Thursday, March 26, 2015

Drought Tolerant Perennials



Drought Tolerant Perennials

What’s the use of drought tolerant perennials? There are several reasons as to why to incorporate them into the garden. To mention a few: the plants that are considered drought tolerant have key characteristics that help them survive moderate to severe drought; planting or planning a drought tolerant garden will conserve one of our most valuable resources – water; and believe it or not you will have a garden jammed pack with lots of color and action. Several of the plants listed serve more than one purpose in the garden than just being drought tolerant. For example: some plants will deter deer and rabbits; attract hummingbirds and butterflies to the garden; can be used as herbs for cooking; and lastly used in fresh-cut or dried floral arrangements. And, when you started planning this project of drought tolerant perennials you were thinking dull, drab garden. Right? 

Let me introduce to you drought tolerant gardening that will have lots of color and action. When planning your garden for drought we need to consider a few things such as light, drainage, soil conditions, and watering. Full sun is the best for all the perennials listed below. The general rule of thumb is that an area is considered full sun if that area receives 6 or more hours a day of sunlight. Drainage is essential to the plants. When planning the garden do not plant in an area where water collects after rainy weather because the plants will not tolerate wet feet or soggy conditions. Drought tolerant plants will do better in soils that are not rich in compost. Save these areas for the plants that liked to be pampered. Even though the plant is considered to have drought tolerance the plant needs to be established in the ground and this usually takes a few months to several months for a plant to be established. Below are a few of the plants listed as drought tolerant perennials. I chose these varieties because the plants are more than drought tolerant; the plants will provide color, attract wildlife and will serve as more than one purpose in the garden.

Achillea millefolium – Yarrow: has lacy, fern-like foliage with flat, round blossoms in a range of colors, white, yellow, red, peach, and pink that bloom from summer to fall. Zones: 3-9. Height from 18-36 inches. Spacing: 10-12 inches apart. Light: Full sun. Uses: Yarrows tolerate poor soil and can be used in borders, mass plantings, and rock gardens. The flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden and can be used in fresh or dried arrangements. Periodically deadhead faded flowers.

Agastache spp. – Hummingbird Mint: is a relative of the mints and blooms summer through fall. Zones: 3-9. Height: 24 to 36 inches. Spacing: 18-24 inches apart. Light: Full sun to partial shade. Uses: Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden. The scented, mint like foliage is used in cooking and potpourri.

Allium spp. – Flowering Onion: blooms from early spring through the fall. Foliage has a mild onion scent that keeps deer and rabbits away from the garden. Zones: 3-9. Height: 12-36 inches. Spacing: 4-6 inches apart. Light: Full sun. Uses: Borders, mass plantings, rock gardens.

Anthemis tinctoria – Marguerite Daisy: provides several weeks of daisy-like flowers in the summer. Deer and rabbit resistant plant. Zones: 3-8. Height: 24-30 inches. Spacing: 24 inches apart. Light: Full sun. Uses: Beds, borders, and cut flowers.

Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ – Silver Sage: Fragrant, lacy, silver foliage provides contrast to ornamental grasses, flowers, and foliage. The foliage is used in fresh or dried arrangements, fresh herbal wreaths, and drying for potpourris. Deer and rabbit resistant plant. Zones: 5-9. Height: 2-3 feet. Spacing: 3-4 feet apart. Light: Full sun. Uses: Beds and borders.

Asclepias tuberosa – Butterfly Milkweed: Deer resistant plant. Attract butterflies to your garden. This plant is a nectar and larval food plant to the Monarch butterfly. Zones: 3-9. Height: 18-24 inches. Spacing: 1-2 feet apart. Light: Full sun. Uses: Butterfly gardens and borders.

Callirhoe involucrata – Poppy Mallow, Wine Cups: Attractive lacy foliage with purple flowers with a white eye that makes an excellent ground cover for large areas. Zones: 4-9. Height: 12 inches. Spacing 24-36 inches apart. Light: Full sun. Uses: Ground cover, border fronts, cascading over retaining walls, spiller for containers.

