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Drought resistance refers to different meanings, depending on the location in which particular plants thrive. It's important to know how the plant material in your landscape reacts to drought conditions.

Parched Plants? The Facts on Drought-Resistant Landscapes

February 20, 2015

Several regions of the U.S. may suffer some degree of drought over time, but the prolonged dry conditions the west and southwest have experienced more recently are extreme.

For those of you who live in extreme drought-prone areas, installing drought-resistant trees and shrubs may benefit your landscape.

What exactly does drought-resistant mean? Well, according to Davey Institute Technical Advisor Len Burkhart, that definition depends on the region.

“Each region is expected to receive a certain amount of precipitation each year,” Burkhart explains, “regardless if that region is experiencing drought or not.” The variance between the expected and actual rainfall determines the region’s drought status. So, the ability of plants in one region to resist drought may slightly differ than that of plants in another region.

Why do drought-resistant landscapes make sense for drought-prone regions?

Water use is limited and expensive.

Drought-damaged plant material is costly to replace.

Lack of moisture stresses trees, making them more susceptible to pest infestations and diseases.

Feel inspired to revive your drought-stricken landscape? Here’s how to create a healthy, drought-resistant landscape:

1. Select drought-resistant plant material. Nurseries from different regions carry several varying species and quantities of drought-resistant plants. The golden barrel cactus is one drought-resistant species that makes an attractive addition to a landscape; just be aware many drought-resistant plants have thorns to ward off pests.

2. Group together plants with similar water requirements. If not, you may lose plants with the least drought resistance. The University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources offers “WUCOLS IV,” an online “Water Use Classification of Landscape Species” tool.

3. Mulch—but not too much. Some succulents are touchy when mulched too much. Excessive mulch may encourage the soil to retain enough moisture to cause root rot. A thin layer of mulch with this particular plant material is ideal; crushed granite helps reduce water loss.

4. Monitor drainage. The importance of drainage monitoring is specific to drought-adapted plants, which are otherwise accustomed to heavy rainfall for short periods of time. Similar to improper mulching, drainage neglect may also lead to root rot.

5. Consider supplemental irrigation. Because even established landscapes cannot always monitor or care for themselves, some supplemental irrigation systems may be required. Certain plant species turn brown to indicate drought and/or lack of moisture is occurring.

Check out the photo gallery below for photos of drought-resistant plant material examples from the western region of the U.S.

1. Desert willow

2. Joshua tree

3. Palo verde, blue

4. Palo verde, Mexican

5. Saguaro cactus

6. Golden barrel cactus

Do you need tree and landscape advice? Contact your local arborist for a free consultation.

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