Water is a precious commodity. In some U.S. states, as well as around the world, it’s even more precious due to prolonged drought conditions. However, the beauty and bounty of flowers and plants are equally precious – in different ways. The good news is that there are many different types of plants that conserve water while still providing beauty, greenery, and shade to the world around them.
Shade Trees that Conserve Water
Shade trees conserve water in many different ways. If you choose the right tree, it will use little water itself. But a good shade tree, planted in a manner to provide precious shade to the majority of your lawn, can also reduce the need for irrigation on the ground – especially if you choose drought resistant grass or other groundcover that thrives in the shade.
If that’s not enough, a good, fast growing shade tree planted on the south or west side of your home can help to reduce your energy bills on even the hottest days summer has to throw your way.
- Chitalpa Trees – These trees reach mature heights of 25 to 30 feet and provide flowering blooms throughout the summer. Once established they use little water and are a great choice for xeriscape gardens.
- Desert Willow – Another drought tolerant tree, this willow provides beautiful flowers throughout the summer, though it does leave messy seed pods in the fall.
- Mimosa Trees – These beauties can grow up to 40 feet with regular watering, but will remain smaller when watering is less frequent. It has fluffy pink flowers and is ideal for shading patios or outdoor sitting areas.
- Olive Trees – The perfect choice for a Mediterranean style garden, olive trees thrive in drier climates with moderate to low water usage. They grow fast and up to 30 feet, but do require regular pruning.
- FanTex Ash ‘Rio Grande’ – A beautiful tree in fall that provides year-round shade for your lawn during the summer while allowing the sun to filter through to your home in the winter. While it grows well in hot climates, this tree does need regular watering.
While these trees are generally drought tolerant, that’s no guarantee that they will thrive without a little assistance. The Arbor Foundation recommends helping drought tolerant shade trees get a good foundation by watering regularly and covering them with wood chip mulch to help retain moisture in the soil – at least until the roots are deep and well established.
Flowers for Dry Gardens
Who says you can’t have beautiful flowers without a lot of rain? It’s a vicious rumor that is patently false. You can have your cake (stunningly brilliant flowers) and eat it too, even if you live in an area that’s been plagued by long-term drought.
- Oriental Poppies – These beauties are perennial plants widely known for their ability to endure drought conditions. While they prefer full sun exposure they can tolerate occasional light shade. Colors of these flowers include white, pink, and deep maroon.
- Gailardia – Perhaps one of the most cheerful additions you can make to a drought-resistant garden, these stunning flowers are often referred to as flashy daisies. Traditionally these sun-loving flowers are a rust color with bright yellow edges. They require little water to be happy and butterflies find them quite attractive.
- Pardon Me Daylily – These beautiful red blooms last for up to 12 weeks and remain open late in the day. They work with small compact gardens or add bright pops of color into larger green spaces. Known for being tough as nails and fragrant, these flowers are easy to grow and lovely in almost any garden setting.
Drought Tolerant Plants and Flowering Shrubs
Shrubs are a great way to add height to your lawn and garden. Choosing drought tolerant shrubs allows you to reserve a special area of your garden for more delicate flowers or plants or to conserve water altogether. These shrubs allow you to lend lush greenery to your outdoor living space, while still providing appropriate pops of colors throughout with their beautiful flowers.
- Common Lilac – The shrub itself grows quite tall, but is best known for the beautiful, fragrant flowers it produces in a wide range of colors. The shrubs tolerate drought conditions well, and once established, require little work or maintenance aside from the occasional pruning.
- Nepeta Walkers – Provides beautiful flowering groundcover that blooms from spring until fall. These beautiful plants grow up to two-feet tall and spread approximately two-feet wide providing fragrant lavender flowers that tolerate heat and humidity as well as drought conditions.
- Hostas – There are many different types of hostas and almost every variety adds a lush hint of green to any lawn and garden. The beautifully elegant plant is a shade-lover for the most part, though some varieties do tolerate sun exposure. Darker hostas require less sunlight exposure to thrive, while those that are lighter in color need more access to sunlight. The real beauty of these plants though is that they are relatively drought resistant (preferring about one inch of moisture per week) as long as they have exposure to rich soil and adequate nutrients. Even better is the fact that they can be beautiful with little maintenance.
- Tilandsias – Among the most unique houseplants you’ll find, these are brightly colored air plants. Rather than planting them in soil, you leave them around the home and allow them to absorb nutrients as well as moisture from the air inside the home. Mist them with water a couple of times per week and leave them to their own devices for a pop of color inside your home as well as a purifier of sorts for the air you breathe.
Don’t forget the importance of collecting water whenever possible. Even though these hardy plants can tolerate little water, it doesn’t mean they don’t need some water in order to grow and thrive. Use rain barrels and other methods of collecting water, and prioritize watering pecking order according to the needs and benefits of the plants.
With so many great choices available, you can have a beautiful garden in practically any environment whether you’re conserving water out of necessity or simply doing your part to conserve this precious resources.
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