Centranthus ruber – Jupiter’s Beard: Excellent fresh cut flower with fragrant foliage. Butterfly attractant, deer and rabbit resistant plant. Companion plant to other perennials in the garden: Lamb’s ear, Artemisia, and Baptisia. Trim spent flower heads to extend blooming. Zones: 4-9. Height: 24-30 inches. Spacing: 24-30 inches apart. Light: Full sun. Uses: Specimen, borders, small group plantings.

Coreopsis spp. – Tickseed: Single or double flowers are excellent for fresh cut arrangements. Attract numerous butterflies to the garden. Trim spent flower heads to extend blooming. Zones: 3-9. Height: 3 feet or shorter. Spacing: From 1-3 feet apart. Light: Full sun. Uses: Borders, edger, or as a ground cover. 

Echinacea purpurea – Coneflower: There are many varieties of coneflower available. They come in a variety of heights, colors, single or double flowers. Any variety you choose will be drought tolerant. Single or double flowers are excellent for fresh cut arrangements. Attract numerous butterflies to the garden. Trim spent flower heads to extend blooming. Zones: 4-9. Height: 28-36 inches. Spacing: 18-24 inches apart. Light: Full sun. Uses: Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden, perennial, wildflower, mixed or cottage gardens, mass plantings, companion plant to Rudbeckia – Black-eyed Susan.

Echinops spp. – Globe Thistle: One of the underused drought tolerant plants and the flowers are good to use in fresh or dried floral arrangements. Trim spent flower heads to extend blooming. The flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies to the garden. Rabbit and deer are repelled by this plant in the garden, which is another plus to using this plant. Zones: 3-10. Height: 42-46 inches. Spacing: 18-24 inches. Light: Full sun. Uses: Borders, mixed flower gardens, companion plant to grasses.

Gaillardia grandiflora – Blanket Flower: The flowers are good to use in fresh floral arrangements. Trim spent flower heads to extend blooming. The flowers attract butterflies to the garden. Rabbit and deer are repelled by this plant in the garden, which is another plus to using this plant. Zones: 3-10. Height: 2-3 feet. Spacing: 1-2 feet. Light: Full sun. Uses: Borders, cottage gardens, cutting gardens.

Gaura lindheimeri – Whirling Butterflies: The airy flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden. Trim spent flower heads to extend blooming. Zones: 5-9. Height: 24-36 inches. Spacing: 24-36 inches. Light: Full sun. Uses: Borders, cutting and perennial gardens. 

Geum triflorum – Prairie Smoke: Red to light pink flowers, but the real attraction to this plant is the airy, feathery seed heads. Zones: 3-8. Height: 12-15 inches. Spacing: 6-8 inches. Light: Full sun. Uses: Deer resistant, border, ground cover, or rock gardens.

Helianthus maximiliana – Maximilian’s Sunflower: Bright yellow flowers on tall stems will attract butterflies to the garden. Zones: 3-9. Height: 3-10 feet. Spacing: 36 inches. Light: Full sun. Uses: Show stopper to any garden. Place in the back of the garden. Accent, specimen, fresh cut flower gardens, wildlife gardens, and cottage gardens.

Hemerocallis spp. – Daylily: Daylilies are available in every color except blue. Zones: 3-10. Height: 12 inches to 4 feet depending on variety. Spacing: 6 to 48 inches depending on variety. Light: Full sun. Uses: Beds, borders, and groundcover. Deadhead to achieve re-bloom.

Hymenoxys acaulis – Sundancer Daisy: Bright yellow 1 inch flowers. Zones: 4-9. Height: 12 inches. Spacing: 12-24 inches. Light: Full sun. Uses: Edger or borders. Flowers attract butterflies.

