Birds and Blooms Blog

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Beautiful Drought Tolerant Ground Covers

With many areas in the United States experiencing drought conditions, replacing thirsty plants with those that need less water is not only becoming more popular – in many cases, it is a necessity with many city governments instituting water restrictions.

If the idea of drought tolerant plants bring to mind a garden filled with boring plants or prickly cacti, then you are in for a pleasant surprise.  Drought tolerant plants can be beautiful!

Earlier this week, I shared with you five drought resistant perennials for the garden.  Today, I’ll show you some lovely, flowering ground covers that you’ll be rushing out to add to your garden whether your areas is experiencing drought or not.

Moss Phlox (Phlox subulata)

Moss Phlox (Phlox subulata)

For a carpet of beautiful flowers, moss phlox is hard to beat.  Small needly-shaped leaves are covered in masses of flowers ranging from white, pink and purple throughout the spring.  This flowering beauty isn’t fussy and can grow in acidic to alkaline soil and thrives in sandy, loam and clay soils.  Moss phlox has one important requirement which is a spot in the garden that receives full sun.

Ground covers can be quite versatile in the garden and moss phlox is no exception.  It can grow in planting zones 2 – 9 and is often used in containers, rock gardens or allowed to spill over a raised bed.  Did I mention that the flowers are fragrant too?

Angelita Daisy/Perky Sue (Tetraneuris acaulis, formerly Hyemonxys acaulis)

Angelita Daisy/Perky Sue (Tetraneuris acaulis, formerly Hyemonxys acaulis)

Adding yellow flowering plants is a great way to add a spot of sunshine to the garden, even on a cloudy day.  The flowers of angelita daisy look like miniature suns with their yellow centers and rays.  This clumping ground cover has dark green leaves that resemble grass.  The flowers bloom from spring into early fall in zones 5 through 7 gardens.  If you live in zone 8 or higher, this drought tolerant ground cover blooms all year long, with the heaviest blooms occurring in spring.

Angelita daisy isn’t fussy and can grow in nutrient poor soils, but does appreciate well-drained soil.  Plant in groups of 3 to 5 for greatest effect in full sun or light shade along pathways, around the base of your mailbox or in containers.

Snow in Summer (Cerastium tomentosum)

Snow in Summer (Cerastium tomentosum)

The silvery gray foliage of snow in summer provides great color contrast when used near plants with darker green leaves.  White flowers appear in late spring on into early summer.  This drought tolerant perennial is a favorite in gardeners who live in the cooler zones of 3 to 7.  This attractive ground cover does best in full sun, but can handle some light shade.

Snow in summer can be used in a rain garden, rock garden or even planted on slopes.  Even when not in flower, the silvery foliage will continue to add beauty to your garden.  This ground cover will spread rapidly, so be sure to plant at least 2 feet apart to allow them room to grow.

Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana)

Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana)

The arrival of spring transforms the dark green, needlelike foliage of damiantia into golden yellow.  Flowering occurs sporadically throughout the summer and into fall.  Like many drought tolerant ground covers, damianita is not fussy and grows in poor soils without the need for supplemental fertilizer.

Plant along driveways, next to boulders, on slopes or nearby swimming pools where its sunny color can be enjoyed.  This Southwestern native does need well-drained soil and full sun to grow in zone 7 to 10 gardens.

Trailing Lantana (Lantana montevidensis)

Trailing Lantana (Lantana montevidensis)

Attractive green foliage covered in pretty flowers from spring through fall make trailing lantana a must have for many gardens.  Although this ground cover can only be grown outdoors year round in zone 9 gardens and above, it is a very popular plant in cooler climates as well where it is treated as an annual.  Adapted to acidic to alkaline soils, trailing lantana does best in well-drained soil in full sun to light shade.

