Information about plants & gardens for Brisbane & Qld
Drought Tolerant Plants
This page will include variety of information to help Qld gardeners find plants that may possess at least some drought resistance.
In particular, it will attempt to present a greater variety than the relatively small number of plants (a large proportion of which are strappy/spikey foliage plants) that are receiving a lot of pubicity at present.
NB: There's more about low-water use gardens (general design, gardening practices etc) here: Water saving gardens. The links on that page may contain additional information on drought tolerant plants.
No strict definition
First, it's important to remember that all plants need some water, at least occasionally. What plants you classify as drought tolerant will depend on what you call a "drought", and what you regard as "tolerant".
If you're used to rain every day, one dry week might be called a drought. In other locations, weeks or months without rain might be normal. In coastal Queensland, heavy rainfall episodes with plentiful supplemental water out of the tap were once considered "normal". Unfortunately, the current climatic and water infrastructure situation now makes it unfeasible to grow many types of plants that would be possible in decades past.
Meanwhile, "tolerance" may mean growing and flourishing under consistently dry conditions to some gardeners, while others may be satisfied with a plant surviving dry periods somehow until until better conditions arrive.
Furthermore, other environmental factors will affect performance for a given amount of watering. These might include exposure to wind, soil type, plant nutrition, intensity and duration of sun exposure, and other stress factors. Modification of the microclimate (shading, windbreaks, soil conditioners etc) may assist survival under a given irrigation regime.
For the purposes of this page, the focus will be on plants that can survive and look reasonably good through extended dry spells in tropical and subtropical regions with little or no supplemental watering. Such plants should tolerate high summer temperatures combined with humidity, high light intensity, and little or no frost in winter.
EstablishmentIt should also be remembered that even quite drought tolerant plants will require watering at planting time, and perhaps for some time afterwards. The availablilty of water should therefore be taken into consideration if planting up new gardens during drought. Gold Coast City Council has announced that its free trees will only be available during the early months of the year when highest rainfall is expected (see: Free Tree Scheme to Green the City).
Plants which have not been hardened off in advance or which have a poorly developed root system may be particularly susceptible to wilting. Selection and handling of material prior to planting may therefore also have some effect on the amount of water needed during establishment.
When it RainsMany drought-tolerant plants are intolerant of waterlogging. When we eventually do receive an extended period of heavy tropical rain, sensitive species may be lost. So, ironically, good drainage is still a consideration even when planting in drought, especially for your most valuable specimens. If you visit the desert section of the Brisbane Botanic Gardens at Mt Coot-tha, you'll see that it's in a raised area. The landscaping also shows off the plants effectively.
The same principles apply to plants grown in pots. Overwatering and/or poor drainage is bad for most land plants, but plants naturally adapted to dry conditions are likely to be most sensitive.
Growing Roses in Dry Conditions in Qldby Pam Barton
Roses are very forgiving plants, tolerating harsh dry times as well as the rainy periods that will eventually return. Depending on soil type, once a week watering is usually preferable. In dry times roses can survive on minimal water, however, you can't expect the usual habit of flowering each 6-8 weeks.
Mulching is essential for water retention and insulating the ground. Water crystals can work wonders but with many different types on the market, select wisely.
Potted roses can be planted at any time of year. Prune lightly after each flowering and a major winter prune in late July to early August. Roses work very hard, so they need to be fed. Make sure your roses have at least 5 hrs of sun per day.Pam and Randall Barton operate Bartons Rose Farm near Kalbar. The nursery has potted roses for sale to the public and can provide visitors with advice about selecting and growing roses in Queensland. Website: www.bartonsrosefarm.com.au
Ornamental herbs for drought tolerant gardensby Stephen McLennan
Attractive gardens are not the exclusive domain of ornamental plants. Herb plants intermingled with ornamentals can create a very unique and useful garden.