Lantana camara – Lantana: Lantana plants come in a variety of heights, which can be used as groundcovers to shrubs. The plants provide non-stop color from spring to first frost. Zones: 7-11, outside zone 7 the plant is treated as an annual. Height: 1-5 feet, depending on cultivar. Spacing: 24-48 inches, depending on cultivar. Light: Full sun. Uses: Profuse bloomer until first frost. The low growing varieties can be used as seasonal color or evergreen groundcover, annual, flowering shrub, containers, hanging baskets, beach plantings. The bright flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

Lavandula angustifolia – English Lavender: Wonderful fragrant lavender flowers and silver foliage. Zones: 5-9. Height: 18-36 inches. Spacing: 12-18 inches. Light: Full sun. Uses: Deer and rabbit resistant, attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, fragrant flowers and foliage, flowers can be used fresh or dried, containers, border fronts, rock gardens, herb gardens, scented gardens. Deadhead after flowering. 

Linum perenne – Blue Flax: Bright blue flowers cover the plant from late spring to fall. Zones: 3-9. Height: 18-30 inches. Spacing: 10-12 inches. Light: Full sun. Uses: Very showy flowers for beds and borders. Deer and rabbit resistant. 

Monarda didyma – Bee Balm: Fragrant foliage and flowers will attract butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden. The flower color are in shades of pink, red, lavender, and white. Zones: 3-9. Height: 18-36 inches. Spacing: 24-36 inches. Light: Full sun. Uses: Beds, borders, cut or dried flowers.

Monarda fistulosa – Wild Bergamot: Fragrant foliage and flowers will attract butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden. The flower color are in shades of pink/lavender. Zones: 3-9. Height: 18-36 inches. Spacing: 24-36 inches. Light: Full sun. Uses: Beds, borders, cut or dried flowers.

Nepeta racemosa – Catmint: Fragrant flowers and foliage will attract butterflies to your garden. Zones: 4-9. Height: 18-36 inches depending on variety. Spacing: 18-24 inches depending on variety. Light: Full sun. Uses: Deer and rabbit resistant. Beds and borders. Groundcover.

Nepeta x faassenii – Catmint: Fragrant flowers and foliage will attract butterflies to your garden. Zones: 4-9. Height: 12-24 inches. Spacing: 12-24 inches. Light: Full sun. Uses: Deer and rabbit resistant. Beds and borders. Groundcover.

Oenothera spp. – Evening Primrose: Masses of flowers that open in the evening and close in the morning. A good groundcover to plant around outdoor entertainment areas, especially nighttime activities. Zones: 4-9. Height: 15 inches. Spacing: 18-24 inches. Light: Full sun. Uses: Groundcover for sunny areas.

Penstemon spp. – Beardtongue: Zones: 4-10. Height: 12-36 inches. Spacing: 18-24 inches apart. Light: Full sun. Uses: Mixed perennial garden, attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.

Perovskia atriplicifolia – Russian Sage: Zones: 4-9. Height: 3-5 feet. Spacing: 24-36 inches apart. Light: Full sun. Uses: Containers, bed and borders, cut flowers, butterfly attractant.

Rosmarinus officinalis – Rosemary: Zones: 6-10. Height: 4 feet. Spacing: 3-5 feet apart. Light: Full sun to partial shade. Uses: The leaves are used in lamb and fish dishes, butterfly nectar plant, and containers.

Rudbeckia fulgida – Black Eyed Susan: Zones: 3-10. Height: 18-30 inches. Spacing: 12-24 inches. Light: Full sun to partial shade. Uses: Beds and borders, containers, attract birds and butterflies.

Salvia spp. – Sages: Autumn Sage - Salvia greggii 'Maraschino'. Zones: 7-10.  Height: 3’ – 4’. Spacing: 18” – 24” apart. Light: Full sun to partial shade. Uses: Butterfly and hummingbird attractant, accent, cut flower, herb and perennial garden.  Sage - Salvia officinalis. Height: 3 feet. Spacing: 12 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Leaves are used in stuffing and meat dishes.

