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Beat the heat with waterwise plants

by Timber Press on July 17, 2012

in Design, Gardening

Larkspur is an all-zone, cool-season annual that adds plenty of color for a minimal amount of water. Because the flowers cut and dry well you can enjoy them indoors too. Photo: Scott Ogden and Lauren Springer Ogden

With record-breaking temperatures clobbering gardens across the country it’s only natural to consider adding more drought-tolerant plants. But what exactly makes a plant waterwise?

Scott Ogden and Lauren Springer Ogden define it this way:

  • A waterwise plant is one that, when new, requires one inch of water (rain or irrigation) every week through the first growing season. When fully established, the same plant will remain healthy and attractive with only one inch of water (rain or irrigation) every two weeks, and then only during the hottest part of the growing season.

The Ogdens also have some tips on how to care for  waterwise plants:

  • Consider collecting rainwater or adding swales and rain gardens to conserve runoff.
  • Less frequent but deep irrigation encourages plants to root deeply while more frequent but shallow irrigation can actually be harmful by bringing to the surface alkaline salts which can tie up nutrients and burn roots.
  • Increase the depth of soil over shallow rocky terrain.
  • Inorganic mulches such as pea gravel or grit help reduce soil temperatures and limit moisture loss.


Indian blanket
Gaillardia aristata

  • Grows 12-18 inches tall and wide
  • Best in zones 3-8, also zones 9-10 on the West Coast
  • Short lived in the Southeast but will generally bloom for months if kept dead-headed
  • Rarely browsed by deer but will attract bees and butterflies
  • Pairs well with grasses, penstemons, and sundrops


You’ll find more (200 in all!) great examples of plants with moderate water needs in Scott’s and Lauren’s book, Waterwise Plants for Sustainable Gardens.

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