How to Make your Drought Tolerant PlantsHow to Make your Drought Tolerant Plants Even more Drought Tolerant
A plant’s drought tolerance in something that is not easy to quantify, as there are so many factors that can determine this. So to compare one plant’s drought tolerance against another is not always a simple thing to do. The way I go about it though is to group them into three classifications.
- One of the yardsticks that I use though is a plant ability to actually grow, flourish and flower during dry times. This is a real yardstick as to its drought tolerance. In some respects, though you’d nearly be inclined to classify these types of plants as “drought resistant”.
- On the other hand, there are other plants that have the ability to just survive during dry times. They still manage to look good, but don’t actually flower or grow during these times.
- The other type is the type of plant that will survive when it is dry but will actually suffer from the heat by either dropping leaves, leaves becoming burnt or discolored from the sun or just generally looking stressed.
The first type I’ve found many examples over the years such as Alyogynes and Eremophilas. These plants are quite remarkable.
An example of the second type might be the King Protea, Protea Cynaroides. I’ve grown a few of these over the years and have found that they will survive quite well without much water, once established, but if you were to give them some extra water they tend to grow and flower a whole lot better. I still think that these are still very garden worthy plants as you the gardener can decide how you wish to water them, if at all.
The third type is a type that I have no time for at all. Now you have to remember that the plants I’m talking about here are plants that claim to be drought tolerant but when submitted to dry conditions the leaves get burnt and in some cases, the plant dies altogether.
So whichever classification your plants fall into there are a few things you can do to make them, even more, drought tolerant.
1. Apply mulch around your plants. This would have to be the obvious one as all the gardening “gurus” are always going on about mulch. The important thing here though is to use a mulch that is not porous. Porous mulches like bark chips and compost might be great if you live in an area where you might get 20 or 30mm of rain in one downpour but if you live in an area like myself where it is quite common to get just 5mm at a time you’ll find that this small amount of rain will get absorbed by the mulch and it won’t get anywhere near the soil or the roots. Another thing about these organic, porous mulches is that they can look untidy especially when the blackbirds get into them searching for worms. I used 20mm Tuscan stones that look great and the water just runs straight off them and into the soil below.
2. This next one is pretty common knowledge amongst gardeners as well. When watering, water more but less frequently. By this, I mean water around where the roots are plus give the area around where you want them to grow good water as well. This encourages the roots to grow to find more water. The amount that you water, of course, is dependent on the type of soil that you have. If you have a sandy or well-draining soil it’s best to give the plant a really good soaking. If the soil is heavy, clayey or not very well draining it’s better not to give them too much water as you have to remember that most plants don’t like their roots to be too wet. The thing to remember with badly draining soils is to mound your garden beds so excess water drains away or to just plant plants that tolerate lots of water around the roots.
3. Don’t fertilize your garden plants, especially if they’re the drought tolerant variety. Most drought-tolerant plants have evolved growing in very poor soils and have roots that are adapted to search for the nutrients the plant needs to survive. So it only makes common sense that the more the roots search, the more substantial the root system and as a result the more drought tolerant the plant.
4. Don’t plant your plants too close together. I have a small garden and as a consequence, I plant fairly close together as I like to cram as many plants in as possible. Because of this through the roots do have to compete a lot more for moisture under the ground and I have noticed that as some of the plants have grown into each other the rate of growth has decreased. So if you’ve got the space, have a think about how big your plants will eventually grow and plant accordingly.
5. I cultivated my soil before planting so as to break up the soil and make it more friable. This allows the roots to grow quicker and the plants to become established quicker.
6. Group plants with similar water need together. I’ve got some plants that aren’t very drought tolerant. If you’ve got a plant that needs a little bit of water to survive don’t plant it amongst drought-tolerant plants, for obvious reasons.
7. I also use Seasol and Multicrop plant starter. The Season helps make the plant more drought tolerant and the Multicrop plant starter helps with root growth.
These are just a few things that you can do to make your drought tolerant plants even more drought tolerant.
If you have any other ideas please feel free to add them here.