Sedum spp.: Sedums, Stonecrops: Zones: 3-11. Height: 2-24 inches. Spacing: 4-18 inches apart. Light: Full sun. Uses: Containers, slopes, rock gardens, cracks and crevices, butterfly attractant.

Stachys byzantine – Lamb’s Ear: Zones: 3-9. Height: 12-18 inches. Spacing: 10-18 inches apart. Light: Full sun. Uses: Borders, edger, containers, rock garden.

Thymus spp. – Thymes: Lemon Thyme – Thymus x citriodorus. Height: 12 inches. Spacing: 12 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun. Light purple flowers in summer. Wonderful Lemon scent when leaves are crushed or walked upon. Additional Uses: All leaves have a distinct lemon flavor that can be used in cooking. Attracts Butterflies and Hummingbirds to the garden. Summer Thyme – Thymus vulgaris. Height: 6 – 12 inches. Spacing: 6 – 12 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Blooms lilac to purple flowers in summer. Additional Uses: All leaves are used in cooking. Attracts butterflies to the garden. All thyme plants can be used as an alternative ground cover.

Veronica spp. – Speedwell or Veronica: Zones: 4-9. Height: 4-12 inches. Spacing: 8-12 inches apart. Light: Full sun to partial shade. Uses: Ground cover, borders, attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Tropical and Cold Hardy Banana Plants



Tropical and Cold Hardy Banana Plants

Banana plants are one of the most versatile plants to use in the landscape or in containers. The banana plant can be fruiting or ornamental in nature, and both will produce an inflorescence (flower), but only the fruiting varieties produce edible bananas. Banana plants enhance a tropical allure to your landscape with their lush green foliage with leaves measuring 2 feet wide x 6 feet long. Bananas have a fast growth rate and some varieties will produce fruit within 9 months after planting.

Can you imagine harvesting bananas growing in your yard or container? Impossible you think. It is possible to plant, grow, and harvest bananas from your backyard or container with the newer cultivars that are extremely cold-hardy and have high wind resistance. Some of the cultivars are hardy to USDA zone 7. For the gardener that resides outside of USDA zone 7 one can grow the banana plant in a container; and bring the plant in just before first frost in your area. For winter protection in the garden, heavily mulch the area where the banana is planted.

Let’s talk about the wonderful benefits of growing fruit in the garden or in containers. Home-grown bananas have a richer, fuller, and better taste than store bought since you pick them yourself. Home-grown bananas are easy and inexpensive to grow as well. Growing bananas has a lot of appeal: it can involve the entire family from the little ones to the teens. As well as being an educational tool, the time the family spends in the garden is quality time spent together, and can give one a sense of pride. For gardener’s who live in a condo, apartment, or townhome bananas can be grown in a container. There are a few key elements to consider before growing or planting your bananas: Location or container(s), soil amendments or potting soil, planting, fertilizer, and insecticide.

Choosing a Location: Choose an area that gets 5 - 6 hours of full sun; and if, you have an area that receives more than 6 hours of sunlight that’s all right, too.

Choosing a Container(s): Pick a container that is 14 inches or larger, and I would like to suggest when growing bananas to put one plant per container. All Hand-Crafted Cedar Planters are 35% Off. Click Here To Purchase Cedar Planters.

Choosing a Soil Amendment or Potting Soil: When choosing a soil amendment or potting soil there are several commercial soils available, and choosing one is a matter of your gardening preferences, some of the choices are inorganic verses organic, with moisture control or without moisture control, with timed-release fertilizer or without fertilizer. Some soils are especially formulated for fruit and vegetables and can be used as a potting soil in containers or a soil amendment to the planting area. Bananas especially like lots of compost either applied on top of the soil or mixed in with soil amendments and soil from the original planting hole when planting in the garden. 

