When you chose plants it’s usually for one of two reasons – aesthetics or function. We want a plant to have a look that we like or do a job that we want done. As we make these choices, we may or may not get around to what should be the first choice in plant success – what does the plant want?
At this time of the year, we normally think of heat, dry, and watering. Which plants tolerate arid conditions? The first that come to mind would be succulents. They would be like cactus without thorns. Their “fleshy” tissue holds the water within. For color and drought resistance, sedum is hard to beat. This can be green, red, gold, or blue foliage, and a variety of bloom color. It can be a ground cover or an upright sedum. This is a great choice to enhance or naturalize any landscape. They work particularly well with boulders, stone mulch, black mulch, and dark brown mulch. “Autumn Joy” is a jade green upright foliage with pink blooms. “Angelina” is a gold ground cover type. Any sedum will give a long-lasting and low-maintenance landscape quality.
Some other good choices for these same reasons would include Russian sage, coneflower, daylily, black-eyed Susan, and Shasta daisy in perennials. Larger shrubs might be smoke bush, false spirea, cut leaf buckthorn, nine-bark, butterfly bush, and vitex. These all bring unique aesthetic character to your landscape.
For naturalizing and being low maintenance, you can’t make a better choice than boulders or ornamental grasses. Both come in an array of colors, shapes, and sizes. The rocks, like the sedum, are thought to “live forever.”
When you’re concerned with heat and dry, plant in the shade. Once again, if you want low maintenance and looks in the shade, pick plants that thrive there. The selections for shade could include hosta, bleeding heart, ferns, and Japanese forest grass. These are all foliage and bloom choices. Some of the very best shade choices would be liriope, astilbe, and coral bells. Liriope is a dwarf grassy foliage of either green, blue or white varigation. It is also known as lily turf, and has white or purple spike flowers. Astilbe is a great shade bloom, of pink, white, or red.
The coral bells have grown to quite a market. The name is due to its little “bell”- like blooms and are white, red, or pink in color. This is not why I use it. The foliage is much longer lasting, much more diversified and unique. This foliage may be green, silver, red, peach, caramel, chartreuse, or butterscotch. It also has very prominent and contrasting veination that adds texture to this plant. This foliage will go through seasonal change and offer diversity and variety within itself. There is a lot to be said for how it enhances its surroundings. The caramel and butterscotch, will display nicely on dark brown and/or black mulch, while the red and peach corral bells show up very nicely on stone mulch.
Don’t forget the lawn during this drier season. Of course, you can water the lawn, but there are other wise choices, also. Set the deck on the highest position. Mowing it high allows the taller grass to shade the root zone better, and creates less stress on the grass. Don’t mow often. Instead of mowing every week, mow every 10-15 days. This works for most of us and it will work for you. Several indicators can guide you. If you have been treating the lawn, you shouldn’t have many weeds, but there are usually a few. These weeds will “grow like a weed,” and tell you when your lawn looks too tall. If you can’t see where you’ve been as you mow, other than the tire tracks, you probably didn’t need to mow yet. If you create a Dust Bowl effect as you mow, maybe it’s not best for you or your grass.
As we go through this year of abnormal season, we can look forward to the next season, but we can’t predict it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, because it’s the basis of your success.
Plant friendly is planet friendly, so plan it friendly and plant it friendly.