A Transplanted Gardener Sep 1995 Drought Tolerant Plants

The seed planted for my love of gardening started when I was young. I remember spending time in my grandmother's garden weeding, weeding, and weeding! When I finally graduated from weeding I was taught how to plant and harvest. She had quite a large garden of fruit and nut trees, flowers, houseplants, and lots of chickens. When we finally relocated to Arizona a decision was made to settle down and purchase some land with shelter on it. This is an exciting prospect for a gardener. It was finally worth it to buy perennials and not have to move only to leave your cherished plants to fate, hoping the next person knew how to care for them. Since I am new to drought tolerant conditions, I decided to research and purchase one variety of each plant that interested me, plant it in the flower bed and see how it per formed. The following is a list of a few plants that have proven to be drought tolerant, beautiful, and carefree (meaning that I have plopped them into my 3 by 5 foot raised bed mulched with small bark chips and basically neglected them) plants. If you already have one of these plants, you know what a joy they are. If not, maybe you'll consider "adopting" one the next times you visit your nursery.

Let's start with the Southwest workhorse, the salvias.

Salvia greggii - To be honest, I wasn't thrilled with the looks of this plant, but I bought it because it attracts humming birds and I wanted to start a hummingbird/butterfly section in the garden. Well, all I have to say is plant red salvia and the hummers will come. This is a tough, 2-foot high and as wide evergreen sub-shrub. It seems the hotter it gets the more it blooms. I have planted red, purple, white, and coral salvia, and one called San Antonio Lake. It has peach colored tubes with a yellow throat. Trim off the dead flower stems and it will rebloom again and again.

S. leucantha - Mexican Sage Bush - This is a graceful, beautiful semi-evergreen perennial with a 3-foot spread and height. A bushy plant with gray-green leaves and fat, velvety purple flower spikes that are good for drying. After flowering, prune and thin plants about 12 inches above the ground. It will freeze to the ground in a hard winter but will recover quickly in the spring.

S. clevelandii - also called San Diego, Cleveland, or Chaparral Sage - This is an evergreen shrub that grows 3 feet high and 5 feet wide with smooth gray leaves and in late spring to late summer blue fragrant flowers appear above the leaves which become more intense after they are dried. Trim back after flowering. Mine lost most of its leaves after transplanting but new leaves soon formed and now it is full and lush. It is very fragrant and I use the leaves in cooking.

Buddleia davidii - Common Butterfly Bush-I have two varieties in my garden. Petite Plum and Black Knight. A deciduous or semi-evergreen shrub, this fast growing plant usually reaches a height of 4 to 5 feet but can reach over 10! It has dark green leaves with felted white undersides. In spring through late summa small fragrant flowers appear in arch-like spikes which butterflies love to visit. I have found that when I pinch off the spent blooms, two new buds bloom in its place. For best appearance, prune back within a few inches to the ground in spring. In cold climates it will freeze to the ground, but the roots are hardy.

Perovskia atriplicifolia - Russian Sage- A native of Russia, this is a very easy perennial to grow and was selected as the Perennial Plant of the Year by the Perennial Plant Association. It is my favorite plant. In fact, I broke the rules about buying only one of each plant and have two Russian Sages. It looks very tender with its silvery woody stems, feathery branches, and delicate lavender blue flowers that are arranged in spikes above the leaves, but in feet this is one tough plant. I have not watered it since transplanting and it thrives in heat, wind, and poor soil. I purchased it in bud in early June and it has been blooming profusely ever since. It is not bothered by pests or diseases. It is a winter dormant perennial that grows to 4 feet high and wide. Trimming the spent flowers will encourage reblooming. Prune to 6 inches in winter. This is a very fragrant, sagey smelling plant that bees and butterflies will visit. The flowers are edible.


Cheri Melton
September, 1995