Water-wise gardening is quickly gaining popularity across the United States as water rates rise, and we become increasingly aware of the need to conserve our fresh water. Using drought resistant native plants in place of water hungry, traditional plant choices can result in a perpetually gorgeous landscape, which requires far less maintenance than its traditional counterpart.
The cultural requirements of drought resistant native plants differ from more common landscape plants in several ways. Proper soil preparation and attention to detail at planting time will assure the success of your water-wise garden.
Select drought resistant native plants from the area where you live, or from an area with similar temperature, rainfall and soil types. Many native plants can thrive under a wide range of conditions, but some are specifically adapted to particular microclimates. Choosing plants native to your immediate vicinity assures they will grow well in your garden.
Dig a hole with the shovel three times as wide, and twice as deep as the plant's pot or rootball. For example, if your plant is in a one gallon pot, dig a hole that is roughly 15 inches deep and 18 inches wide. If you find solid rock or hard pan soil at the bottom of the hole, try and break through it with the pick ax in at least one place to allow drainage. If this proves too difficult, test the drainage by filling the hole with water. If it has not drained within 1 hour, consider planting your plant in another location.
Amend the native soil sparingly at planting time. Add enough coarse sand or fine gravel to ensure good drainage for cactus, succulents and other extremely xeric plants. Mix one-third coarse gravel and one-third organic mulch with one-third native soil for other drought resistant plants.
Fill the hole half full with the amended soil. Build up a mound at the center of the hole and firm it slightly to create a pedestal to support the plant. Adjust the pedestal's height so that the plant's crown will be at the same depth it is growing in the pot.
Place your plant on the pedestal and fill the hole with the amended soil, firming gently as you work. When the hole is filled, make a slight depression around the outer edge of the new soil to create a well that will prevent water from running off.
Water your plant thoroughly, and make sure that all of the new soil is completely saturated. Do not water again until the top two inches of soil becomes dry.