Successful Plants for Drought

Gardener’s Corner | Questions and Answers with Local Experts 

By Dan Songster, 2014 May

This column is a regular newsletter feature offering chapter members and local experts a chance to briefly share information on many things related to gardening with natives. Our question for this Newsletter is During the current drought, which native plants have survived the best for you and which ones have given up the ghost?

Greg Rubin

I find that the plants that are straight species from my general area and plant community do the best with little water.

“In my garden that means Ceanothus cyaneusSalvia clevelandiiSalvia apianaSalvia melliferaArctostaphylos glaucaArtemisia californicaAristida purpureaXyloccocus bicolorComarostaphylis diversifolia, and, to be a little different, Acalypha californicaQuercus agrifolia is still coming up like weeds. Most of the cultivars, hybrids, and more northern species need some supplemental irrigation.”

Celia Kutcher-“My best drought survivors include Eriogonum fasciculatumRhus integrifolia, Baccharis pilularis ssp. consanguinea & Salvia apiana-all hardly seem to have noticed that there’s a drought.
Not looking good in the drought: Keckiella cordifolia, Salvia mellifera (senescence is a factor), Eriogonum giganteum (senescence a factor). One hopes that these will revive with adequate rain, IF they make it through the summer.”

Antonio Sanchez-(Based off of observations at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens in Claremont) ”This drought has been very kind to most of our buckwheats, as they seem to be happier with much less or even no water. Especially happy are Eriogonum cinereum and giganteum, and of course Eriogonum fasciculatum. The Penstemons are loving it too, and crazy coastal to desert plants like Isomeris arborea (Cleome peritoma) and Rhus ovata are doing better than the last Transformer movie. Among the plants that are unhappy with the drought are many of our larger shrubs and trees, like Arbutus menziesii, Pinus species, and some of the coastal Ceanothus species. Of course, we are expecting a bumper-crop of mustard!”

Dan Songster-“Based on the Golden West College Native Garden: In general our coastal sage scrub plants are doing well including almost all the sages and buckwheat—what durable and lovely plants! Also doing well are most of the Ceanothus, Encelia, chamise, bladderpod, Galvesia, and of course, all of the Rhus genus (lemonadeberry, sugarbush, etc). It goes without saying that the Yucca, Agave, and various cacti are doing excellent. Oh, and the California poppies are happy as can be.

Some plants that are suffering include some of our monkeyflowers, coyote mint (for some reason), and any of our Ribes viburnifolium that is in the sun is now getting a burnt look. Creek dogwoods are having trouble but that is my fault for planting an almost riparian plant where it gets little water.”


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