This week we're at Randy's Perennials and Water Gardens in Lawrenceville, Georgia. We'll talk with the owner Randy Kucera, who has been in this location for over 16 years, about plants that thrive in hot and dry locations.
One quality of a great garden is its' ability to take care of itself. There is no such thing as a "no maintenance" garden, but we can keep maintenance to a minimum. To do so one must consider how cold are the winters, how hot the summers, how much rainfall, does the site get full sun, when during the day does it get sun, where is it shady in your yard, where does it stay moist or dry. Match the plant to the conditions, "don't fight the site."
There are over 2,000 varieties of plant material in this location. We'll today discuss Xeriscape or water efficient plants.
Yucca Torreyi, typically found in zone 7 and in elevations to 4,000-6,000 feet. It likes full sun and a southeast/southwest environment. They tolerate cold and wet, they just don't like cold and wet combined. They like well drained soil, which can be created with a mix of 60% permatil, which is expanded shale and 40% compost or humus. Elevate the planting bed for better drainage and a western slope is ideal. They are low feeders so fertilization isn't essential, the organic humus is usually enough to sustain the plant. Typically as they grow in height they loose lower leaves, so lower limbs can be removed. The trunk has an attractive appearance. This is a plant that will make a strong statement in your landscape.
Trichocereus Terscheckii, Suguaro, is from the Andes in South America. It is found in elevations 4-5 thousand feet. It is slow to grow and likes dry conditions. Some use these plants indoors, they require only a couple of teaspoons of water every month. They grow very slowly, especially indoors, adding only about one foot a year. They are federally protected so make sure to buy from a reputable dealer because they grow so slowly it takes a long time to replace them.
Agave Americana, provides a western feeling. It's leaves are fleshier, with a strong, coarse, textured look, it's indigenous to Northern Mexico and can grow to 6-7 feet tall and in diameter. It requires a well drained site, it's a little sticky, every 10-30 years it flowers, a tall stock up to 7 feet of white, very fragrant blooms that attract a kind of bat. That bat pollinates this flower.
Yucca Rostrata, also known as The Blue Beaked Yucca. It is found in northern New Mexico, in the mountains at 4-5 thousand feet elevation. It is kid friendly, can grow to 20-22 feet, is used in Mediterranean atmospheres and cools and softens an environment. It requires little moisture, is not temperamental, requires good drainage but can handle the moisture and cold of zone 7 very well.
The thornless Prickly Pear, Opuntia Ellisiana is used by some as a food source. They will grow to 5-7 feet tall and 8-10 feet in width. They like full sun, they don't need a lot of fertilizer and require good drainage. Humus helps because they feed on humus type soils.
Cholla, is an upright Cactus in the Optunia family. It can grow in zones 6 and 7. Some species are very cold tolerant, drainage is imperative. In nature they fall over themselves for support. Some of the parts of the plant will fall into the soil and start rooting forming a whole new plant. It makes an interesting focal point for a western garden.
A nice compliment to upright forms of Cactuses and Yuccas are a ground cover plant. A ground cover is anything 18 inches or lower. Sedums are very good for hot, dry areas. They are colorful in the fall, attract butterflies and have an interesting texture to their foliage. They range in color from green to gray to variegated with the Delosperma family having purple and sometimes white blooms. The leaves have a thick texture because they retain moisture within the leaf, therefore they don't dry out quickly and they don't need a lot of water.
Sedum Tetratinum, Chinese Sedum, has very fleshy, green foliage in the summer, blooms early in the spring and late in the fall has a rosy color to the foliage. It has a couple of seasons of interest which makes it fascinating. Butterflies like them as a nectar plant. Sedum Cotacoleum has a slight blue gray foliage and has a rosy pink bloom in the fall. These plants, with their soft textures, bring out the coolness in an environment. They spread by dropping their stems onto the ground, where they root. They matt, so are good along walkways or on walls because they cascade over. Sedum Linareas Tricolor is also a low growing plant. In the sun its rose tones are more accentuated. In the fall it has a yellow bloom that compliments the foliage. Sedum Angelica is chartreuse, a hot, hot color. It accentuates itself in the garden. It is fine textured, goes well with coarse textures, it accents but doesn't compete with other plants. It, too, cascades so looks good in a pot or on a wall or walkway. Rosy Glow is a member of the Stonecrop family of Sedums. It is compact, a fall bloomer, has a nice soft pink bloom late in the fall. It has a bluish silver tint that compliments cooler colors.
A hose guard protects plants in your garden from your hose. It is essentially a long metal stake, placed in the ground that the hose wraps around keeping the hose out of the garden and away from plants. They come in plastic forms, concrete and metal. They work well protecting your garden from your hose.
Salvias all have square stems and opposite leaves (leaves directly opposed to one another). There are so many different varieties that one could never collect all of them. Most have a scent when bruised and the flowers are tubular and two-lipped.
