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Drought Tolerant Plants
by Brian Minter
by Brian Minter

email: mail@mintergardens.com

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 http://www.mintergardens.com/


July 8, 2007

All the wet weather experienced from March through June has taken a toll on our gardens. Many of our early plantings have gone 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 planting area with a generous amount of good soil, compost and manures. Adding starter fertilizer to speed up the rooting process is also helpful. Be very particular about the plants you purchase. Plants that have been sitting in crowded pots 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.

Portulaca (Moss Rose) is right behind them for a great show in dry conditions. Portulacas are simply breathtaking with their 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.

For shady areas, impatiens, browallia, balsam and tuberous begonias perform like magic with a minimum of water, once they are established. Also check out variegated double impatiens for a stunning display. The very popular New Guinea impatiens and sun tolerant coleus are wonderful for both a partial shade or sun location.

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 and much more versatile.

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'.

Zinnias have always been the traditional heat loving and drought tolerant champions. They look so fresh and vibrant when other plants wilt in the heat. The dwarf giant-flowered varieties and the amazing award-winning spreading variety, ‘Profusion’, are now available in a wide range of colours. ‘Profusion’ spreads like a carpet and provides amazing colour till frost. Zinnias look great with summer grasses.

Cleomes are fabulous drought tolerant plants that have come a long way over the past few years. We love them in our gardens for their splendid show all summer long. The new ‘Senorita Rosalita’ and ‘Spirit’ series are great plants. Shorter and more basil branching, they are real garden jewels.

We use so many annual rudbeckias in our summer garden simply for their beauty and resilient nature. Now available in so many flower forms, sizes and shapes, they can be used with ease in small gardens, containers and giant beds. They create magic when planted with Purple Fountain Grass.

Dahlias are so great at this time of year because they are easy to grow, love the heat and bloom till November. The new dark foliage varieties, like the ‘Happy’ and ‘Dark Angel’ series, look truly fabulous in mass plantings or containers.

With the poor, wet start to our gardening season, it’s great to have many new plants that can easily spark up our gardens, thrive in the heat and last well into fall. Please give them a try.

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