There are many drought-resistant varieties to consider for warmer seasons that could be ahead
After sizzling temperatures in July and a distinct lack of rain, it makes sense to take stock of those plants that survive and even thrive in hot, dry conditions. As a general rule of thumb, plants with silvery or hairy leaves have adapted to reflect or protect themselves from sun and evaporation.
Lavender is a well-known example, its silvery grey leaves untouched by long Mediterranean summers. It is deservedly popular as it brings scent, shape and colour to the garden.
Santolina pinnata is another example and is commonly known as cotton lavender. It has finely cut feathery, silvery foliage and small, lemony flowers in summer. The leaves, when rubbed, release a delicious aroma, and its round, compact shape makes this a useful evergreen or “evergrey” shrub. Other silvery plants include nepeta, or catmint, which is a perennial that grows quickly, is aromatic and has blue flowers; perovksia or Russian lavender, again with silvery leaves and blue flowers; and Convolvulus cneorum, which has silky foliage and funnel-shaped white flowers in early summer.
Salvias have become extremely popular, and breeders are busy coming up with ever-more beautiful and floriferous varieties, and they all prefer hot, dry conditions. ‘Nachtvlinder’ is one to look out for with tall spikes of dark-maroon velvety flowers that will last until autumn. Crush the leaves to release aromatic sage fragrance. It is borderline, so will probably survive winter outdoors in coastal areas, but if you are in colder areas, you might lift and shelter somewhere protected for winter. Last winter wasn’t so harsh, and mine survived outdoors, but it’s wise to take cuttings now just in case.
If it’s growing out of a wall or a crack in the pavement, you’ll know it’s well adapted to drought. Red valerian can be seen everywhere at the moment and is a guaranteed survivor in drought. The pretty flower heads are usually pink, white or red. Similarly, buddlejas will grow in derelict sites, but there are some beautiful cultivated varieties which are suitable for domestic situations and bring fragrance, beauty and butterflies to your plot.
The huge purple Allium globes do well in dry weather, but the tightly packed, spiky balls of the Echinops are also a must. This is a perennial with spiky leaves and ball-shaped purple-blue flowers.
These species are just a few examples of drought-resistant plants, but there are a huge number of others to find out about. Allow good time for their root systems to establish and they will reward you by their ability to survive the warm, dry summers that may be ahead.
Thick mulches are a good way of helping the earth retain as much moisture as possible, and they also can suppress weeds. While we adopt a more relaxed approach to weeds and appreciate their wildflower attributes, in dry conditions, they will be competing with your cultivated plants for water, so keep newly planted specimens free of any competition.
Cosmos is a half-hardy annual from Mexico that can be sown indoors in early spring or in situ in May. It never fails to delight and is a great filler for gaps in the border. The cheerful, daisy-like blooms come in either pale or dark pink, purple or white, and just need to be deadheaded as soon as the flower fades to keep the display going. Pinch out while growing to form bushy plants, or plant en masse, where they will support each other. Bee and butterfly friendly.
I would like to grow red-hot pokers. Is it okay to plant them now?
Yes, you can plant them now so long as you keep them well-watered, especially in dry spells, until they are well-established. After that, they are quite drought-tolerant. There are lots of different varieties in terms of size and flower colour, so it’s a good time to choose while you can see exactly what you are getting. From Africa, they prefer a sunny position and well-drained soil.
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