Horticulture 101

Summer and Drought Tolerant Plants


Summer is definitely upon us and I have a few suggestions for drought tolerant plants. These are heat-loving, hardy plants that thrive in hot weather and are also an ideal for lower maintenance outdoor spaces and sustainable gardens. I tend to use several drought tolerant plants in my designs but some of my favorties are Blue Muffin Viburnum, varieties of Carex and Sedums, each of which can thrive in our Southern climate.
• Blue Muffin Viburnum is a compact shrub that typically matures to three to five feet (3-5’) tall and wide and is quite possibly the most durable of the Viburnums for the East.  Blue Muffin Viburnum displays a vibrant show throughout the seasons…White flowers appear in mid to late spring and give way to a pea-sized blue berries in later summer and dark green leaves turn shades of scarlet and gold in fall. Blue Muffin Viburnum has worked well in my designs as shrub borders, foundations and hedges.
• Carex is an expansive genus of over two thousand (2000) species of grassy plants more commonly known as Sedges which I am able to use regularly for drought tolerant situations in sun as well as shade depending on the variety.  The leaves of Sedges consist of a blade which is normally long and flat but could also be folded, enrolled, channeled or absent. The foliage of sedges comes in a variety of colors from green, red or brown and ranges “from fine and hair-like with curled tips to quite broad and sometimes razor sharp edges”. One of my favorite sedges to incorporate into my designs is Carex pensylvanica, a native, shade loving Carex which works well as a groundcover in dry environments. With its fine texture, it contrasts broad-leaf ground covers such as Lenten Rose and Barrenwort.
• Another drought tolerant plant family I commonly use is Sedum. Sedums on average grow from one inch to three feet in height and width depending on the variety. Just as Blue Muffin, Sedum will add interest to your outdoor space throughout most of the year in an array of foliage colors in chartreuse, silvers, greens, grays, blues and purples. The blooms exist in an assortment of colors such as oranges, pinks and yellows. With the exception of some low, groundcover Sedums, the majority need full sun and dry soil to thrive (exceptional winter drainage is a must). Sedums can offer smorgasbord of food for birds, butterflies and bees. Limelight is a unique small groundcover with chartreuse foliage that I incorporate often into my designs.