There are a number of plants, especially natives that are capable of growing and flowering without a lot of water. Early this year we were flooded with water and some of the plants died of root rot.

          First let us look at your soil.  Have you done anything to help it retain water? Compost is the answer whether you have sand or clay.  Water runs through sand but compost holds it in place. Spaces in clay are so small they canít hold water and it runs off while compost absorbs the water until the roots need it. (Donít add sand to clay as this just makes cement.)

          The next step to help save water is to mulch. Only one of its reasons is to prevent weed seeds from growing. It keeps clay soil from baking during heat so a rain can penetrate rather than run off. The soil around the roots will be cooler which a must for plants like the Clematis vines.  My favorite mulch is small bark chips but it must not be put on too deep or the roots will suffocate.

          How do you water? A little every day is not good. Instead water enough to penetrate the soil deeply so roots will not just be on the surface.  Learn what your plants like and plant water lovers together. I have found LAVENDAR and PENTSTAMONS are fussy about wet roots so put them in the dry area. Grass needs lots of water to stay green, especially if you fertilize regularly.

          I have most of my parkways planted.  Heat and dryness from the pavement and sidewalk create a challenge for water lovers. GAILLARDIA, a short plant with vivid colors seems to do well there and reseeds itself each year. Gray plants quite often are for dry areas. Their leaves are fuzzy, preventing loss of water. An example is DUSTY MILLER (Senecio cinerea). The kids going by often stop and pet the leaves of LAMBS EAR (Stachys byzurthina) especially the newer ones with the huge (12 plus long by 3 inches wide) that lay almost flat to the ground.  There is even one that is called ďBig EarsĒ. They spread very slowly.

          BUTTERFLY WEED (Asclepsis tuberose) is a native that is adapted to Nebraskaís changing weather. In bright orange it gets about 2 to 2 1/ 2 feet tall and sends out many seeds on parachutes, and will probably not need watering in Lincoln. It is late to come up so watch where you hoe. It does not like to be moved.


          RUSSIAN SAGE (Perovskia atriprifolio) comes in two sizes to fit your space. The big one may get 48 inches tall covered late summer in purple flowers with silvery foliage.  The short one is only about 24 inches. Their roots go down deep making a steady clump for our winds. I like it backed by the MEXICAN SUNFLOWER, a bright orange, rough leaved, annual.

          I think the worst place for a plant is the west side of a brick garage but there are plants that like it with a little water. BJ planted HUMMINGBIRD MINT (AGASTACHE sp.) there and they bloom as if it was a good place. At one end of the area is an aggressive grass kept under control by a sidewalk. RIBBON GRASS has stripes along its blades. It will get to about 18-20 feet tall and will spread if you let it. THE MINT GRASS is about 36 inches tall with dainty orange tubular flowers lasting a long time. They have their own minty odor. HUMMINGBIRDS love them.

          In my native Colorado there is a good part that is almost desert so the hills were covered with YUCCA. Here in Nebraska you can have tall handsome ones that are hard to kill. Late June a tall (up to 6 foot) stalk with dramatic white flowers appear.  They are in my parking-pure heat. I have cut the flower off as they get too large but those roots go down and send up new plants that will bloom the next spring. There are a number of different types you can find for your desert area.

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