Drought tolerance

I took this photo this morning of the oldest/upper part of our demonstration garden. Most of these plants have been here for 12 to 15 years. Last year, the drip watering system sprung a leak, which I didn’t manage to repair until sometime in July. The plants looked fine, and so the repair job took a back seat. In the end, the area got water only three times all summer.

Based on that experience, this year I postponed watering until early July and then watered once more in early August. Despite the persistent heat, the plants still mostly look fine. Frankly, I have been kind of amazed!

The lesson here seems to be that many of our plants can develop extreme heat and drought tolerance once they are well established.

Establishment is the key—and that takes time. As the plants in a low-water landscape grow, they put a lot of energy into their root systems—which can be massive. That is why many perennials appear to grow so slowly in the first year or two. Watering plants long and deep but infrequently encourages roots to go deep and find the water.

Sometimes a broken pipe or other accident can reveal new truths. This example demonstrates how extreme drought tolerance can develop over of many years. Patience!

August 9, 2022