Less Watering Equals Less Work

Published by Bucks Country Gardens in Lawn & GardenPlants

What’s the easiest way to achieve a colorful summer landscape with little work or watering? Plant drought tolerant perennials! Once the task of planting your favorite drought tolerant perennial is done, you can enjoy the gift that keeps on giving year after year. Perennials are classified as drought tolerant when they are known to persist for three or more years with little or no supplemental watering. If you are a sporadic waterer like me, then these are the plants for you. I sat down with Horticulturist and Arborist David Jones to learn some planting tips for these types of plants and to pick his brain as to which ones are his favorites.

In general, David says, “Good landscape design takes into account the moisture and sun requirements of each plant. You should also be mindful of how tall and wide the plant will grow and plant accordingly.” Another thing to consider is the color, timing and duration of the flowers, as well as the color of the foliage. “Normally, silver foliaged plants are drought tolerant and provide a nice back drop for brightly colored flowers,” says David. When planting, well-drained, loose soil is essential for drought tolerant plants. You should add in organic matter to enrich the soil for optimum results. And, like any new planting, supplemental watering is necessary until the plant is established.

David’s favorite drought tolerant perennials for sun and shade:

Sun Loving Perennials:

Lavender Phenomenal

Known for its remarkable scent, this perennial has gorgeous silver foliage complemented by long spikes of purple-blue flowers in the late spring/early summer that will often repeat bloom in late summer or autumn. It forms a bushy mound with a 2 ft. spread growing to approximately 2-3 ft. in height perfect for borders and container gardens. Lavender is also excellent for cutting and dried flower arrangements.

 Sedum (any variety) 

Known for their ability to thrive with flat out, complete neglect, sedum are the super star of drought tolerant perennials. Star-shaped flowers in red, yellow, gold, pink or white accent thick, succulent leaves, with most varieties blooming from mid-summer through fall. Tall growing sedum add color and interest to borders and reach approximately 2 ft. tall, while low growing sedum are better for ground cover and rock gardens since they may only grow 2 in tall.


Coneflowers (Echinacea)

While there are many coneflowers to choose from, David’s favorite coneflower varieties are Hot Papaya, a newer hybrid which features sizzling red-orange blooms; Magnus, a native meadow coneflower with rich, rosy-purple flowers; and Rubinstern, a German bred cultivar with some of the darkest flowers found on a purple coneflower. Most coneflowers achieve a 2-3 ft. height and spread. These flowers are great for just about any type of garden, whether you are creating a quaint cottage garden, a container garden, or borders.

Shade Loving Perennials:

Heuchera (any variety)

Known for their colorful foliage, David recommends choosing whichever Heuchera excites you color-wise. One of his favorites is Caramel, which starts with gray-red leaves in early spring which mature to a vibrant apricot color by summer. In early summer, it produces tiny, light-pink flowers on spires. Most Heucheras bloom earlier. This plant grows in mound reaching approximately 8 in. tall with a spread up to 20 in., and is best used for ground cover, borders, and open woodland gardens.

Tassel Fern (Polystichum polyblepharum)

Add a touch of elegance to your shade garden with the Tassel Fern. The deep green, shiny fronds emerge stiffly, then droop backwards to create a tassel. The species name, “Polyblepharum”, actually means “many eyelashes” and you’ll see why if you grow this plant–the fronds feature a delicate, lace-like effect. Use it for massing as groundcover, especially under flowering shrubs. Slow growing, it reaches approximately 2 ft. in height and spread.


Lenten Rose (Helleborus orientalis)

The quintessential harbinger of spring, This unusual plant blooms in late winter  (February) with 2 in. flowers in shades of whitish-green, pale purple, or rose, often spotted with purple. The “petals” are actually sepals that surround the tiny, true flowers. Unlike our other shade perennials, this one does require full sun in the winter so plant it under or near deciduous trees and shrubs that will shade it during the other seasons. The Lenten Rose usually reaches a height and spread of 1-11/2 ft.

If these suggestions have you thinking about how to beautify trouble areas in your landscape, come in and talk to David or any one of our other associates for ideas specific to your location. We’d love to help you!

Dalissa Reeder | Marketing Assistant

David Jones | Horticulturist, Arborist & Customer Service Specialist