Give Your Hose a Break

A picture of the succulent Sempervivum 'Rock n Roll Rosette'

Summer is here and with it can comes hot days and little rain. Let your hose take the day off with these beautiful, drought tolerant perennials.

By Abby Lapides Elliott

[This article was first published in The Gateway Gardener July/August 2016 issue.]

Summer is here and with it can comes hot days and little rain. Let your hose take the day off with these beautiful, drought tolerant perennials.

I love hardy succulents because they thrive in our hottest and driest spots. The steel blue

A picture of the succulent plant Sedoro 'Blue Elf'

Sedoro ‘Blue Elf’

foliage of ‘Blue Elf’ Sedum has particularly struck my eye. It is a tight groundcover about 6” tall and 1 ½’ wide that in summer blooms magenta pink flowers that smell like grape soda! In addition to being extremely low maintenance—basically just plant this puppy and walk away—it is also deer and rabbit resistant and attracts butterflies. What more can you want from a plant?

Another excellent succulent that keeps the party going all year long in your garden is ‘Rock N’ Roll Rosette’ Hen and Chicks (Sempervivum). Gorgeous red and orange ground-hugging rosettes with an apple green flush at the base draw the eye in spring. As summer wears on, the entire plant turns a deep forest green with rose-pink flowers. In fall, the evergreen leaves again return to a deep red, making a bold statement all winter long.

The iconic blue flowers and unforgettable scent makes Lavender a must-have in any sunny garden. They require well-drained soil and prefer to be watered only after the soil has completely dried out, making them ideal for spots that the hose just won’t quite reach. The newer variety ‘Super Blue’ is reliably hardy in St. Louis and known to thrive in our humid summers.

Long-blooming, sun-loving Tickseed Coreopsis puts on a big show all summer until frost. Their large root system means they are extremely drought tolerant once established,

A picture of the red flowering Coreopsis 'Red Satin'.

Coreopsis ‘Red Satin’

needing little to no supplemental water during dry summers. One of my favorites, ‘Red Satin’, gets masses of star-shaped cranberry colored flowers that dance in the wind. To get the most out of your Tickseeds, give them a little haircut after they initially bloom to encourage more flowering.

Have a shady spot you can’t seem to keep well-watered? Trees can be very water-demanding and their thick foliage tends to keep the rain away from their understory. Don’t fear—there are shade loving perennials that can thrive under these water-hoarders even in hot, dry summers.

Bishop’s Hat (Epimedium) makes an excellent groundcover in dry shady areas—especially around tree roots. Once established, they need almost no care. In spring, small

A picture of the garden plant Epimedium grandiflorum 'Lilafee'

Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Lilafee’

orchid-like flowers bloom in colors ranging from pink to yellow to orange. The heart-shaped foliage emerges a rosy-red, slowing fading to green. Added bonus—deer and rabbits also tend to stay away.

The Missouri native Crested Iris (Iris cristata) is a perfect transitional groundcover from the garden to pathway. Small dagger-shaped leaves slightly arch out from the center of a clump looking like a wave about to hit the beach. In spring lilac-blue flowers cover the thick mat of foliage. Its other outstanding attributes include being deer and rabbit resistant and dependably drought tolerant. Crested Iris also handles excessive water well, making it great in a rain garden or where there are erosion issues.

A picture of Polygonatum ordoratum 'Variegatum'

Polygonatum ordoratum ‘Variegatum’

Lastly, Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum) thrives in dry situations and looks great while doing it! I particularly love the variegated variety with 2’ tall red stems that come straight out of the ground. Green leaves with white edging dance up slightly arching stems. In spring white bell shaped flowers dangle underneath the leaves. This plant thrives in shade, making large patches in the garden. Once established, all you’ll need to do is cut it back in winter.

With these dazzlers you can have a beautiful garden and a beautiful water bill.

Abby Lapides Elliott is owner and a speaker at Sugar Creek Gardens Nursery in Kirkwood, Missouri. She has degrees from the University of Missouri, and is a member of the Landscape and Nursery Association of Greater St. Louis.