Category Archives: Drought Tolerant Plants

11 Apr

Evergreen Flowering Tree: Calpurnia aurea, The Wild Laburnum

Calpurnia is a small genus of shrubs and trees from the family of Fabaceae – which is the family of many popular genera of flowering trees like Cassia, Wisteria, Robinia and Mimosa. Like its cousins, Calpurnia is known for its prolific flowering habit and ornamental foliage. Among popular species of this genus, the most commonly found is Calpurnia aurea. It grows as a small evergreen tree which is perfectly suitable for small gardens or as hardy street tree.

Calpurnia aurea, Wild Laburnum Tree

Calpurnia aurea, Image by Tony Rodd

Calpurnia aurea is quite fast growing tree and starts flowering quite early. It can grow in almost any soil as far as it provides good drainage. It produces golden-yellow flowers that closely resemble the flowers of Laburnum, that is why Calpurnia aurea is commonly described as Wild Laburnum. It usually blooms in mid-summer and provides a long flowering season. Flowering is followed by fruition which is in the form of thin pods. These pods soon dry into dry and brownish texture. The tree is easy to prune and maintain and can be grown is a sunny or partially sunny spot. A healthy tree of Wild Laburnum can grow as tall as 12 feet.

Calpurnia aurea or Wild Laburnum is widely distributed across Pakistan, India, South Africa and parts of African continent. It is drought and frost tolerant and thus makes a good choice for gardens and landscapes.

05 Mar

Agave Attenuata, The Foxtail Plant

Agave attenuata is an excellent specimen plant for ornamental and landscaping purposes. Unlike other species of Agave, this beautiful Agave does not have sharp teeth or terminal spines on its leaves, instead its leaves are softer and more succulent. A healthy Agave attenuata would usually grow as tall as 4 to 5 feet and produce broad and fresh-green leaves (50-70 cm long and 12-16 cm large) that spread up to 4 feet. Mature plants have stout and curved stem, thus giving the plant its common name ‘foxtail’.

Agave attenuata comes from the plateau of central Mexico and thus requires similar growing conditions. It prefers lightly moist and loamy soil thought it can grow in poor soil and withstand drought. Protect this agave from direct scorching sunlight in summer and from long spells of frost and freeze.

Agave Attenuata, The Foxtail Plant

Foxtail, Image by Forest Starr and Kim Starr

The plant produces beautiful inflorescence of white or cream color on a long stalk in spring followed by bulk of seed pods or small plantlets. The stalk is often drooping with flowers, that is why, the plant is also called Swan’s Neck Agave. Agave attenuata can be grown easily from these seeds, plantlets, or suckers.

Foxtail or Agave attenuata makes an excellent plant for both landscapes and containers.

04 Mar

9 Ornamental Grasses for Your Garden Landscape Design

Ornamental grasses are my favorite landscape design elements because of the variety of color, texture and dramatic effect that grasses can add. They can be used for many purposes as well: as groundcovers, as design elements, as companion plants, as specimen plants or even as decorative hedges in gardens. The best part of growing ornamental grasses is low-maintenance as most grasses are not fussy about soil or moisture. Hence, native ornamental grasses make a good choice if you are planning a low-maintenance garden.

Since grasses do not have special requirements, you can select from a broad range of species and varieties, however, best results are achieved only if you select the right type of grass for your needs. Some grasses tend to grow taller whereas some species are really low-growing grasses. Some would form very dense clumps, and some would form large mounds. Some grasses are slow-growing and vertical growth habit, and some ornamental grasses spread horizontally as ground covers or grass-carpets.

If you are designing a rock garden, you can select from a variety of grasses that would grow in rock pocket. Similarly, if you are planning some unique style of hedge, screen or divider in your garden, you can grow taller grasses with vertical growth habit.

Besides the color, texture and size, you should also consider the spot that you selected for growing grasses. Generally a sunny spot is good for growing ornamental grasses.

Ornamental Grasses

How to Grow Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental grasses can withstand periods of drought easily, however, young plants should be provided with sufficient water regularly until they establish themselves. Growth can be encouraged by mulching. Use general purpose fertilizer only when new growth starts. As far as propagation is concerned, most grasses can be propagated from divisions. Generally, spring is good time to divide grasses. For healthy foliage and inflorescence, make sure that your grasses receive good exposure of sunlight.

Some grasses have razor-sharp ‘leaves’; handle them with care to avoid cuts.