Planting: All bananas are slightly acid-loving plants and require an acid-loving soil. When planting use a soil recommended for azaleas and camellias, or fruit and vegetables. Dig the hole twice as wide as the root ball and deep. Use a 50 – 50 mix of original soil from the planting hole and the azalea/camellia soil, or fruit and vegetable soil. Add this mixture to the planting hole. The root ball of the banana needs to be one (1) inch above the soil line. Fill the planting hole with the soil mixture. Water in well. After watering add a root stimulator or Super Thrive. These are products that you mix with water and help reduce transplant shock and also help stimulate the roots. Use once a week for the first month and then after, once a month for six months. Did you know that leftover coffee or tea grounds help increase the acidity level of your soil? Instead of throwing away your leftover coffee or tea grounds away your bananas will benefit from sprinkling the grounds around your bananas. Let the grounds dry in a container and one can add the grounds daily or weekly. Cover with a layer of mulch one to three inches thick. Spacing: 8 to 10 apart.

Choosing a Fertilizer: Fertilizers are the vitamins or the essential elements that a plant needs to grow and stay healthy. The soil, atmosphere, and water usually provide the plant with these essential nutrients, but there are times when the soil is generally nutrient deficient and in this case a fertilizer is essential. There are sixteen essential elements to plant nutrition. These elements are separated into two categories, macronutrients and micronutrients. The macronutrients are: oxygen [O], carbon [C], hydrogen [H], nitrogen [N], phosphorus [P], potassium [K], Calcium [Ca], magnesium [Mg], sulfur [S] and are required by the plant in large amounts. Oxygen, carbon and hydrogen are provided to the plant by the atmosphere and water. Required by the plant in small amounts are the micronutrients, which are: iron [Fe], manganese [Mn], zinc [Zn], baron [B], copper [Cu], molybdenum [Mo], and chlorine [Cl]. These elements are the building blocks to plant nutrition and health. Bananas are heavy feeders and require sufficient amounts of water. Keep the planted area free from grass 2 – 5 feet away from the trunk. Fertilize every month with a fertilizer recommended for Citrus, Avocado, and Mango, a 10-6-4, a 6-4-4, an 8-10-8, or a 6-2-12. Apply at a rate of 1 ½ pounds per month up to 5 pounds per plant. Young plants apply ½ pound per month. Apply the fertilizer 4 feet away from the trunk. These recommendation are bananas planted in the ground. For containers or newly potted containers apply the recommended rate directly on top of the soil and water in well. 

Choosing an Insecticide: When choosing an insecticide there are several available at your local garden center and choosing one is a matter of your gardening preferences, and while I was growing bananas I had an IPM (Integrated Pest Management) approach method. I would only use Safer Soaps or Horticultural Oils on all the bananas that I grew, and realistically I hardly had to spray the bananas at all. I was constantly watching for any insect or worm that would start eating my prize bananas, and when I did see one I would simply dispose of the insect. Realistically, banana plants are usually pest-free. When growing the plants in a container or inside is when one should keep a lookout for insects, especially spider mites.

Watering: Of all the ingredients that have been mentioned for banana growing or banana container gardening success, water, is the most important to a successful banana grower, whether in the garden or in containers. The soil for your bananas will need to be consistently moist at all times, but not soggy wet. Banana plants will not tolerate flooding. The water needs to drain within 24-48 hours after flooding has occurred. The water source should be city water or treated water. This is one of the reasons of previous years Salmonella outbreaks on produce; the produce that were recalled received Salmonella during either the growing process or the production process. To date, I have not heard of any bananas being recalled. Due to all the current recalls of produce, more gardeners are starting to grow their own fruits this year versus previous years due to the recent outbreaks in store-bought produce. Just another reason to start growing your own fruits, you supply the water, you supply the insecticide, and you know exactly what ingredients went into your fruits. For states that are currently under water restrictions, you can water your food crops, personal food garden, or personal container garden without penalty. Wash all fruits before eating or cooking, whether Home Grown or Store Bought.

