Q. It has been extremely dry for quite some time in many areas of Central Alabama. We get an occasional hit and miss shower, but nothing substantial. Will the plants in most landscapes survive this extended dry spell without supplemental watering?
A: Yes, it has been (and unfortunately continues to be) rather dry, so I am not surprised that your plants are showing symptoms. Also, the problem has only been compounded by the fact that we had an unusually cool, wet spring. Plants became accustomed to just the right amount of rain, at just the right time. Now, with this hot, dry weather, they are having trouble acclimating themselves. Trees and shrubs that have been planted a year or less are the most vulnerable. However, plants that are well established and healthy can withstand much more drought stress than we have experienced to date. Of course there are exceptions to all generalities. For instance, very well established Azaleas and Hydrangeas can show drought symptoms. These plants have relatively small root systems adapted to semi-shady light conditions and moist soil environments. If these plants are located in less than optimal conditions, they suffer as a result. There are numerous other examples and plant needs must be looked on in a case by case basis. Therefore, it pays you to learn a little about specific plant needs prior to planting.
In the western part of the country many people have adopted a gardening practice called xeriscaping. I don't really like the word because it implies "dry habitat" and is limited to cacti or succulent plants only. Actually, the practice is much more balanced and involves grouping plants by water needs and limiting heavy water use areas. It also involves implementing some very common sense water use practices. I have a few of these tips listed below and I encourage you to put them into practice.
For more tips and information on drought tolerant plants visit the following link:http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-1336/ANR-1336.pdf or call the Master Gardener Helpline toll free at 877-252-GROW.
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