Nicole Hackett, Garden Girl

Opt for drought-tolerant plantings this fall

Opt for drought-tolerant plantings this fall
Ascot Rainbow Euphorbia will thrive in sun to partial shade and is drought-tolerant, making it a great addition to most gardens.

Nicole Hackett, Garden GirlCLAYTON, CA (Sept. 20, 2021) — September is a busy time in the nursery as we are in preparation mode, stockpiling inventory for all the fall planting must-haves.

The focus this fall planting season is the redesign of landscapes to include as many water-wise installations as possible.

After this long, hot summer, folks should look for spaces in their landscape to add shade trees. Crape myrtles (planted in groups), maples (October Glory, Red Sunset), Chinese pistache (Keith Davey), arbutus (Marina), redbuds, elms (Drake) and ash (Raywood) are among the most popular shade tree installations. Strategically install trees to provide shade and a canopy for patios and sitting areas.

Large shrubs can be used as fence covers and property divisions. There are so many great choices to consider. Grevillea is a fabulous family of evergreen shrubs that need little water once established. Consider selections such as Superb with its hummingbird friendly salmon-colored blooms, Spirit of Anzac with its pine-like foliage and red flowers or Noellii, another hummingbird friendly selection.

Pineapple guava bushes have a dense shape and tight leafing, making them a good installation for a fence with lots of gaps. Leucophyllum Texas Ranger has bright gray leaves and lavender flowers.

Adding interest

Focal point shrubs and multi-trunk trees add so much to positions of interest. Chilopsis is commonly called a desert willow. Orchid-shaped flowers of purple and white last nearly all summer. Desert Palo Verde, with its green bark and bold yellow flowers, is another excellent drought-loving, multi-trunk tree. Fremontodendron San Gabriel has yellow flowers in the spring and is both deer- and gopher-resistant.

Shrubs that mature to heights less than 3 feet are very desirable. Euphorbia has interesting foliage and is exceptionally water-wise.

Consider selections such as Silver Swan, Ascot Rainbow or Rubrum. Small leaf salvia typically stays below 3 feet and comes in red, coral, pink, white and blue. Lantana bushes also are available in multiple colors. They are incredibly heat loving and their flowers can withstand all the summer sun. Acacia Cousin Itt has a cascading growth habit of evergreen, bladed foliage.

Grass-like plants to consider for a water-wise garden are Lomandra Breeze (solid green) and Platinum Beauty (variegated green and cream). Bulbine is a succulent that looks grass-like. It has orange or yellow flowers, depending on the selection. Kangaroo Paw plants give the feeling of grass within the landscape. Its bold-colored flowers can stand 3-5 feet tall.


Groundcovers to consider for a drought-tolerant landscape are manzanita, grevillea, ceanothus, teucrium majoricum and trailing lantana. They are all sun-loving and evergreen.

All these plants become tolerant of drought once established. Wait until the weather begins to cool before taking on a landscape project. With any planting in clay soil, dig wide holes and amend with the proper soil conditioners. For many drought-tolerant plants, I partially amend with cactus mix combined with compost. Lightly fertilize new water-wise installations using fish emulsion every two weeks at half strength until night temperatures dip back into the 40s, then stop.

Nicole is the Garden Girl at R&M Pool, Patio, Gifts and Garden. You can contact her with ­questions or comments by email at