Bananas are clumping and send out underground rhizomes; in no time at all you will have a whole grove of bananas. When growing bananas it is recommended to keep 3 to 6 suckers (plants) at various heights. Any more than 6 banana suckers should be removed by cutting the sucker down to the soil line. When a banana blooms, it is the flower that forms the fruit. Once the banana produces a flower and fruits that stalk will die. When harvesting bananas, cut the banana bunch off the tree, and then cut the entire banana stalk to the ground. Then, let a new sucker replace the one that was just cut down. One can tell when the bananas are ready to be harvested when the fruits start to turn yellow in color. If, the bananas start to split before harvesting has occurred increase the water times or the amount of water received by the plant. Listed below are a few cultivars that are excellent choices for home gardeners.

Brazilian Dwarf Banana – Height 6 – 9 feet. Large leaves, good provider of shade, and good wind resistance. Bananas can be eaten fresh or served in other delicious treats. Zones: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11.

Carolina King Banana – Height 5 – 6 feet. Green-yellow color, delicious fruit. Can be grown in a container. Easy to grow to the fruiting stage, extremely cold-hardy. Zones: 7, 8, 9, 10.

Cavendish Banana – Height 15 – 17 feet. Primary variety sold in U.S. grocery stores. Full sized, high quality fruit. Zones: 7, 8, 9, 10.

Dwarf Cavendish Banana – Height 6 – 7 feet. Delicious fruit, this is one of the varieties you buy at the grocery store. Medium size fruit, sweet and tasty. Height 7 feet. Zones: 8, 9, 10, 11.

Golden Rhino Horn Banana – Height 17 to 20 feet. Most cold-hardy, green-yellow fruit. The fruit is equal or sweeter than most grocery store bananas. Zones: 7, 8, 9, 10.

Grand Nain Banana – Height 6 to 8 feet. Good wind resistance. Fruits at 6 feet, popular variety for desserts and other banana dishes. Fruit measures 11 to 12 inches long and very popular and used by world class chefs. This is the variety typically associated with the Chiquita brand. Zones: 8, 9, 10.

Ice Cream Banana – Height to 15 feet. The skin of the fruit is silvery-blue sheen. Considered the best tasting fruit with a hint of vanilla ice cream. Zones: 8, 9, 10.

Jamaican Red Dwarf Banana – Height 6 to 8 feet. High wind resistance. Fruit superior quality, moist, sweet, with custard-like texture. Zones: 8, 9, 10, 11.

Lady Finger Banana – Height 12-16 feet. Excellent producer of sweet tasting and fruit is shaped like that of a cigar. Zones: 8, 9, 10.

Misi Luki Banana – Height 10 to 12 feet. Misi Luki is an improvement over Lady Finger. This variety is recommended to the home gardener for best tasting fruit, very disease resistant and fruit that is 4 inches long. Zones: 8, 9, 10.

Mysore Banana – Height 15 to 16 feet. Slightly acid flavor offsets the sweetness. High wind resistance. Commercially grown in Asia. Zones: 8, 9, 10, 11.

Nam Wah Banana – Salt tolerant and wind resistant. Fast grower which can reach a height of 20 feet in 6 months. Zones: 8, 9, 10, 11.

Pineapple Banana – Height 6-7 feet. Derivative of RajaPuri, but slightly shorter. Tangier fruit that is reminiscent of pineapple. Zones: 8, 9, 10.

Pisang Ceylon Banana Height 10-15 feet. Foliage maroon with black markings. Very cold-hardy, high quality sweet fruit. This variety is an improvement of the Mysore. Zones: 7, 8, 9, 10.

Rajapuri Banana – Height 10-12 feet. Very cold-hardy, salt tolerant, and high wind resistance. Very sweet fruit that compares to grocery store bananas. Excellent choice for landscaping. Zones: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11.

Texas Star Banana – Height 6-8 feet. Superb cold hardiness. Tasty, medium size fruit, sweet in flavor. Zones: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11.
 

©Cheryl Ann Meola 2012.