With all the dry weather Sydney and other places are having lately, it is difficult to keep the garden looking lush and green. It is a good idea to add drought tolerant plants to your landscape design so that there will always be something that looks lovely. Since our country is known for its droughts and other climate extremes, many of the native species are actually tolerant of dry weather. However, some of these – and others – do need quite a bit of water to get them established and settled into their new home and growing well.
Landscaping with drought tolerant plants is really no different from landscaping with other kinds of plants, only you don’t need as much water. Once established, most such plants require very little water, so make sure you don’t grow them in any area of the backyard that may become waterlogged when it rains. Many actually require good drainage to remain healthy, so it is a good idea to raise the garden bed a little from the surrounding areas, then when it rains the water will run off quickly. However, be sure to water them until they are well-established for the best success. You can’t just stick them into dry ground and expect them to survive when they are first transplanted. Watering them to start with will ensure strong growth and once established, you can then reap the benefits of not having to water them much at all.
Nearly everyone likes to see flowers in their garden, whether it is a drought tolerant or low maintenance garden or not. So which are the best drought tolerant flowering plants? Gerberas are perennials from South Africa that thrive on neglect and dry weather, so be sure to include some in your next planting session. Likewise, gazanias flower merrily on in the driest weather.
Of course, there are many drought tolerant Australian native flowers and shrubs. Acacia or wattle is an iconic Australian emblem that most people know and love, its bright yellow flowers cheerful and sweet smelling. There are many different types of grevilleas and these shrubs are very hardy, with distinctive, spider-like flowers in several different colours. Some flower most of the year and once established, can survive on minimal water. Bottlebrushes are also drought tolerant. These small trees have stunningly beautiful flowers in the shape of a bottle brush – the red ones are particularly eye-catching.
Another native shrub that is common to the eastern parts of Australia is Correa. It has pale yellow, bell-shaped blooms that are a great source of nectar for birds. It is suited to both light shade or full sun and is often found in rockeries, but can also survive under larger trees.
If you are into herbs, thyme is one of the most drought tolerant and also has sweet-smelling, purple flowers, so you get great value from it.
The moss rose or Portulaca is another flowering species that is an excellent choice for drought affected areas. It is a succulent with brightly coloured flowers in pinks and oranges. Hippeastrums and agapanthus are very hardy plants that will withstand a great deal of dry weather and still flower. Of course they flower even better with a little bit of water, but some ‘hippies’ have grown and flowered on concrete, with their roots finding moisture underneath a pot-plant next to them. How hardy is that?
There are many ideas for drought tolerant gardens.
- Grow only dry tolerant plants
- Minimise the plants and add other visually attractive elements such as seating or rock walls
- Add statues. All kinds – from formal to whimsical – are available at most retail outlets that sell plants.
- Add a paved area to cut back on the need for plants and grass.
- If you are starting your landscape design from scratch, remember to also include drought tolerant lawn grass
- Grow herbs, since many are actually drought tolerant.
Drought tolerant garden designs are not difficult to achieve, the main thing to remember is to place the garden area in a spot that is always well-drained, so that when those torrential showers fall plants will not wither up and die. Of course, once they are established, you have to remember to not water them too much for the best results. Many clumping grasses are drought tolerant while plants such as cordylines give year-round pleasure with their bright pink and other coloured stems and leaves.
Many drought loving plants also thrive in full sun, but don’t do so well in shade, so when choosing the place to grow them, you must take that into consideration. If you plant sun-lovers in dense shade, or shade lovers in full sun, you can’t expect to have a successful garden. But this advice also applies to plants that are not drought tolerant, so after all, gardening with drought tolerant plants is not so different from any other gardening endeavour.