In frost free climates, the flowers appear all year long.  In colder climates, it will begin flowering in spring until the first frost.  Suitable for containers, hanging baskets, rock gardens or as a bedding plant – adult butterflies will be sure to seek out the flowers of trailing lantana.  Unlike other forms of lantana, trailing lantana does not self seed and therefore is not invasive in tropical climates.  It’s important to note that all parts of lantana are poisonous.

As you can see, drought tolerant plants aren’t fussy and can add beauty to your landscape while helping you save water by using them to replace thirsty plants.

Need more choices for drought tolerant plants for your garden?  Check out our list of “40+ Drought Resistant Flowers and Plants”.



Friday Funny Photography: Barred Owl and Owlet


Friday Funny Photography: Barred Owl and Owlet

Birds & Blooms’ Friday Fun Photography snapshot for Aug 29, 2014: Barred Owl and Owlet by Diane Miller of Bruce Township, Michigan.

Do you have a clever caption for this fun photo? We’d love to hear it!

Hummingbirds are on the Move in the Eastern US!

Rob Ripma

With the warm temperatures outside it may not feel like fall is approaching, but many birds are already beginning their fall migration. In my last post, I wrote about how many species of warblers have already started to migrate, and today I’ll focus on the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds that are frequenting many people’s hummingbird feeders now. I’ve heard from quite a few folks that have with hummingbird feeders that the number of hummingbirds around has increased substantially, and I’ve noticed at my house, too. Hummingbirds are right on schedule migration-wise, and late August is when we typically begin to see more and more hummingbirds in central Indiana. (Keep in mind that the timing will be different depending upon where you live.)

It's amazing to watch Ruby-throated Hummingbirds as they are feeding at flowers! (Photo by Brian Zwiebel/Sabrewing Nature Tours)

It’s amazing to watch Ruby-throated Hummingbirds as they are feeding at flowers! (Photo by Brian Zwiebel/Sabrewing Nature Tours)

It’s hard to imagine that this tiny hummingbird is already on its way to complete what I consider to be a pretty incredible migration. Most of these hummingbirds will migrate down to the Gulf Coast and then are faced with a choice –  fly over the Gulf of Mexico or go around it. In the spring when the birds are in a hurry to get north to their breeding grounds, a huge number of hummingbirds choose to fly over this enormous body of water, but during fall migration when they aren’t in such a hurry, some individuals choose to take the long way. It might take a bit longer, but it’s a much safer option than flying over open water.

Be sure to enjoy all the hummingbirds over the next month or so and also let us know how many have been visiting your feeders!

Attract Wildife with Rose of Sharon

Jill Staake

On a recent trip to Michigan to visit family, I was captivated by the Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) bush in their front yard. It was a magnet for everything with wings! One afternoon, I dragged a lawn chair into the shade by the bush to watch for about an hour to see what visitors I could spot, including:

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

Attract Wildlife

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris), female

Attract Wildlife with Rose of Sharon

Honeybees (Apis mellifera)

Attract Wildlife with Rose of Sharon

Attract Wildlife with Rose of Sharon

And plenty more I didn’t capture photos of, including other varieties of bees, wasps, and flies. I also spotted other butterflies using the flowers for nectar, including a Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes), Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele), and Cabbage White (Pieris rapae). Dragonflies were using the branches to perch, and small songbirds flitted in and out of the shelter of the branches. It was simply amazing how this one small bush was providing food and shelter for so many different species all at once.

Attract Wildlife

This Rose of Sharon wasn’t large, but it was able to attract wildlife like you wouldn’t believe!

Rose of Sharon is native to Asia, and usually grown in the U.S. in zones 5 – 8. It blooms summer through fall, and is easy to grow in most soils and conditions. It can be pruned into a hedge or tree form, or left to ramble wild. Find multiple cultivars at your local garden center, or ask a friend or neighbor for a stem cutting from one in their yard to root. (Learn how here.) One word of caution: this non-native shrub is considered invasive in some areas. If you’re concerned, check with your local extension office to find out if Rose of Sharon is right for your yard.

