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Thoughtful planning makes all the difference to a garden in Perth when we hit our hottest months.
February is time to sit up and take note of the plants that are unfazed by the heat and those that are struggling. Use this knowledge to guide future planting and relocate those in the wrong spot. The good news is not only are there many varieties of drought-tolerant plants that look great in modern Perth gardens but they're often also lower maintenance, saving you time and water.
Succulents have been riding a popular wave for some time now due to their drought tolerance, low maintenance needs, stunning flowers and architectural shapes. Recently, restaurants have added Australian native succulents to their menu as a nod, perhaps, to their role in Aboriginal cultures and diets. The ability succulents have to store large amounts of water in their fleshy leaves, stems or roots allows them to survive and thrive in our climates. Try pigface, aloe, portulaca, agave, sedum and more.
Pigface (Carpobrotus edulis)
A fantastic native creeping succulent perfect for groundcover in full sun, dry, windy, salty and sandy soil locations where not much else will grow. Ideal for water-wise and coastal properties, especially if erosion is an issue. Flowers in spring and summer then produces deep-red fruit that can be made into jams, chutneys and pickles. The juice from the leaves can also be used to help relieve skin burns, bites and stings like aloe. The variety Aussie Rambler has much bigger flowers than the species form; grows taller, and more upright; and can survive temperatures as low as -8C which makes it ideal for the outback and southern gardens also.
The beautiful blooms of this trailing succulent are perfect for brightening up garden beds, pots, hanging baskets and rockeries. Portulaca will happily bask in the blazing sun, storing moisture in their foliage and tuberous roots. Tolerates many kinds of soil but prefers sandy, well-drained soil and once established needs little water.
Fifty shades of grey
Silver and grey leaf plants are known for their hardiness and ability to stand up to heat and bright sunshine. Not only are they great for Perth gardens but their silver tones contrast beautifully with landscaped backdrops and pink and purple flowers. Try coastal rosemary, lamb's ear, saltbush, Aussie flat bush, liriope and lomandra.
Aussie Flat Bush (Rhagodia spinescens)
A low growing native shrub with grey-blue foliage. Will tolerates a variety of soils including clay, salt, and high PH levels. Another one great for coastal and exposed situations, but also dry inland gardens in full sun and can survive light frosts. Very drought tolerant.
Lamb's Ear (Stachys byzantina)
If you've ever thought of your plants as pets, then this is the plant for you. Irresistible to touch, the furry, shimmery grey colour foliage of lamb's ear lives up to its name. This fast-spreading ground cover produces lavender purple flower spikes in Spring to Summer, great for full sun positions along borders in garden beds or containers. It's Middle East origins make it superb for growing in drought-like conditions. Although lamb's ear can tolerate the poorest of soils, it should always be well-draining as the plant dislikes overly moist soil and high humidity.
We've already listed quite a few Aussie natives in our previous categories, and it's no wonder our local plants have evolved to tick all the boxes. Not only do natives species thrive in our hot dry conditions, but they also attract and support local wildlife and are non-invasive near fragile bushland. Try banksia, grevillea, kangaroo paw, dianella, coastal rosemary and more.
Coastal Rosemary (Westringia)
Tough, hardy coastal rosemaries are little battlers, standing up to wind, sea spray, sun, drought, dry soil and come through smiling. A naturally compact plant, they respond well to shaping so makes a great hedge or topiary choice - but doesn't need pruning unless you want to. Another one great for coastal planting but does well in all locations with well-drained soil. Flowers all year.
Plant in autumn
One mistake people make when choosing heat and drought-tolerant plants is thinking they need no care from the get-go. Although these plants are capable of surviving long periods without water in full sun, its best to help them establish first. Planting in autumn when less watering is required and they have plenty of time to grow a strong root system before Summer returns is a good idea. Remember, when watering to establish your plants, rather than giving them a frequent, shallow sprinkle, try to give them a deep soaking less often. This encourages their roots to grow deep.
Waterwise plant selections
The Water Corporation have an online list of suitable plants for home gardens in a simple format that allows the gardener to feed in a range of requirements and get answers back from the database. There is a big selection of photos to help refine your choices and the system can deliver a list suited to the suburb in which you live.
Find out more here