Plants for dry soils

Hot, dry summers demand a lot from our plants. We present robust survivors who feel really comfortable on dry ground – whether in the sun or in the shade.

Months of drought and heat have stressed many plants in recent years. As a hobby gardener, one wonders which plants are still going through such dry phases, which will probably be even longer in the future. Fortunately, there are a number of plants for dry soils that can get by with little water. While some thrive better in the sun, others feel particularly comfortable in the dry shade. If you are worried that your garden will lose some of its grace, you will be reassured when you see the range of robust plants.

Which plants are suitable for dry soils?

Dry artists like girl’s eye, beard flower, and steppe sage sport brightly colored, nectar-filled flowers that are also attractive to insects. For the most natural look possible, you should distribute the plants loosely in the bed. If you want to add a splash of color on small areas, you can rely on short-lived bloomers for dry soils, for example California poppies (Eschscholzia californica). Depending on the sowing time, its pile can be postponed until autumn. The height of a man (Lavatera) also quickly closes gaps in the bed.

A green dry stone wall with candytuft, blue pillows and thyme is a good and permanent solution, even for small gardens. Because it is space-saving, easy to care for and offers shelter for insects and reptiles. Extreme locations such as dry areas of shade under trees come alive with elven flower, potted fern and Solomon’s seal. Large star umbels and wild asters add beautiful color accents. Plants can also be raised through proper watering. In order to promote a fine root system, one should not water too often. Otherwise our green darlings will get lazy and stop growing their roots to get water. Therefore, it is better to pour less, but thoroughly. After a new planting, you should water the bed regularly in the first year. From the second year onwards, water is only poured as required.

Plants for dry soils: a selection

For dry soils in the sun, for example, scented nettle, stone quendula, striped riding grass, pinnate blue rhombus, steppe candle, woolly puff, beard flower or girl’s eye are suitable. Suitable plants for the dry shade are elven flower, potted fern, Solomon’s seal, large star umbel, wild asters, stinking hellebore, Balkan milkweed or rock seeds.

Plants for dry soils in the sun

With many perennials, you can tell at first glance that they are sun worshipers. Typical features are thick, firm and sometimes hairy leaves, and sometimes small or gray-leaved foliage. A remarkable dry artist is, for example, the catnip (Nepeta x faassenii). In general, the appearance of perennials in a sunny location is mostly characterized by blue, purple and pink tones. The blue flower spikes of the scented nettle (Agastache) compete with the fragrant abundance of flowers of the white prairie candle (Gaura). The yellow plate flowers of the yarrow (Achillea) form a nice contrast to the blue flower candles of steppe sage (Salvia nemorosa) or the wine-red flowers of the scabious flower (Knautia). The milkweed plants (Euphorbia polychroma) can also cope with the drought and literally shine in a fresh green. If you place stones between the plants and add a mulch layer of gravel or chippings, the bed gets a modern character at the same time.

Drought-loving plants for the sun

Warmth-loving plants only feel really good when they are exposed to sunlight for around six to seven hours a day. Especially around noon, there should be no longer periods of shadow, for example from trees. In order for the perennials to thrive in a sunny and dry location, it is important to create certain basic conditions. In addition to the factors of sun and light, the soil also plays an important role. Waterlogging is poorly tolerated by the dry-loving perennials. A well-drained soil is particularly important in winter. If you have a heavy, damp soil, you can improve it with a sufficient amount of gravel and thus ensure the necessary permeability.

