Drought Resilience with Native Plants

How much time and energy do you spend watering in the summer? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a drought-resilient landscape? Several choices exist for creating a beautiful yard that can withstand weather extremes, and one option is planting native plants.

Plants thrive where the sun shines enough, the soil provides the right nutrients, and the rains come often enough at the right times of the year for each kind of plant. Native plants have adapted to local conditions (climate, soil, native animals) over many generations, and are better able to handle extreme weather events like the 2015 summer drought. Some younger native trees and shrubs didn’t survive that summer, but most did without any help from us. Would you like to have that kind of resilience in your landscape? Not to mention beauty and attractiveness to birds and pollinators?

Native plants are available from some local nurseries, conservation districts, Washington Native Plant Society sales, and Master Gardener plant sales. Plant them in spring or fall when the rains are falling. Bare-root plants (young plants without soil around their roots) will be available soon and should be planted within a week of being brought home. These are generally less expensive than container plants.

When choosing native plants, do a little research on where they like to live (see Resources below). Do they like rocky, sandy or clay-like soil? Dig around in the area where you would like to put a native plant – you may have a patch of dry, sandy soil that a moisture-loving twinberry wouldn’t like. Choose plants that will be happy with the conditions they’ll find when planted in the spots you’ve chosen in your yard.

A few tips to remember:

  • Plant with the mature size of the species in mind.
  • Regularly water your new native plants for the first 2 – 3 years during dry periods to help them establish strong root systems. (A rain barrel or cistern could help with this.)
  • Wean your native plants off of regular waterings after the first couple of years.
  • Protect your native plants from deer and rabbits until they are large enough to withstand nibbling and rubbing.
  • Plant with care around your septic drain field by following the suggestions in this handy guide: Proper Landscaping On and Around Your Septic System [http://snohomishcountywa.gov/DocumentCenter/View/28548]. Note: bugleweed (Ajuga) is aggressive. Do not plant it near a natural area.

Resources

  • Everything native plants: Plant descriptions, pictures, how-to articles, and sample landscaping plans can be found on the King County Native Plant Guide website: https://green2.kingcounty.gov/gonative/Index.aspx
  • Snohomish Conservation District (SCD) Plant Sale Guide [https://static1.squarespace.com/static/54933166e4b00173e5357840/t/587fe17f3e00be21f083f014/1484775826672/2017PlantSale_FINAL_+%281%29.pdf]  The sale is Saturday, February 11 at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe, from 8:30 am – 4:00 pm.