Easy, Drought-Tolerant Designs for Your Garden

Summer is here and the dry heat is on! During times of high temps and very low precipitation, gardeners are pushed to consider what plants work best in that kind of environment. When we consider what a drought-tolerant plant looks like, cacti and succulents quickly come to mind. Though these sorts of species are clearly drought-tolerant, they bring with them a heavy task-list and lots of labor to prepare the garden for planting. In many cases, soil needs to be thoroughly amended to provide adequate drainage, especially when planting into our native adobe clay soils. But is there something else we could use that provides dry-season beauty without so much work?

Ornamental grasses are extremely drought-tolerant, low-maintenance (cut back once a year), and provide decorative garden interest through all four seasons. Commonly used specimens like deer grass and purple pennisetum work well; but they are so prevalent in gardens around this area, you might want to explore some more unusual species to really make your plantings stand out. Great alternative options we highly recommend are pink muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) and giant sacaton (Sporobolis wrightii).

Pink muhly grass is certainly one of the most stunning grasses readily available. During the fall, its iridescent pink inflorescences, or flower heads, will have all of your gardening friends begging you for the name of that plant! It tolerates nearly any soil condition and is incredibly drought-tolerant once established. Even at maturity, it doesn’t grow much beyond 3-feet square, leaving plenty of garden real estate for your other creative ideas.

Giant sacaton is an excellent candidate when you’re looking to design a multi-leveled viewing experience. It doesn’t overgrow its plot, but will reach heights of 5-7 feet. The puffy inflorescences will remain attractive all through the winter months. Paired with some shorter specimens like pink muhly, you can achieve a gorgeous, unique display of grasses with a minimal amount of effort and care. Try complimenting the stately look of these grasses with some solar up-lighting for added drama after dark. Now you’ve got a show!