What wildlife do you see on your Rose of Sharon bushes? Come chat about it in our Gardening Forums!

Drought Tolerant Perennials for a Thirsty Garden

Are you experiencing a drought in your area?  You may be surprised to hear that drought has affected not just California and the Southwest, but also areas in the Pacific Northwest, the Central Plains and even some areas in the Southeast.

U.S. Drought Monitor Map

Many cities have issued watering restrictions of outdoor plants and as a result, many gardens are suffering.  Because of the worsening drought in many areas, the interest in drought tolerant gardening has increased dramatically.

The good news is that whether you live in an area experiencing drought or if you are wanting to add plants that need less water – there are many beautiful plants that are drought tolerant.  Why put up with a garden filled with plants that are struggling from lack of water when you can replace them with drought tolerant ones that are equally as attractive?

It’s important to note that just because a plant is drought tolerant, does not mean that it doesn’t need water – they do.  The difference is that they can survive on less water than most other plants.

Beginning today, we will look at a variety of plants that will add beauty to your landscape while also being drought tolerant.  You may be surprised to find out that some of your favorite plants are actually drought tolerant.  Over my next few posts, we will look at perennials, ground covers, shrubs, grasses and succulents for a drought resistant garden.


Drought Tolerant Jupiter's Beard

Jupiter’s Beard (Centranthus ruber)

Jupiter’s beard is a long-blooming perennial that produces magenta/red flowers in spring, summer and fall.  It has fragrant flowers that attracts bees, birds and butterflies.  Other desirable attributes include the fact that it is deer resistant and is equally at home when planted in the ground or in containers.  Deadhead flowers to promote additional blooms.  This lovely perennial is also available in a white variety and can be grown in zone 4 – 8 gardens.

'Moonshine' Yarrow (Achillea Moonshine)

‘Moonshine’ Yarrow (Achillea Moonshine)

‘Moonshine’ yarrow has striking silver/gray foliage that is topped with flat, bright yellow flowers.  When planted in full sun, this deer resistant perennial produces flowers in summer and fall that attract both bees and butterflies to the garden.  Moonshine yarrow can be grown in much of the United States in zone 3 to 9 gardens.  While some species of yarrow can self seed and spread, ‘Moonshine’ does not.

Wild Indigo (Baptisia minor)

False or Wild Indigo (Baptisia minor)

False or Wild Indigo is a purple flowering beauty in the garden, which can be grown throughout the United States in zones 3 – 10.  There is little not to love about this drought tolerant perennial – it is deer resistant, attracts bumblebees and butterflies and thrives in full sun.  There is a yellow-flowering variety available as well.  Flowering spikes appear in late spring into summer.

Drought Tolerant Coneflower

Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Purple coneflower can be found in many gardens in zones 3 through 10 where their daisy-shaped flowers and prominent centers are a favorite of butterflies and hummingbirds.  Although purple coneflower does best in full sun, it can also grow well in partial shade.  Flowers appear summer into early fall and can be left on the plant after flowering is finished to feed resident birds.  In addition to purple flowers, there are orange and yellow varieties available.

White Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri)

Whirling Butterflies (Gaura lindheimeri)

Whirling butterflies is not as widely known as many other perennials, but as more people learn about this perennial with its pretty, butterfly-shaped flowers, it is becoming more sought after.  This lovely perennial has a special place in my own garden where its delicate white flowers bloom from early summer into fall until frost arrives.  Because of its long bloom period, it is one of the last flowers available for bees in fall.  Whirling butterflies can be grown in zones 6 – 10 gardens.

Each of these drought tolerant perennials deserve a place in the garden where they will provide beauty and drought resistance in the garden.  On Friday, we will look at some drought tolerant ground covers that will look great in any landscape.

Want more ideas for colorful drought tolerant plants to add to your landscape?  Check out this Birds & Blooms article, “Colorful Drought Resistant Plants”.

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