Articles in Category: Drought Tolerant

Mahonia 'Soft Caress'

on Friday, 19 November 2021. Posted in Winter Interest, Berries Attract Wildlife, Attracts Pollinators, Evergreen, Shade Plants, Drought Tolerant

Threadleaf Mahonia

Mahonia Soft Caress edIf you’re looking for a compact, easy care evergreen shrub that provides year-round interest - and will thrive in a dry shade garden - consider Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’!

I like to think of Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’ as the gentler, more approachable relative of our beloved native Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium). Like Oregon Grape, ‘Soft Caress’ is a drought-tolerant evergreen shrub with fragrant sunny-yellow flowers. However, unlike Oregon Grape, its leaves and stems are thornless and soft rather than sharply poky and leathery.

‘Soft Caress’ is a great plant to use if you’re looking to bring a bit of texture into your dry shade garden. Its leaves look a bit like palm leaves – with slender, thread-like leaflets arrayed along a graceful central stem. For maximum effect, try planting it with some of the broader-leafed shade loving shrubs like Hosta, Hellebore, Osmanthus, and Viburnum davidii – or underplant it with dry shade-loving perennials like Epimedium and Heuchera.

From late fall to early spring, flowers appear in long ‘candles’ held above the foliage. These flowers not only help to brighten the winter garden, they’re also a great source of nectar for pollinators and other beneficial insects during the winter and spring, when few other plants are in bloom. The flowers are followed by decorative silvery-blue berries that add to the visual interest of the plant – and are popular with songbirds.

Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’ gets about 3’ by 3’ and maturity. It prefers part shade (morning sun is ok) to full shade and well-drained soils, and does well in containers as well as in the ground. This graceful, low maintenance shrub will be a welcome addition to your shady garden!

Polystichum munitum

on Thursday, 21 October 2021. Posted in Winter Interest, Native, Evergreen, Shade Plants, Perennial, Deer Resistant, Drought Tolerant

Western Sword Fern

Western Sword FernThe sculptural fronds of ferns provide lots of winter interest, and Western Sword Fern is one of the toughest, most drought tolerant, and easiest ferns to grow in the Rogue Valley. 

This native fern can tolerate our dry summers and wet winters and even take a little sun. It prefers to be an understory plant but established ferns in good, composty soil will tolerate quite a bit of sun. The key is to get them well established with deep waterings the first few summers and applications of yearly leaf mulch or compost mulch. Western Sword Fern has a courser texture than some more delicate ferns but that makes their fronds last longer, allowing them to be used in cut flower arrangements. The leathery, dark green fronds can be 2-4' tall depending where they are grown and can be used alone or look especially good in clumps or drifts. 

Polystichum detailWe like to use Western Sword Ferns under large trees - like oaks, combined with Euphorbia purpurea, Heuchera sanguinea or the purple leafed varieties of Coral bells, Mahonia repens, and other dry shade perennials and shrubs. All ferns are deer resistant and the Western Sword Fern is no exception. They are evergreen but will look their best with an annual shearing of the oldest fronds in spring to allow the new fronds to uncurl. Leave the old, pruned fronds as a natural mulch.  Ferns are always interesting to watch throughout the seasons and Western Sword Fern makes an especially nice evergreen specimen in the shade garden.

Salvia 'Autumn Sapphire'

on Monday, 27 September 2021. Posted in Attracts Pollinators, Perennial, Deer Resistant, Drought Tolerant, Flowering Plants

Autumn Sapphire Sage

Autumn Sapphire Salvia tightcropSalvia 'Autumn Sapphire' is another wonderful perennial introduction by one of our favorite garden writers - Lauren Springer Odgen - and the Denver Botanic Garden. This cultivar of a West Texas native Salvia comes into bloom in late summer, when a lot of other flowering perennials are starting to slow down, and continues blooming right up until frost. That trait makes it exceptionally valuable to late-season pollinators (native bees, hummingbirds, honey bees, butterflies, etc.) and other beneficial insects.

