We often see a lot of questions coming up about drought tolerance in the search for lower maintenance perennials. While there are great options out there that I could list, you may be happier to know there are certain traits to look for that can tell you everything you need to know without even reading a plant tag!
There are certain characteristics that you can look out for when shopping for waterwise perennials. As plants have evolved in low-water environments, they have developed special features to help them find water, hold water and avoid water loss. The most obvious of these characteristics include succulent type leaves and stems. They’re thick, close to the plant, and can have a waxy appearance. This is why everyone immediately thinks of sedums or yucca for their low water landscapes. The silvery gray or blue foliage similar to that in Globe Thistles are examples of other leaf features that often indicate drought tolerance. Lambs ear has a densely hairy leaf. Hairs help the plant hold on to water instead of evaporating right away. The hardest thing to shop for can be perennials that do their best by putting down deep roots. For example, Little Bluestem grass can put down a root system over 5ft. in their natural prairie environment. These ones take a little more research, but look for plants native to environments that don’t see a lot of water.
Remember that deep watering ensures success for whatever type of garden you’re trying to achieve. Roots are designed to reach for water, so they will reach as deep as the water flows. Attentive watering for the first growing season will help set your drought tolerant plants up for greater success!