U.S. drought levels may indicate greater need for drought tolerant landscaping flowers

The University of Nebraska at Lincoln is home to the National Drought Mitigation Center. The center tracks drought conditions in the U.S. and displays the results on a map accessible over the internet. Drought conditions may result for many reasons such as too little rainfall, construction of dams, or too much draw from water supplies, like for irrigation. Drought conditions may force states to issue no-burning warnings to avoid accidental fires from campsites or trash burns. Drought conditions can hit homeowners with water-use restrictions such as no watering the lawn or washing the care, or to the extreme, having to boil water before drinking it. When living in drought prone areas, drought tolerant plants are more water efficient.

Drought resistant versus drought tolerant flowers

The terms drought resistant and drought tolerant are used interchangeably when referencing varieties of flowers that have potential to withstand some drought conditions. However, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System indicates that drought tolerant flowers can only withstand two to three weeks without water. We might consider, then, that drought resistant is a moniker held for plants like cactus that can withstand weeks or months without water.

Characteristics of drought tolerant flowers

The characteristics of perennial or annual flowers determine its ability to survive periods without water. For instance, established drought tolerant flowers may have a long taproot or an extensive root system to reach deep for moisture. Other drought worthy flowers may have leaves that are waxy, small, hold oil, or are hairy. Examples of drought tolerant perennial flowers include baby’s breath, lantana, peony, black-eyed daisy, lavender, California poppy, lambs ear, yarrow, bachelor’s button, coneflower, tickseed, blanket flower and sedums. Drought tolerant annual flowers include cosmos, dusty miller, marigold, petunia and pansy.

Moisture control

The type of soil plays a role in the survival of perennial and annual flowers during a drought. Sandy soils, which drain deep and quick, are more drought susceptible. Clay soils, which drain to about half the distance of sandy soil, tend to retain moisture. Newly set flowers need regular, deep watering to encourage roots to grow deep into the soil. Water every seven to 10 days through the first year’s growing season. As the soil starts drying out at the surface, roots grow toward the moist soil deeper in the ground. Once established, which may be two to four years, a drought tolerant plant can survive dry periods because of its deep root system. Adding a thick layer of organic mulch, such as pine chips or leaf mold, helps to reduce moisture loss and blocks the sun from hitting the ground. Spread the mulch 1 to 2 inches thick around the flowers.