Episode 74 – Drought Tolerance and Drip Irrigation

Ground Breaking Banter - Rick

Drought: it’s a fact of life for many of us, whether we’re gardening in an arid climate or happen to experience a short-term or long-term drought that will eventually, hopefully, lift. Drought tolerant plants can survive those challenging conditions, and sometimes even thrive in them. Join our conversation above or on your favorite podcast platform to hear about some of the adaptations that drought tolerant plants may display, and what it really means to be drought tolerant. With that, here’s this episode’s Lim-A-Rick:

When the ground is dry as dust
I have to readjust
I drag around the hoses
to water all my roses
Before the blooms combust.

My seedlings are going to sprout
Despite this prolonged drought
I’ll do a long rain dance
And then I’ll wet my plants
by turning on the spout.

Some examples of drought tolerant or resistant plants: Nepeta, lavender, Gaura, Gomphrena, Pyromania® ‘Orange Blaze’ red hot poker (Kniphofia), Diamond Frost® Euphorbia, Russian sage (Perovskia), Decadence® ‘Lemon Meringue’ false indigo (Baptisia), Rock ‘N Grow® Midnight Velvet stonecrop (Sedum), ‘Tuscan Sun’ false sunflower (Heliopsis), Prairie Winds® ‘Niagara Falls’ switch grass (Panicum virgatum).

There are actually two reasons why Double Take Scarlet flowering quince is our plant on trial for this episode. First, our Double Take quinces have gotten accolades even from Texas on their ability to bloom for months longer than conventional quinces, even in hot, dry conditions. Plus, next weekend marks Lunar New Year, which is often celebrated in the US with stems of flowering quince. And because the color red, associated with happiness and prosperity, is also synonymous with the celebration, the incredible lipstick red color of Double Take Scarlet quince is the perfect plant for the occasion. Now, for most of us, it will not be in bloom naturally in time for February 10, but it can be forced, and you may see it for sale in florists, particularly if you live near an Asian community.

But Double Take Scarlet quince is special for reasons beyond its heat and drought tolerance. For one, it’s thornless! Conventional flowering quince bear big long thorns which make them unpleasant to work around, makes them susceptible to catching leaves (or trash, in more urban settings), and of course, makes them less than ideal as a cut flower. But you will see nary a thorn on the Double Take quinces. Now, there is a little drawback to that – they aren’t deer resistant, whereas conventional thorny quinces generally are, so there’s a bit of a tradeoff. The second thing that makes Double Take quinces so special is that their flowers are double, with multiple rings of petals, instead of just one, giving them an extremely showy appearance which looks more like a rose or camellia than a quince. That makes them even showier in the garden – as well as in the vase.

Thanks to their durability, quince are also very versatile in the landscape. You can use them in a hedge (maybe play around with a multi-color hedge, as in addition to Double Take Scarlet, we also have Double Take Orange, Peach, and new Double Take Eternal White.

Double Take Scarlet flowering quince reaches 4-5′ tall and wide and is hardy from USDA zones 5 though 9.

If you’d like to add Double Take Scarlet flowering quince – or any of the 320+ Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs – to your garden or landscape, you’ll find a list of local retailers here

Gardening Mail Bag - Stacey

The good news for you, growing cannas in California, is that caring for cannas is super easy! If the weather stays warm and the plants get sufficient water, they may not go dormant at all. If you get cold temperatures and/or they dry out and your plants turn brown, then go ahead and cut back the browned parts of the plant. Once spring comes and temperatures warm, they will re-enter active growth naturally and you can remove any remaining brown portions of the plant. Keep them well-watered – cannas are definitely not one of the drought tolerant plants we’re covering today! – and they’ll continue growing happily until next fall/winter’s cold temperatures zap them again. 

This is such a great question, Janet, and hits directly at the biggest shortcoming of the USDA hardiness zone system, which is that it doesn’t address heat tolerance at all so it makes no sense to use it to indicate the upper end of the range a plant can grow well in. Unfortunately, however, it’s the only system we have, so even though it’s not an appropriate use of the data, we (and other plant companies) use the geographic correlation of the hardiness zone system to indicate heat tolerance. Now, if you look at the USDA hardiness zone map, you will get a rough idea of just what it means to be heat tolerant through USDA zone 9. However, especially when you get into those warmer zones, the climatic conditions can vary wildly. As I mention in this video on hardiness zones, Austin, Texas and Portland, Oregon are both considered USDA zone 9, but of course, they couldn’t be more different in terms of humidity, rainfall, and sun intensity. As such, just because a plant is indicated to be heat tolerant through USDA zone 9 doesn’t mean that it can thrive under all USDA zone 9 conditions. I really dislike it, but like I said, it’s the only system we have for now. If and when a better system for helping warm climate gardeners understand which plants they can grow arises, we will definitely adopt it! Until then, though, USDA hardiness is what we’re all stuck with.

Do you have a question for us? We’re happy to help! E-mail us or use the contact tab above. Due to high volume, we may not get to your question, so if you need an answer quickly, please reach out via the Proven Winners website.

Branching News - Rick

We’re joined in studio by Tim DeGeest from Site One Landscape Supply for a discussion on and demonstration of drip irrigation. Tim shows us the two types of systems – in-line drip that can be snaked over the ground in beds and micro-irrigation systems that are ideal for running to containers on your deck or patio. Join us at the YouTube link above or on your favorite podcast platform to hear about all of the incredible possibilities drip and micro irrigation can offer to gardeners – especially busy ones, lazy ones (no shame, just sayin’!), and those of us who just don’t enjoy watering.