Popular species of ornamental grasses include:

1. Arundinaria disticha

Grows as evergreen dwarf foliage plant. Leaves are bright-green with a tinge of purple. Provide average water and bright sunlight. (Zone 6a – 9b)

2. Arundo danox (Spanish reed)

Grows as tall (up to 6 meters), leafy-clumps in tropical climates. Characterized by broad marginal leaves, this perennial grass produces feathery inflorescence in autumn. (Zone 6a – 10b)

3. Miscanthus sinensis

Tall grass (up to 3 meters), makes nice accent plant and grows easily with no special requirements. Flowers grow as white, feathery heads. It is also used in dried arrangements. (Zone 5a – 9b)

Chinese Silver Grass

Chinese Silver Grass, Image via Wikipedia

4. Bambusa glaucescens (Hedge bamboo)

Excellent choice for hedging, this evergreen plant produces large dense clumps of graceful foliage. It is fast-growing plan and can be propagated easily from division. (Zone 9a – 11)

5. Cortaderia selloana (Pampas Grass)

Large ornamental grass with feathery inflorescence, Pampas Grass is good choice for hedges. (Zone 7a – 10b)

6. Nassella tenuissima (Silky Thread Grass)

Good for both garden landscapes and containers, this beautiful plant produces erect clumps of leafy growth. (Zone 7a – 10b)

7. Helictotrichon sempervirens (Blue Oat Grass)

Producing dense clumps of blue-green leafy growth with semi-evergreen habit, this plant can be grown in direct sunlight as well as under light shade. (Zone 4a – 9 b)

Blue Oat Grass

Blue Oat Grass, Image by Josh Jackson

8. Pennisetum alopecuroides (Fountain Grass)

Mound forming grass with fresh-green foliage, this plant produces delicate and beautiful white inflorescence. (Zone 5b – 9b)

Fountain Grass

Image by Allan Hack

9. Spartina pectinata (Cord Grass)

Preferring moist soil, this beautiful plant offers decent growth along  borders and pathways. (Zone 4a – 9b)

While ornamental grasses will look great in your garden, if you are opting for an easier to maintain solution you might also want to consider investing in a really good quality artificial lawn available from suppliers like greatgrass.co. These days, artificial grass looks just as life-like as real grass and with a minimal amount of upkeep, it can be great value for money.

13 Feb

Cussonia – The Cabbage Tree of Africa

Cussonia is a genus of ornamental trees from South Africa and Madagascar. These drought tolerant trees make excellent accent plants with a crown of lovely green foliage. Most species of Cussonia grow as solitary trees forming a slender and twisted trunks crowned by long and glossy leaves. This unique growing habit gives these trees the name of ‘Cabbage Tree’.

Cussonia, The Cabbage Tree

Cussonia, The Cabbage Tree, Image by Louisa Billeter

Most species of Cussonia grow quickly and last long. Average height of Cabbage Tree can be 8 to 12 meters. Leaves are evergreen and are used as fodder. Small, stalked flowers appear in Spring or early Summer followed by fleshy fruits. Nectar produced by Cussonia trees attracts bees, wasps, birds and other pollinating insects.

Cabbage Tree is grows easily from seeds and does not require much care. Most species resist drought and prefer a sunny spot to grow. Protect them from frost and grow in a well-drained and slightly rich soil.

Popular species include:

Cussonia Spicata – Fast growing, evergreen tree that grows up to 10 meters and produces greenish flowers in summer.

Cussonia Paniculata – Grows as a tall (up to 6 meters), slender and twisting tree. Leaves are long and waxy. Small green or crème flowers appear in dense spikes.

05 Feb

Ipomopsis: The Standing Cypress Plant

Ipomopsis is a genus of lovely perennials, biennials and a few annuals from the family of Phlox. Native to North America and Europe, these lovely bloomers are excellent plants for small gardens as well as landscapes because of their prolific and showy scarlet flowers. Most species produce erect branches up to 2 to 4 feel and bear showy flowers in summer. Flowers attracts several birds espeiclaly hummingbird that act as pollinators. For these characteristics, Ipomopsis plants are usually called Standing Cypress, Red Gilia, Scarlet Trumpet, Texas Plume or Hummingbird Plant.

Ipomopsis Rubra, Standing Cypress Plant

Ipomopsis Rubra, Standing Cypress Plant, Image by Steven Polunsky

Easily raised from seeds, Ipomopsis are good plants for beginners as they are quite low on maintenance and grow rapidly. Most species of Ipomopsis would grow under shade as well as under bright sunlight which is preferred. It is not fussy about soil and grows in most soil and conditions. However a balanced and well-drained soil is good for these lovely bloomers.

Ipomopsis go quite good as border plants and are often used for cut flowers. They also make good filler plants in gardens with limited space. Some species of Ipomopsis are known to have been used as medicinal plants for the cure of headache, diarrhea and infections.