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Drought resistant plants
Drought resistant plants refers to plants able to tolerate low levels of rainfall or watering. Plants that have a high tolerance for low levels of water can help reduce water usage, reduce costs and can help to make a dry and arid area more pleasant and functional to live in.
Drought resistant plants have evolved mechanisms that allow them to stop the excessive loss of moisture. This may include bulbous trunks or succulent leaves that store water, smaller leaf surface area, thicker roots, protective layers, etc.
Growing drought resistant plants
The best plants are those that grow in the area naturally, as these plants have already learned to cope with the local environmental conditions.
Prepare the soil well. Till or dig it over well and feed in well-rotted manure, old straw or compost to add organic matter to the soil. The benefit of adding such organic matter to the soil isn't only related to adding nutrients but it also helps with water retentiveness of the soil surrounding the plant.
To give a headstart to plants expected to cope with low-water conditions, it is recommended that they be planted during the cooler season (late autumn or early winter). This gives the plants a good chance of developing a healthy and strong root system, in readiness for the harsher seasons ahead. On the other hand, if the plant is not frost tolerant while growing, wait until the frosts are not likely to occur.
Initially, you will need to water the plants until they are well established. Add mulch to help keep the moisture in the soil, taking care not to touch the stem of the plant.
It is best if drought resistant plants are placed together, in groups. The group of plants helps to retain moisture in the soil through shading the soil over a wider area and keeping down temperatures, thereby reducing evaporation. Aim for a range of plants, such as a groundcover, then a shrub, then a tree.
Avoid growing a lawn. Lawns are thirsty and not particularly drought resistant.
Protect plants from direct wind, except for the plants that can tolerate it and can serve as good windbreaks for the rest of the garden. Wind is drying, especially when it is combined with hot temperatures.
Make use of protective devices to shield from heat and direct rays, such as trellis, shade cloth, building walls, verandah overhangs, walled-off areas, canvas sails, and the like, where relevant and as appropriate for the plant species.
In all cases, read up on the suitability of suggested plants for the area you live in. While a plant may be drought-tolerant, it might exhibit undesirable features in areas it is not native to, such as prolific weed-like growth, spreading or creating hayfever problems for local residents. Do your research before choosing the plants, and treat the plants listed here as suggestions to guide your own learning.
Feel free to add suitable plants under the following lists.
Drought resistant perennial plants
- Agapanthus (Agapanthus spp.)
- Wild iris (D. grandifloria)
- Statice (Limonium sinuatum)
- Yucca (Yucca spp.)
Drought resistant herbs
- Catmint (Nepeta cataria)
- French lavender (Lavender dentata)
Drought resistant shrubs and bushes
- Myrtle wattle (A. myrtifolia)
- Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster spp.)
- Common box (Buxus sempervirens)
- Italian cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)
- Common myrtle (Myrtus communis)
- Bay laurel, bay tree, sweet bay (Laurus nobilis)
- Japanese mock orange (Pittosporum tobira)
- Phillyrea latifolia
- Portugal laurel (Prunus lusitanica)
- Rock rose, sun rose (Cistus)
- Pomegranate (Punica granatum)
- Juniper (Juniperus)
- Jerusalem sage (Phlomis fructicosa)
Drought resistant climbing plants
- Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea spp.)
- Trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis)
- Kiwifruit (Actinidia deliciosa)
- Morning glory (Ipomoea)
- Jasmine (Jasminum)
- Passionflower (Passiflora)
- Pineapple broom (Cytisus battandieri)
- Californian lilac (Ceanothus)
- Grape vine (Vitus vinifera)
Drought resistant trees
- Peppercorn tree (Schinus molle)
- Wild olive (Olea africana)