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Have No Doubt, Plant a Garden That Will Resist a Drought

In recent years, Minnesota plants and trees have faced pressures from warmer temperatures and prolonged drought. You can foster a healthy, resilient garden by adding species that adapt well to these changes. Read here to find out the type of plants and garden conditions that optimize a drought-resistant garden.

Mary Gadek, Dakota County Master Gardener

Have No Doubt, Plant a Garden That Will Resist a Drought

Choosing Drought-Resistant Plants

As you head to your favorite garden center, look for plants and trees with at least some of the following characteristics:

  1. Native plants- Look for plants labeled as native to Minnesota or ask at your nursery. Native plants usually adapt to or better tolerate local growing conditions and require less water.

  2. Shorter plants- Plants that grow less than 3 feet use less water.

  3. Compact and clumping plants- Usually, these types of plants have deep roots, which can access water deeper into the soil.

  4. Adaptable plants- Look for plants that can grow in either sun or shade or tolerate many soil conditions.

Creating the Best Garden Conditions

Now that you have chosen your drought-resistant plants, maximize their success in your garden by creating the following conditions in your garden:

  1. Appropriate location - Place your plant in the recommended light condition area, (sun, shade, or partial), to ensure the best survival. A plant getting too much or too little sunlight will struggle and require more water for survival.

  2. Soil - Loose soil with compost or organic material helps plants’ roots spread and retain moisture. Avoid tillage of soil to allow maintenance of soil’s nutrients. Limit fertilizer, especially in dry conditions, because it can force the plants to work too hard, instead of conserving moisture. 

  3. Mulch - Spreading mulch in your garden beds aids in reflecting heat and maintaining moisture. Avoid landscaping with rocks around plants and trees as they can absorb heat from the sun and get hot, robbing the surrounding soil and plants of water.  

  4. Water deeply - Until the plants are established (usually two weeks), water deeply and daily. Then, water deeply about every 7-10 days, depending on the current rain received. Established plants need approximately one inch of water a week. During a drought period, these plants may need supplemental water. “Deep watering” is defined as slow and steady watering at the base of the plant for about 30 minutes.

  5. Early fall planting - While spring and summer are fine to plant, the best time is fall, with its shorter days and cooler nights, which allow plants more moderate weather to get established. 

Lists and Resources for Drought-Resistant Trees and Plants 

  1. Trees and plants for Minnesota’s climate:

By selecting the plants and trees with the listed characteristics and then choosing the best site and conditions, your landscape can withstand the more frequent Minnesota droughts while still providing beauty.

Photo Credit: Mary Gadek (1,2,3)

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