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Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 17, 2017

Garden Talk: Selecting plants for dry soil

By JEAN THOMSON, Master Gardner | Sep 05, 2013

Henry County gardeners have had plenty of dry soil this summer. Beyond the overall shortage of rainfall, most of us can identify specific areas in our gardens that dry out fast. Areas that are raised or tiered or where existing mature trees soak up the available moisture may be especially dry.

As we consider new plantings for such areas, it will be important to select trees, shrubs, and perennials that do well in dry soil. Richard Jauron, extension horticulturist at Iowa State University, offers a long list of candidates.

Two excellent large trees for dry conditions are oaks. The bur oak is a native tree that is tolerant of both heat and drought. The red oak is another fine tree that grows quickly and offers good fall color.

For different looks, consider the honey locust with its fine foliage, and the Kentucky coffeetree, which forms a nicely-shaped and relatively narrow crown. For the latter, some gardeners may prefer a podless cultivar to lessen maintenance while others will welcome the aesthetic interest provided by seedpods.

Smaller trees that do well in dry soil include the golden rain tree, which grows to thirty feet and features yellow blooms in late spring. Another option is the Turkish filbert, an adaptable tree that reaches thirty-five feet. Any crabapple with apple scab resistance makes an excellent choice as well.

Shrubs that will flourish in dry conditions include barberry, cotoneaster, beauty bush, common ninebark, Nanking cherry, Alpine currant, and spirea. For shady spots, Japanese kerria is a top choice. Low-growing sumac makes an excellent groundcover for slopes.

Many perennial favorites will do very well in dry conditions. These include butterfly milkweed, coreopsis, coneflower, goldenrod, liatris, Russian sage, and yarrow. All varieties of sedum, upright and groundcover alike, make excellent choices. In addition, false blue indigo is a lovely and very drought-tolerant perennial, almost shrublike in appearance.

Another excellent planting option is deep-rooted ornamental grasses. Unlike turf grass, these thrive in hot and dry conditions.

While all of these trees, shrubs, and perennials have staying power under dry conditions, they do need moisture to become established. Whether you plant this fall or next spring, be sure to water well at planting time, and continue to water until the root systems are well-established.

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