A native plant is one occurring naturally, in a given geography, without human involvement. These are the plants growing on the landscape without the aid of humans. This means they were not brought there intentionally or sometimes unintentionally. Unfortunately we know sometimes people bring them by mistake and don’t think about the unintended consequences. A drought tolerant plant does not have to been a native plant. Drought tolerant plants are plants having adapted to tolerate drought better than most. A drought tolerant plant will survive in your landscape with less than normal amounts of rainfall. Not all drought tolerant plants are native and not all native plants are drought tolerant.
Drought Tolerant Means Less Water
Because drought tolerant plants by definition have adapted to dryer climates and have lower water requirements they naturally use less water. A native plant may be drought tolerant but just because it is a native plant does not mean it is drought tolerant. Most native plants, once established, need minimal supplemental irrigation. However, I do recommend researching the water requirement to ensure you have the right native for your geography.
Lower Maintenance With Drought Tolerant and Native Plants
You can look forward to using less water with most native plants and because these plants have adapted to the local environment you will spend less time fertilizing, pruning and caring for them in general. Most likely you will be able to spend a little time with them once every few months and still have a vibrant beautiful garden. Drought tolerant plants tend to be more disease and pest resistant while needing little to no fertilizer. This should free up time to do more creative activities in your gardens.
Drought tolerant native landscapes do not have to mean rocks and cacti or succulents. Well designed drought tolerant native landscapes can look attractive all twelve months of the year. There are so many varieties of plants to choose from you can be assured to have color in your garden no matter the season. You can check out over 5000 drought tolerant garden designs on Houzz. The Denver Botanical Garden has some great examples as well.
Still Need To Consider Right Plant Right Place
Choosing the “right plant for the right place” is one of the most important considerations for all types of landscaping. Just planting native and drought tolerant plants will not solve all your landscape issues. Ignoring the right plant right place guideline may lead to increased maintenance, unhealthy looking plants and costly failure of expensive landscapes even using drought tolerant native plants. Careful planning and completing a thorough evaluation of your landscape are the first steps in applying this concept. With some extra effort in the planning stages you can ensure a beautiful, healthy, low water use, easy to maintain landscape. That really does sound like paradise.
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My favorite line: “Not all drought tolerant plants are native and not all native plants are drought tolerant.”
Alan I am guessing you have heard those words used interchangeably?
Well written article Richard. A related topic may be how to retrofit a water dependent landscape.
Bob, thank you for the suggestion. Often we see this need. We have touched on it in a few articles but a specific focus would be useful. Thanks!
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