Planting suggestion for a 2 x 3 bed in the sun

  • Eci = ball thistle (Echinops bannaticus ‘Taplow Blue’), 1 piece
  • Gau = magnificent candle (Gaura lindheimeri), 3 pieces
  • Cal = riding grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’), 2 pieces
  • Aga = scented nettle (Agastache rugosa ‘Black Adder’), 2 pieces
  • Sti = giant feather grass (Stipa gigantea), 1 piece
  • Ech = sun hat (Echinacea purpurea ‘August Queen’), 2 pieces
  • Ros = Rose ‘Medeo’, 1 piece
  • Sis = rush lily (Sisyrinchium striatum), 3 pieces
  • Nep = catnip (Nepeta faassenii ‘Six Hills Giant’), 3 pieces
  • Sed = magnificent stonecrop (Sedum spectabile ‘Stardust’), 1 piece
  • Eri = Spanish daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus), 3 pieces
  • Sta = Wollziest (Stachys byzantina), 2 pieces
  • Clm = Steinquendel (Calamintha nepeta ‘Triumphator’), 3 pieces
  • Cor = girl’s eye (Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’), 3 pieces

Properly care for plants in dry, sunny places

In plantations with sun-loving plants, deliberately placed gaps create a loose, steppe-like character. Mulching is a good way to keep these gaps free of weeds. Mineral mulch is suitable for dry locations, such as light-colored chalk chippings, porphyry chippings or dark basalt. The decision depends on the personal taste of the garden owner and on the regionally available materials that should be preferred. The advantage of mineral mulch is that the surface dries off quickly, which makes it difficult for weeds to germinate on it. Under the mulch layer, which does not decompose, the moisture stays longer and thus ensures a balanced soil moisture. The mulch layer should be at least seven centimeters for this.

In addition to the sun-tolerant perennials, it is advisable to supplement the planting with bulbous plants. They are ideal for dry locations as they require a well-drained soil, especially in winter, so as not to rot. On the one hand, onion plants extend the flowering time in dry and sunny beds, and on the other hand, additional accents are set. Tulip bulbs like Tulipa praestans make a colorful impression, especially in spring. Many varieties of ornamental onion (Allium) are suitable for closing gaps in flowers in June, as they set striking accents with their attractive flower balls.

Grasses should not be missing in a characteristic steppe planting. They transmit the smallest breeze and ensure lightness and space. Feather grass (Stipa gigantea) is a popular grass. It shines in the backlight and, with its soft growth, plays around flowering perennials that bloom in the shape of plates or candles. The ornamental blue grass (Sesleria), as well as the upright millet (Panicum) with its airy appearance, is ideal as a very long-lived and resistant grass for dry locations. The dry, sunny location sometimes even promotes an intense yellow, sometimes red autumn color of the plants. When the gardening year draws to a close, another advantage of the robust perennials and grasses comes to the fore. Frosty nights cover the dead plants with hoar frost and turn them into atmospheric, structural elements in the garden.

Plants for dry soils in the shade

There is also a large range of robust, drought-tolerant plants for the shade, which are also attractive and colorful. A native, carpet-forming spring bloomer is the blue-red stone seed (Lithospermum purpurocaeruleum). Also native to Germany is the potted fern (Polypodium vulgare), which even thrives in wall joints and is considered to be extremely adaptable. The wild aster (Aster ageratoides ‘Asran’) is known as an excellent autumn bloomer. It forms large stands and brightens the shade with its delicate purple-pink pile. The shade-loving Great Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum biflorum) forms pretty overhanging, white flower stems in May and June. The elven flower (Epimedium perralchicum ‘Frohnleiten’) inspires with a decorative foliage carpet – even in winter. The stinking hellebore (Helleborus foetidus) is also evergreen. The large star umbel (Stellaria holostea), a wild perennial, blooms from April to June. With its green-yellow flowers, the Balkan Spurge (Euphorbia robbiae) enhances light shadow areas in spring.

Planting suggestion for a 2 x 3 bed in the shade

  • Dry = worm fern (Dryopteris filix-mas), 3 pieces
  • Pol = large Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum), 2 pieces
  • Lam = golden nettle (Lamium galeobdolon), 3 pieces
  • Eup = Balkan milkweed (Euphorbia amygdaloides robbiae), 6 pieces
  • Branch = wild aster (Aster ageratoides ‘Ashvi’), 2 pieces
  • Hel = smelly hellebore (Helleborus foetidus), 1 piece
  • Car = shadow sedge (Carex umbrosa), 6 pieces
  • Ste = large chickweed (Stellaria holostea), 15 pieces

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