Salvia Nemorosa, Marcos, is very compact, only hardy to about 20 degrees, good in containers and along walkways. Also compact is Salvia Leucantha, Mexican Brush Sage. It's a dwarf variety compared to other Salvias. Salvia Greggii is an autumn sage. It grows to 12-13 inches in height. Salvia Superbum, May Night, is another compact plant and was 1998 perennial plant of the year. Again, Salvias are excellent at attracting butterflies. The tubular flowers attract the proboscis of the butterfly. The blues and purples seem to be more cold hardy, the reds should be treated as an annual or very tender perennial. Blue and Black is another Salvia, growing to between 24-36 inches. It offers a completely different, intense blue in the garden.
Salvias tolerate drought conditions, once established which can take 6-8 weeks to get roots established in the soil. Once established they are easy to care for, white flies are the only pest problem and they can bloom the entire season.
Silver is an important color in the garden. It's important because it's versatile. If silver is added to oranges, yellows or reds it tends to tone them down, cool them off a bit. Conversely by adding silver to blues, greens and purples it tends to brighten them. Another good use of silver is late in the day, after a little too much sun, if there is some shade, the silver tends to brighten an area. Many plants with silver on the leaves actually have small, tiny white or pure silver hairs all over the leaves. They are from Mediterranean or full sun areas where it gets hot and dry. A key point to keeping silver plants looking good is to make sure to keep water off the leaves. To do this make sure not to have overhead irrigation and make sure they have full sun early in the day. Dianthus Gratianopolitanus, Cheddar Pink, is a great ground cover. It produces a pink or red flower and has a thick, dense matt. It's flowers smell like clove. Artimesia, Wormwood, has varieties as low as 18 inches tall with some varieties ranging to 5 feet tall. It likes full, bright sun, does not like fertilizer, likes a dry environment, cutting it back makes it fuller and denser. Dusty Miller is often confused with Artimesia. An easy way to distinguish the two is to crush the leaves. If there is any scent it's Artimesia, Dusty Miller has no scent at all. Dusty Miller will grow to 4-6 feet tall, has a small insignificant yellow flower but is grown primarily for its silver foliage. Russian Sage, Perovskia Atriplicifolia, produces a light blue flower that lasts 10-12 weeks. It likes well drained soil (especially in winter), hates wet feet and likes full sun. Euphorbia Marginata, Snow On The Mountain, has a white tipped leaf. It grows to about 2 feet tall, when planting, space them 12 inches apart. It prefers a less fertile, almost poor soil and full bright sun. Artichoke, Imperial Star, has a silver foliage, a very bold, very coarse texture. It produces a bud that is spineless, full and bulb shaped. They are a nice green color that contrast nicely with the silver foliage. It not only looks good in the garden but is a great addition to the table.
Sean Miller thinks Palms are often overlooked in the garden. We typically think of palms as tropical plants, only for tropical parts of the country, yet some Palms are hardy. Sean likes Palms because they add a tropical effect, they're stunning, they stand out in a landscape. Some plants you see when passing by, Palms cause you to take notice. Windmill Palms in their native habitat grow on rocky hillsides, they do well in hot and dry conditions. It is native to different areas, China, for example. It often is an understory tree, is tolerant of different conditions and does well even in clay. It is one of the most cold hardy of any of the trunk forming palms. It's hardy to around zero degrees Fahrenheit, and has survived even lower temperatures. To prepare the soil, as with any tree, dig a hole about two or three times larger than the root ball, then mix in good soil when planting. Sago Palm, Cycad, is one of the oldest living plants on earth. It generally will survive to approximately zero degrees, with some protection in the winter. It looses its leaves, but they come back from the ground, resprouting about May of the following season. Mulch it heavily and it likes well drained soil. Needle Palm is the most cold hardy, it has been known to withstand temperatures as low as 20 degrees below. Humidity can effect the low temperature, the higher the humidity, the less hardy the Palm. This species is native to flood plains and likes soil moisture although it will tolerate drought conditions. Silver Saw Palmetto has a silvery blue foliage and works well with other blue-green plants. It grows to between 4 and 5 feet tall. It likes full sun and hot, dry conditions and well drained soil.
Herbs are effective as a landscape element and for your table. They like it hot, with full sun and well drained soil. Many herbs come from Mediterranean parts of the world so they are acclimated to that type climate. Some grow herbs in a strawberry jar. Herbs work in that environment because it is vertical, creating a well drained situation. One problem with that is the soil tends to dry out a little too fast, but herbs like dryer conditions. A well drained part of your garden will also work well. Fennel, for example, will grow to about 4 feet tall. Bronzed Fennel is good for cooking and can be used in potpourri. It attracts Monarch Butterflies, in fact, is one of their primary foods. Lavender is another choice. It isn't used for cooking but instead used in potpourri and in dried flower arrangements. It likes full sun and has a great scent. Sage, this variety a variegated foliage variety, is attractive, yet good for culinary purposes as well. Thyme in between pavers works well. When it grows and you step on it it release a bit of odor. Rosemary is almost a shrub. It is used in cooking but has a bright blue flower, an aromatic foliage and provides a good, fine texture in the garden. Don't forget about herbs. They do double duty in the garden and in the kitchen.
Perennials & Water Gardens
Back to Top