Drought tolerant perennials are popular these days, especially with those of you in the midst of a heat wave as we are here in Ontario. Even if you have an irrigation system, these hardy perennials should be a staple in your garden to avoid wasting your money on plants and water. Just be sure to place the hoses or plants (whichever you install last) strategically. For example, ornamental grasses (and most other drought tolerant plants) do not appreciate wet feet. In fact, the quickest way to kill them off is to overwater them.
Here are a few drought tolerant perennials that I rely on for hot summer color:
stonecrop and sedum, available in multiple colors, great for hot borders
lavender and spruce
If you haven’t already, consider adding some to your gardens, just be sure to wait until the heat wave is over to do so!
Ok, I will admit it, I am a snob, a plant snob that is! Some plants I find just too common and boring. For example, “Look at that beautiful hosta!” said no one ever. Or spirea either for that matter, unless you are talking one of the bridal wreath variety, then you may just hear or think that, but only if it is pruned correctly.
So, if that makes me a plant snob, then so be it. I appear to have developed an aversion to hostas, probably because people have overused them in their gardens. The only time I enjoy them is in the very early spring when their green spikes are one of the first signs of new growth to emerge from the soil as it thaws out here in the Ottawa area. In the summer they get eaten by slugs and earwigs, and in the fall they turn mushy and slimy…
So, what perennials do I prefer over hostas for the edges of my gardens in my GARDENS4U and home gardens? Here are my choices:
For shady areas I like perennial geraniums. They are one of the first perennials to green up in the spring, require no maintenance what so ever, and maintain their neat, non-sprawling (most varieties) mounded shape. They do spread throughout the garden, but are very shallow rooted, so easy to remove. These geraniums are great for planting under trees, even evergreen trees where nothing else will thrive.
Another good choice for an edging plant in shady areas is lamium. It is one of my favourites with its variegated leaves, reblooming pale flowers, and tidy habit.
For part shade to part sun locations in the garden, I am loving heucheras these days. Some varieties tolerate more sun than others, so be sure to read the tags. By the way, heuchera is pronounced with a hard c. I will never forget that after I was chastised for mispronouncing it by a 93-year-old client. Heucheras come in a variety of colors from palest green to bright chartreuse to orangy-brown to reddish brown to deep wine red. Leaf shapes vary too from smooth and rounded, to almost maple-leaf-like, to curly, lettuce-leaf-like. They look good all summer, need no fall cleanup or protection, and survive our cold winters with no problem. A simple tug to remove any crispy leaves in the spring and they are good to go.
My first choice for full sun edging plants are those in the sedum or stonecrop families. As succulents, sedums and stonecrops are all drought tolerant, thriving in hot, dry areas, especially next to stone walkways where not much else will grow. They too come in a variety of colors and shapes. These sedums and stonecrops look especially nice when several varieties are planted together.
So, next season think outside of your comfort zone. Become a plant snob by replacing those boring hostas with a little more pizazz!
This year I am experimenting with perennial succulents in my urns that are located in full sun. I had two coco liners filled with soil left from last summer’s hanging baskets. I turned them upside down over my cast iron urns, tucking the fiber into the edge of the urns to make them fit and to prevent soil and water from leaking out. I then cut slits in the fiber and tucked slips of succulents (sedum and stonecrop) into the slits. For the top, I used a large sermpervivum rosette (the hen part of the hen and chicks succulent plant). I am hoping the succulent slips will cascade over the sides of the urns as they grow. I will rotate the urns occasionally as the sedums grow towards the sun, so they will cascade evenly around the perimeter of the urns.
Perennial succulents are an excellent choice for a hot, dry location in your garden. There are many varieties to choose from; sedums and stonecrop are two of my favourites. Choose a variation in color for a spectacular display. Once established succulents require very little water, and in fact too much water will cause them to rot. These urns of mine sit in front of my garage with a hot, dry, full sun, southern exposure. Over the years I have not had much luck with any other plants growing there. They all start off well, but quickly lose their appeal as they get leggy and dry out. Hopefully the succulents will do the trick to keep my urns looking great all summer.
I also use succulents such as sedum and stonecrop as groundcovers in hot, dry, full sun locations in my garden. They make beautiful edging plants in the perennial garden.