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July 2012

Question Like a lot of people, I'm losing some plants this summer. You may know that here in Maumelle, we're restricted to once-a-week watering. Even sneaking around my back yard with my hose isn't doing the job! You mentioned in your column today that hydrangeas are not drought-tolerant. I have one that's in a bad spot that I think I'll just take out after this year, so I know what you're talking about. My question is this: Would it be possible for you to print a list of plants that are drought-tolerant in an upcoming column? I've threatened to tear everything out and plant cacti next year or maybe just rosemary and Black-eyed Susans, since that's all that's doing well in my garden right now!

Answer As mentioned above with the crape myrtles, even they are struggling with the heat! Also, when planting even the most drought tolerant plants, the first growing season, they will need water. I can’t imagine what my landscape would look like with once a week watering—the soil is so incredibly rocky, and I am on a slope, so I feel for you with water restrictions. Deep, excellent soil encourages deep roots, which makes it easier to water less often. Some drought tolerant shrubs for sun include: abelia, althea (rose of Sharon), forsythia, spirea, buddleia (butterfly bush), barberry, junipers, beautyberry, nandina and ninebark. For shade, acuba, cleyera, and even camellias once they are well established. Perennials include rosemary, thyme, lamb’s ear, butterfly weed (milkweed), yarrow, gaura, rudbeckia (black eyed Susan), purple coneflower, liatris, sedum and penstemon. Annuals include lantana, periwinkle, cleome (spider flower), cockscomb, cosmos and portulaca. There are also a good number of succulents—plants with thick fleshy leaves that are available from nurseries.

October 2008

Question I have some cleome and sweet William seeds. I heard you could plant seeds in the fall. Would now be OK? To plant seeds do I sprinkle potting soil over them to a depth of 1/2 inch and keep moist?

Answer Cleome is a great summer annual that freely reseeds itself in the garden. The seeds are winter hardy from last year’s plants, but won’t germinate until the soil warms up. Wait and sow your stored seeds after all chances of frost have passed in late spring. Cleomes are fairly wild plants once established and would need a large container—they would prefer to be let loose in the garden, so scatter the seed and lightly cover, since they do need light to germinate. For the Sweet William or Dianthus barbatus, they are a biennial that can be planted either spring or late summer. Planting the seeds now, would simply have the seeds overwintering in the garden—they usually won’t germinate until the soil warms up. It is possible to get some germination this late in the season, but it is preferred to plant the seeds either 6-8 weeks before the first frost or indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost, or where they are wanted to grow. Do realize they won’t bloom the first season.

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