Plants have several different ways of dealing with drought. For example, some, like cactus and other succulents, store water in their leaves, stems and roots. Others, such as mosses, lichens and fungi can tolerate the drying out of their leaves. They can also stay alive until the next rainfall. Still others, such as dogwood, drop their leaves and go dormant until the next rain. Spring ephemerals, such as violets and johnny jump-ups, simply grow quickly in spring, setting their seeds to complete their cycle before the drier months of July and August. Finally, some plants avoid drought by growing very long tap roots in search of water. For instance, you can find alfalfa roots as deep as 100 feet beneath the surface.
Drought-tolerant deciduous trees
Drought-tolerant trees include green ash, bur oak, Amur maple, chokecherry, Russian olive and Manitoba maple. Junipers, Mugo, Scots and lodgepole pine, Siberian larch and Colorado spruce are all drought-tolerant evergreens.
Shrubs that handle dry conditions include dogwood, mockorange, lilac, staghorn sumac, ninebark, potentilla, silver buffaloberry, wolf willow and caragana. Most of the vines we grow commonly on the prairies are also drought-tolerant, including honeysuckle and Virginia creeper.
As a rule of thumb, look for plants that have small, thick, glossy, fuzzy, hairy, or silver-grey leaves, characteristics that are designed to cool the plant and conserve water. Native and prairie plants are a good bet – clumping grasses are very ornamental and have deep roots.
A short list (in a fairly long selection) of drought tolerant perennials includes gaillarda, rudbeckia, echinacea, monarda, delphinium, lamb’s ears, iris, flax, baby’s breath, artemisia, dianthus, sedum, yarrow, pansy, statice and yucca.
Annuals include cosmos, marigold, annual phlox, rose campion, santolina, zinnia and annual statice.
Most of the Mediterranean herbs such as thyme, rosemary, oregano and sage like it dry.
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