Sunday, April 20, 2008

Landscape and Nursery - Drought Tolerant Shrubs

We continue to have a dry spring this year and coming off the drought of 2007 our subsoil moisture is very low. Landscapers and nurserymen should consider plants that are more drought tolerant. The following are some drought tolerant shrubs for Delaware.

Shrubs are used in the landscape to provide transition between tall vertical trees and the horizontal plane of the ground. Shrubs are chosen for habit, foliage, flower or fruit attributes. The most useful shrubs have more than one season of interest. If bright blossoms are the only attribute, the plant should be tucked away so it doesn't detract from the landscape once the flowers are gone. Many of the traditional spring-blooming flowering shrubs such as forsythia, spirea, lilac and weigelia are somewhat drought-tolerant.

The following shrubs are considered drought-tolerant.

Aronia arbutifolia, Red Chokeberry, 6 to 10 feet; full sun or half shade. Assets: Bright red fruits are born in great abundance along the stems. ID: Upright multistemmed shrub with even, black-tipped teeth along the leaf margins. Use: Best in masses.

Chaenomeles speciosa, Common Floweringquince, 6 to 10 feet; full sun or partial shade. Assets: Flowers which range in color from orange through scarlet to white. ID: Leaves have large conspicuous stipules at the petiole base. Use: Effective as a hedge or in a shrub border but has a very short period of interest.

Cornus racemosa, Grey Dogwood, 10 to 15 feet; full shade or sun. Assets: Multistemmed shrub that forms a thicket. Grey older wood and light, reddish-brown younger stems compliment each other well. Pinkish-red inflorescences are effective into December. ID: Leaves with typical dogwood venation and a dull grey-green color. Use: Best naturalized in masses and used for its winter character.

Elaeagnus pungens, Thorny Elaeagnus, 10 to 15 feet, sun or shade. Assets: Fragrant, small white flowers and somewhat evergreen leaves flecked with silver. ID: Leaves have ruffled margins and the undersides are covered with silver scales. Use: Good for banks, hedges, screens and natural barriers. Must be pruned to attain a desirable habit.

Myrica pensylanica, Northern Bayberry, 5 to 12 feet; full sun to half shade. Assets: Semi-evergreen leaves are aromatic when bruised. Greyish-white berries cover the stems of female.
plants from September to the following April. ID: Obovate leaves have a leathery texture. Use: Excellent in masses or as part of a border; good salt tolerance.

Pinus mugo var. mugo, Mugo Pine, less than 8 feet tall; sun or partial shade. Assets: Prostrate evergreen shrub with medium green needles. ID: Rigid needles in bundles of two. Use: A low evergreen shrub for foundations, masses or groupings.

Potentilla fruiticosa, Bush Cinquefoil, 1 to 4 feet; full sun to partial shade. Assets: Dainty clean foliage and yellow flowers that bloom from June through frost. ID: Pinnately compound leaves are dark green and somewhat silky. Use: Good plant for the shrub border, massing, edging or as a facer plant in a foundation. Adds color to the landscape and many cultivars are available (some with white flowers).

Pyracantha coccinea, Scarlet Firethorn, 6 to 18 feet; full sun to partial shade. Assets: Semi-evergreen shrub with flowers that shroud the plant in white. Orange-red fruit can be spectacular. ID: Pyracantha have stiff thorny branches with spines along the stems. Use: Makes a good informal hedge, barrier plant or espalier.

Rhus typhina, Staghorn Sumac, 15 to 25 feet, half to three-quarters shade or full sun. Assets: Nice leaf texture and spectacular yellow, orange and scarlet fall color. ID: Pinnately compound leaves have 13 to 27 leaflets. Stems are densely covered with velvety hair. Use: Naturalize or use in masses. Can be invasive as it suckers freely from the roots.

Viburnum lentago, Nannyberry Viburnum, 15 to 18 feet; sun or shade. Assets: Creamy yellow flowers and a bluish-black fruit are borne on this large shrub with slender arching branches. ID: Dark green, finely toothed leaves have winged petioles. Use: Ideal shrub for naturalizing; works well as a background or screen plant.

Vitex agnus-castus, Chastetree, 8 to 10 feet; full sun. Assets: Flowers are lilac, fragrant and occur from June through September. ID: Palmate leaves are greyish-green. Use: Interesting foliage texture and late-season flowers make a good addition to the shrub border.

Excerpted from "Plant Selection for Water Conservation" by Dr. Susan Barton, UD Extension Ornamental Horticulture Specialist.

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