Drought Tolerant

Plants that can tolerate drier areas in the garden. Excellent in xeric gardens.

See also: Herbaceous Perennials, Native Plants
It's December, which means time to write. One of the first essays I wrote on the subject of perennial gardening was this brief introduction to purple coneflower. Landscape architects and native plant specialists may gravitate to the less often seen pale coneflower (Echinacea pallida), but it says something about a plant when it is instantly recognizable from coast to coast. From childhood onward we know purple coneflower in the American landscape.

purple coneflower summer garden

Echinacea purpurea

One of the things I noticed this past year about purple coneflower in our own gardens is how little I thought about it when it came to fertilizing, pruning, watering, staking, and on and on. So many of our garden plants seem to exist to give us something to do. Once established, purple coneflower is reliable for both us and the goldfinches, and all we have to do is show up.

See also: Native PlantsTrees and Shrubs
Aesculus parviflora (bottlebrush buckeye) is a deciduous shrub native to the southeastern U.S. that blooms in early summer. The freely produced panicles of white flowers are elegant and long-lasting in the garden, making the bottlebrush buckeye one of the most beautiful of our native shrubs.

bottlebrush buckeye

Aesculus parviflora - bottlebrush buckeye

Being a buckeye, Aesculus parviflora does produce nuts, although not (in my experience at least) as easily and freely as red buckeye (Aesculus pavia).

Continue reading ‘Aesculus parviflora – Bottlebrush Buckeye’

See also: Herbaceous Perennials
Hemerocallis fulva, tawny or orange daylily, has been planted in American gardens forever it seems. As you drive rural roads during early summer, the flashes of orange you see along the side of the road or in abandoned rural farmsteads are almost certainly Hemerocallis fulva (or perhaps Asclepias tuberosa - butterfly weed).

Hemerocallis fulva flower

Hemerocallis fulva flower detail. Click for larger.

Watch out, as Hemerocallis fulva will take over a bed completely. Choose where you plant orange daylily in the garden wisely, in places where it may spread and colonize the area completely. If you need to control erosion or have a weedy spot, tawny daylily is an apt choice.

Continue reading ‘Hemerocallis fulva – Tawny Daylily’

See also: Native PlantsHerbaceous Perennials
Rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium) is a native perennial with possibly the coolest name in gardening. Eryngium yuccifolium earned its common name because native Americans used the roots as anti-venom for snake bites.

Eryngium yuccifolium

Rattlesnake master is a perennial native to North America. Click for larger.

As the name implies, rattlesnake master is a tough customer, at home in tough conditions. It likes sun, and lots of it. Dryish soils are perfect, and rattlesnake master is a candidate for xeric gardens.

Continue reading ‘Eryngium yuccifolium – Rattlesnake Master’

See also: Native PlantsHerbaceous Perennials
Hoary skullcap (Scutellaria incana) is also known as downy skullcap. It a native perennial widely adaptable in the garden. Hoary skullcap is almost always specified as being a sun-loving plant, yet I have seen it flowering beautifully in one of the most challenging garden scenarios possible: heavy shade with dry soil.

hoary skullcap - native plants

Scutellaria incana - hoary skullcap - native perennial gardening. Click for larger.

Hoary skullcap has a relatively long bloom period and is a superb addition to cottage gardens, prairie gardens, and meadows or wildflower gardens.

Continue reading ‘Scutellaria incana – Hoary Skullcap’

See also: Native Plants
The eastern prickly pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa) is native to various parts of the United States. The flowers are beautiful in spring. The flowers and perhaps the edible fruit are the main reason I would consider planting eastern prickly pear in the garden.

prickly pear flower

Prickly pear cactus growing in gravel along track tracks. Click for larger.

I personally would not choose to plant Opuntia in the landscape. Outside of the yellow flowers, I find few redeeming qualities to recommend prickly pear cactus aesthetically. Still, the eastern prickly pear is a native plant, and I would think twice before removing Opuntia humifusa from any garden or landscape where it occurs naturally.

Continue reading ‘Prickly Pear Cactus – Opuntia humifusa’

See also: Native PlantsHerbaceous Perennials
Before covering the essential goodness of butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) in detail, I pass on the best butterfly weed tip I know: Butterfly weed emerges late in spring. It is by far the number one perennial I (perennially) edit from the garden by accident in early spring before it has a chance to emerge.

butterfly weed - Acslepias tuberosa

Butterfly weed in flower.

Almost impossible for enthusiastic gardeners is to simply leave the perennial bed undisturbed until the butterfly weed has emerged. Marking the spot where Asclepias tuberosa resides with twigs (my mother's choice during her gardening years) or stakes can make the difference.

You may find various showy cultivars of butterfly weed at garden centers but many are not reliably hardy. As with American columbine, the species version of butterfly weed is the most reliable and in my opinion the most beautiful.

Continue reading ‘Butterfly Weed – Asclepias tuberosa’

See also: Herbaceous Perennials
A stalwart of the perennial garden, golden marguerite (Anthemis tinctoria, syn. Cota tinctoria) bears beautiful golden flowers in spring. I like tough plants with lacy foliage...something about the juxtaposition of appearance and true nature is compelling.

golden marguerite

Garden perennial golden marguerite is a solid choice for the xeric garden. Click for larger.

Golden marguerite is a long-flowering perennial if cut back after each wave of flowering. Golden marguerite tolerates poor soils and prefers lots of sun. If you give golden marguerite too much shade and too rich soil, it may sprawl in the garden. Anthemis tinctoria is an excellent choice for xeric gardens.

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See also: Native PlantsHerbaceous Perennials
Husker Red is a selected cultivar of Penstemon digitalis, an adaptable and easy to grow garden perennial native to the eastern half of North America. Many gardeners don't think about penstemon in the garden and perhaps they should.

Husker Red penstemon is native, drought tolerant, reliably perennial, and is attractive to bees and hummingbirds.

penstemon husker red

Husker Red penstemon is native, tough, and attractive to bees and hummingbirds.

Husker Red penstemon grows well in poor soil. Gardeners starting out in a new garden with soil that has yet to reach the tilth that years of composting will eventually bring can be immediately successful in gardening should they choose to plant Husker Red penstemon.

Continue reading ‘Penstemon Husker Red’

See also: Herbaceous Perennials* (annual with prolific reseeding)
It is a surivivor, bachelor's button. Centaurea cyanus (bachelor's button or cornflower) is easy to grow in even terrible soil. The photographs featured here were taken on the side of the road in hard-packed clay.

bachelor's button

bachelor's button. Centaurea cyanus.

The origins of the common names are interesting. Centaurea cyanus is called bachelor's button because young men would wear it when they were in love. If the flower faded too quickly, it was a sign the young man's love would not last. Centaurea cyanus is also known as cornflower because it commonly grew in cornfields.

Continue reading ‘Bachelor’s Button – Centaurea cyanus’