Langley Gardening: Plants learned to fight drought

When the sun is hot and there’s little time for watering, it’s a big time-saver to have drought-resistant plants in the garden – and if you know what to look for, the plants themselves will tell you how they conserve water.

Some plants, like cosmos, resist drought because their leaves are very finely-cut threads which give virtually no moisture back into the atmosphere. 

The annual cosmos – some grow to two metres (six feet) tall, and others to just 20 centimetres (eight inches) – make a delicate cloud of green studded with large, usually pink or white flowers.

Another annual with filigree leaves is the blue, white, or pink-flowered nigella (Love in a Mist). 

Then there’s the perennial Coreopsis verticillata which makes a fluffy-looking leafy mat of yellow daisies that slowly expands over the years.

At the other extreme are plants that store water in their leaves. Cactus can store large amounts, but in our south-west B.C. climate, you’re far more likely to run across sempervivums (Hen and Chickens). They grow in thick rosettes that shoulder out weeds. Colours vary from red to green, or combinations. Sempervivum archnoidium is covered with white cobweb-like threads. All are very hardy, perennial, and drought-resistant. An older rosette may throw up a scaly stemmed, small but exotic-looking flower cluster. The rosette then dies, but younger rosettes soon fill the gap.

The annual portulaca also stores water in succulent leaves, which are said to be edible (like the vegetable purslane). Portulaca loves poor, dry soil. Baby portulacas need water, but they soon grow out of it, and go on to produce bright, little rose-like flowers despite our long summer droughts.

Needle-like leaves, like those of rosemary and pine, are another sign of drought-resistance. 

Other plants have lacy leaves, like yarrow, or narrow leaves, like ornamental grasses and the perennial Armeria (Thrift).

Stachys lanata (Lambs Ears) has wooly grey leaves. The greyness reflects light and the fine hairs trap moisture.

Other plants’ waxy surfaces reduce water loss. Acanthus has a thick surface skin; others, like carnations and pinks, have thinner skin, but still effective.

Some plants resist drought thanks to long, thick taproots. Oriental poppies fall into this group. Another group has fat tubers that store enough nutriments to give them a second start after hard times – bearded irises are among them. 

Bulbs usually need water during their growing season, but later, many go dormant, a habit developed to escape long, dry summers in their native homes.

Tulips, for instance, need a dry dormancy to keep them healthy. Hardy cyclamen corms and allium bulbs prefer dry summers, too.

Virtually all drought-resistant plants are sun-lovers. That’s why water-saving is so large on their agenda.

News flash: There will be a self-guided garden tour of eight Maple Ridge gardens, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Sunday, June 22. Brochures are $20 on sale at three nurseries: Triple Tree, Amsterdam, and Grow and Gather. The tour ranges from a small urban garden to a rhododendron paradise.

Just Posted

OPP looking for suspect after Best Buy credit-card fraud in Surrey

Ontario Provincial Police believe suspect has links to Surrey and Langley

Aldergrove shoppers watch Safeway shelves ‘go empty’ before store closes

Store closes Saturday, locals express concern over FreshCo’s product quality

Eight alleged dealers face charges for Surrey-Langley drug ring

Police say the group is linked to the ongoing gang conflicts in Metro Vancouver

Langley’s Grand Prix Gala is right mix of horse, hors d’oeuvres and hats

Annual gala at an equestrian competition raises funds for the Langley School District Foundation.

Generators, security guards brought in to deal with continuing parking lot blackouts at Langley Memorial

The lights in the hospital’s lot were out for several nights in the last week

Fashion Fridays: White sneakers

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

B.C. premier hints at twin-tunnel plan for Metro Vancouver’s Massey Tunnel

John Horgan cancelled plans for a 10-lane bridge to replace the 60-year-old tunnel shortly after taking office

Police investigate ‘serious collision’ between motorcycle, truck in Vancouver

Motorists asked to stay away from Blanca Street & West 4 Avenue

Municipalities protest after B.C. declares marijuana growing ‘farm use’

UBCM president seeks answers in letter to John Horgan government

CMHC defends mortgage stress test changes amid calls for loosening rules

Uninsured borrowers must now show they could service their mortgage if rates rose two per cent

Metro Vancouver mayors ask public to lobby feds for annual $375M transit fund

Mayors renewing their call for transit funding as federal election looms

B.C. woman left ‘black and blue’ after being pushed off 40-foot cliff at lake

West Shore RCMP looking for witnesses as investigation continues

BC Ferries asks boaters to learn signals and be careful around vessels

BC Ferries responded to 15 marine emergencies in 2018

VIDEO: Suspected arson sends five to Abbotsford hospital with smoke inhalation

Man seen throwing flammable substance in van, lighting it on fire next to home

Most Read