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Getting tough: Drought tolerant perennials

By Preston Askew
For The Salisbury Post
As the summer season approaches, home gardeners are probably wondering if it is worth trying new materials in the landscape.
Many are concerned about wasting effort and money to fight another probable drought during long hot summers.
What we need are tough plants for our landscape areas.
I have been gardening for many years and each year is a new beginning, in some aspects. I have learned to concentrate my landscaping efforts to drought resistant/tolerant perennial plant material (plants that almost always return year after year). Now this does not mean that the gardener can just place a perennial in the ground and forget it, expecting it to return forever. The first year’s planting must be accompanied by regular observation and reacting to watering it at least twice a week, for several weeks, to assure proper root contact with the soil. This is absolutely essential!
Before discussing specific plants, it is best to assess some of your landscape challenges that could affect your selection of plant material. Do you have sunny or shady areas, damp or dry soil conditions, sloping terrains, or acidic or alkaline soil? Being aware of your garden’s obstacles will allow you to choose tough plants most applicable to your situation. Generally, these plants will survive in just about any type of landscape.
Here are some suggestions for tough plants that, when well established, should make it on their own in the future. Bear in mind that even when they are well established, the plants will need occasional tending (i.e., watering, weeding, dividing).
Plants adapted for sunny locations: Buddleia, bee balm, black-eyed Susan, coneflowers, coreopsis, daises, daylilies, dianthus, hibiscus, knock out roses, phlox, salvia, sedum, upright grasses and yucca.
Plants adapted for shady locations: daphne, digitalis, ferns, helleborus, heuchera, hosta, hydrangea, liriope,and dwarf mondo grass.
These suggestions offer a variety of colors, textures and heights and are only a few of the many types of possibilities that are available. Check with your local nurseries to determine what they may have to offer.
Happy gardening!
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Preston Askew is a Master Gardener volunteer with the Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County.

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