It’s Hot Out Here! 6 Drought Tolerant Perennials That Can Beat the Heat!
Summer is here! With it comes some much-needed vacation time. Our bags were packed, the house was clean, and I felt pretty organized. Just as we walked out the door, I felt a twinge of panic. I had forgotten to ask our neighbour to water our plants! I had planted some of my favourite perennials earlier this spring with wide-eyed optimism. They were absolute perfection in the garden. I watered them regularly as we entered early summer, wanting to make sure that the roots were well established. But leaving them waterless for a week turned out to be too much for these newly planted perennials to handle! My family and I were away on a week-long vacation in a cooler climate, blissfully unaware of the 35 °C heat raging back home. A scorcher of a week, and zero water made for some unhappy perennial plants.
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Why Plant Heat and Drought-Tolerant Perennials?
More and more, gardeners are becoming interested in heat and drought-tolerant perennials, especially as we experience sizzling hot, dry weather across Canada. It makes good sense to choose full sun drought tolerant perennial plants appropriate for our landscape conditions and gardening regions. Not to mention, planting full sun drought tolerant perennials is great for the environment! Water is a precious resource, and conservation is important. Also, you too might be considering packing your bags and going away for a few weeks in the summertime. It’s reassuring to know that your plants can take some heat while you’re away.
A period of drought can last a few days, weeks, several months, or even years, but all droughts have one thing in common: a lack or absence of water. Prolonged periods of drought can hinder and harm plant growth, and even cause mortality. While it’s not unusual for various parts of the country to experience drought, the frequency of drought and water restrictions are inspiring many gardeners to become aware of low-maintenance full sun perennials and their heat and drought-tolerant characteristics.
So, what is a drought tolerant perennial?
Perennials are plants that live for more than two years, as opposed to annuals that only last one season. Drought tolerant perennials are those that, once established in the garden, can withstand longer periods of dry weather without watering.
Some drought-resistant perennials have fine tiny hairs over their leaves, which slows airflow, allowing moisture in the air to be caught and absorbed at the leaf’s surface. These tiny hairs also reduce transpiration, and plants with fine lacey foliage also evaporate less water because of their reduced surface area. Other drought tolerant plants, such as sedum, have thick waxy coatings over their leaves, forming a barrier to the environment, and enabling them to store water in their plant tissues.
Drought tolerant perennials can have a single tap root or root systems that grow deep into the ground in search of consistent moisture. Others grow complex systems of finer roots at or near the soil surface which collect moisture and nutrients, as well as provide stability.
Does drought tolerant mean that plants just use less water?
Can plants go for longer periods without watering? Full sun drought tolerant perennials need water too, especially when they are newly planted in the landscape. Bingo! I had solved my sad state of newly planted perennial problems! New plantings have yet to develop root systems to survive drought as easily as older, more established perennials. This valuable information may have saved me some post-vacation heatwave heartache – those newly planted perennials needed a bit more help the week we were away! Allow at least 2-3 growing seasons for newly planted drought tolerant perennials to establish and develop their root systems before expecting them to survive the heat of a red-hot summer. Water newly planted perennials regularly, gradually increasing the time between waterings during the second and third seasons of growth. Mature drought tolerant perennials can be watered infrequently, but do water more thoroughly, to encourage roots to grow deeper down into moist soil. The best time for watering is in the early morning, before the heat of the afternoon.
Keep in mind, that a perennial with drought-resistant characteristics does not necessarily guarantee its survival; if a drought is extreme, even established plants can experience stress, injury, and mortality due to lack of water.
If you’re looking for some low-maintenance full sun perennial plants to add to your garden, look no further than these six drought-tolerant perennials! These plants are tough as nails and can withstand even the hottest summer days once well established. Plus, they’re beautiful too! So, if you’re looking to add a little bit of color to your garden during the summer, these are the plants for you.
Achillea Paprika has aromatic, soft gray-green feathery foliage with flat-topped clusters of tiny ruby red flowers with yellow centers. Known as yarrow, it is heat-loving and drought tolerant once established, returning year after year. It grows into a clump 60 cm (24”) tall and wide, performing best in full sun and well-draining soils on the dry side. Long-lasting blooms mature to salmon rose and pink, attracting pollinators, especially butterflies, from June through August. Drought tolerant perennials Zone 2. Deer Resistant.
Agastache Blue Fortune
Pollinating bees adore the long flowering, showy bottlebrush blue flower spikes of Agastache Blue Fortune, commonly known as licorice mint. The flowers have a light mint scent, while the foliage smells of black licorice when crushed. Easily grown in full sun areas with well-draining soils. Grows 75 cm (30”) tall and 60 cm (24”) wide. Drought tolerant perennials Zone 4. Deer Resistant.
Butterfly love, or Asclepias tuberosa performs best in full sun and with well-draining soils. Nectar-rich tangerine orange flowers attract beneficial pollinators to the garden, especially bees and butterflies. Blooming June through September, it is heat and drought-tolerant once established. Grows 50 cm (20”) tall and 40 cm (16”) wide. Drought tolerant perennials Zone 3. Deer Resistant.
Echinacea purpurea PowWow Wild Berry
A garden classic, Echinacea PowWow Wild Berry or cone flower, is simply unaffected by hot and dry conditions. Beautiful deep rose-purple ray petals surround a coppery brown bristle cone, making an excellent cut flower, as well as a landing pad for pollinators. If you’re looking for drought-tolerant flowers for pots, Echinacea PowWow Wild Berry is a great bet! Easily grown in full sun in well-draining soils. Grows 60 cm (24”) tall and 40 cm (16”) wide. Drought tolerant perennial Zone 3. Deer Resistant.
Gaillardia Arizona Sun
Commonly known as Blanket Flower, Gaillardia flourishes in the hot and dry landscape, originating as a North American wildflower across grasslands and prairies. Gaillardia Arizona Sun blooms prolifically from early summer to fall, producing masses of fiery orange-red flowers, each ringed by a brilliant yellow corona. Grow in full sun and average to poor, well-draining soils. Once established, this low-maintenance full sun perennial stands up to heat and drought even with neglect. Drought tolerant perennial Zone 3. Pollinator-friendly and deer resistant. Grows to 25 cm (10”) tall and 40 cm (16”) wide.
Sedum Autumn Fire
Sedum, or Stonecrop, thrives in some of the most challenging hot and dry situations. Its thick, succulent leaves store up water as it enjoys full sun and average to poor, well-draining soils. Sedum Autumn Fire is an improved version of Autumn Joy and has bright rose-red coloured flowers clustered together into massive heads that open from late summer to fall. It grows up to 60 cm (24”) tall and 45 cm (16”) wide, forming a clump. Drought tolerant perennial Zone 3. Pollinator-friendly and deer resistant.
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