As it name suggests, Autumn Sapphire’s flowers are a rich cobalt blue; complemented by narrow, finely-textured green leaves. Plants grow to 18" to 20" tall and wide, and are hardy down to zone 5. Like most other Salvias, they are also deer resistant and do best when planted in well-drained soils that are low in fertility (too much fertilizer and water will make them floppy). For best results, leave the stems up over the winter to make sure it survives the winter wet, and then prune back in spring when new leaves begin to emerge.

'Autumn Sapphire' performs best in well-drained soil in full, hot sun. Looking for some good companion plants? Consider pairing it with Solidago “Fireworks’, Rudbeckia, Helianthus 'Lemon Queen', Echinacea, or Gaura - or create a mixed planting of 'Autumn Sapphire' and native prairie grasses like Bouteloua, Andropogon, and Schizachyrium.

Ceratostigma plumbaginoides

on Monday, 06 September 2021. Posted in Attracts Pollinators, Fall Color, Ground Cover, Deer Resistant, Drought Tolerant

Dwarf Plumbago

Ceratostigma plumbaginoides

By September, many of the summer-blooming perennials that have brightened our gardens for the past few months are beginning to look a little tired and worn, so it’s really nice to find a something that looks bright and fresh, and is just getting started up as summer winds down.

It’s especially nice if the plant in question is covered with vivid blue flowers that contrast beautifully against the dark green foliage, like our Plant of the Week – Dwarf Plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides). Even better, those lovely dark green leaves turn a dark, burgundy-red in fall; providing brilliant show of fall color.

Dwarf Plumbago is just a delight in the garden. It’s an herbaceous groundcover (meaning it dies to the ground in the winter and comes back up again the following spring) that grows well in a variety of situations from full sun to part shade, is extremely easy to care for, is relatively drought tolerant, attracts butterflies and other pollinators, and is even deer resistant! Plants grow to about 6 to 8” tall by 18” wide, and spread slowly via undergrounds stems. It begins flowering around mid-summer, and here in the Rogue Valley it will generally remain in bloom up until the first frost of fall.

Dwarf Plumbago combines beautifully with plants like Coreopsis, Echinacea, Anemone, and Croscosmia. It’s also a great companion plant for spring-flowering bulbs. The bulbs appear and flower before the Dwarf Plumbago leafs out, but by the time your bulbs have finished blooming, the Dwarf Plumbago is filling in your bed with its lovely deep green leaves; giving your flower bed a smooth transition into late spring/early summer.

Pistachia chinensis

on Tuesday, 31 August 2021. Posted in Fall Color, Trees, Drought Tolerant

Chinese Pistache Tree

Pistache2smPistache trees deserve more use in the Rogue Valley - they thrive in our hot, dry summers, provide long lasting fall color, and have interesting leaf texture.

Chinese Pistache are used a lot as street trees in the hot valleys of northern California, giving us a clue to how they well they would work here,especially in urban situations.  Being a Zone 7 tree, the Rogue Valley usually doesn't get cold enough to cause any problems for the Pistache. Placing it in full sun, in well draining soil will help it survive any cold snaps.

pistacheThese trees provide a spectacular fall color show of reds, oranges, crimsons, and yellows. Chinese Pistache will tolerate regular irrigation but are also relatively drought-tolerant and require no summer watering once established. The form of Pistache is not very uniform when young but they get a nice, dense canopy with age.

Being a slow growing tree - on average they will be about 25-30' tall and wide - but much older specimens can reach 50' tall.  Pistache are prone to verticillum wilt if you have it in your soil (not overwatering will help avoid this problem) but are resistant to oak root fungus. This is one of our best choices for a drought tolerant shade tree that can be used in many situations. 'Keith Davey' is a named variety that is a fruitless male and has red-orange fall color. The straight species, if it is a female tree, will form blue to black berries.