here and there among your rhododendrons or shrubs for a charming effect. The new dwarf 'Sonata' series is truly spectacular too.
No garden would be complete without salvia, and you can't plant salvia without its very best companion, Dusty Miller. Try some of the new salvias such as my favourite 'Victoria Blue' or its cousins, the more compact 'Rhea' or the blue and silver variety called 'Strata'.
Did you know that fibrous begonias, geraniums, ivy geraniums, nicotianas, African daisies, Bachelor Buttons, cleomes, zinnias, 'Triploid' marigolds and petunias are drought tolerant too? Now that it’s warming up, there is a great selection of plants that love the summer heat and will perform well right up until the first frost.

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