Perception of herbs as a group are often limited to those plants of herbaceous nature, that is, plants with no woody tissue. A broader description would be a plant that has medicinal, culinary or industrial uses. Many are attractive specimens in their own right.
Drought conditions do not adversely affect most herbs, rather it is the watering habits acquired from tending soft, ornamental plants that are too much for these resilient and hardy plants. Herb plants are usually killed by over-watering.
Below are a few suggestions for herbs to add to your garden. Selected plants are not only tolerant of dry conditions but also do well with regular rainfall.
Stephen McLennan operates All Rare Herbs, a Queensland-based mail-order herb nursery offering a diverse range of herb, spices and unusual vegetables plus herb books and publications. Website: www.allrareherbs.com.au
Native suggestions help gardeners in dry times
If creating a native garden, using species that occur naturally in your area can be beneficial environmentally as well as provide an extra interest to the garden. One of the problems, however, is finding information on what grew locally originally.
Toowoomba gardener and author Patricia Gardner has come to the aid of Darling Downs residents with her Toowoomba Plants book duo, the first volume of which (Trees and Shrubs) is available now. It contains detailed descriptions of 277 trees, shrubs and mistletoes.
The book isn't just for native enthusiasts, however, because Patricia concentrates on species suitable for residential properties. The range of drought-tolerant suggestions will help homeowners in the Toowoomba region and beyond create attractive gardens with less water.
There is a particular focus on "dry rainforest" species. Patricia says these are good for homeowners wanting a rainforest look at home, because they are not only drought tolerant, but they tend to be smaller-growing than species from high-rainfall areas.For more information, including how to order, click here: Toowoomba Plants
Some More Plants to TryPlease note that actual "drought tolerance" will depend on many factors (see above). In the list below, some species or cultivars may be more drought resistant than others within each group, so further reseach may be helpful. The real test, however, is how they perform in your garden. Obviously, you'll have to take other factors such as mature size into consideration when selecting a plant for a particular spot.
Many (but not all) Australian natives are well adapted to dry conditions. A few natives have been included in the list below, but if you want to develop a native garden there are many more species to choose from. Investigate further using books, local associations, specialists nurseries etc. Why not start your journey here: The Australian Native Plant Pages?
The links below will take you to other pages on this site for more information and, in some cases, specialist nurseries.
The list has been divided into two broad groups to assist with garden design, but you can mix and match to suit your own taste and landscaping needs. For plants like Bougainvillea and Hibiscus, hot flower colours (reds, oranges, hot pinks etc) are especially tropical-looking, while the whites and pastels might be integrated into a more traditional, "pretty" style of garden.
More Online Information
The following are for general information, research and ideas - some species or cultivars referred to in links may be unavailable in Australia or unsuitable for Queensland conditions
There's more about low-water use gardens (general design, gardening practices etc) here: Water saving gardens. The links on that page may contain additional information on drought tolerant plants.
Regional pages Includes links to many City and Shire Councils in Qld, plus local environmental groups. These sites may have their own lists of plants suitable for local conditions
Plants suitable for low rainfall areas Department of Natural Resources and Mines, Queensland (PDF)
Drought Tolerant Enoggera Species Save Our Waterways Now
Gardening in Hughenden Society for Growing Australian Plants Queensland Region, Inc.
Recommended Local or Australian Native Plants for Alice Springs Alice Springs Town Council
Note that some plants recommended in international lists may be weeds in Australia
How Plants Cope with the Desert Climate Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Drought Tolerant Plants for North and Central Florida University of Florida
Arizona Dept of Water Resources Low-Water Use and Drought-Tolerant Plants Arizona Office of Arid Lands Studies
Arid Plant List an illustrated guide to common landscape plants used in and around the Tucson area. University of Arizona
Include gray-leafed plants in '05 gardens Mississippi State University
There are also some links about lawns here: Lawn and Turf supplies. If you're interested on the effects of water and heat stress on plants, check Trees - general issues and Weather & Climate in Qld. Pages dealing with individual plants (Site Search) might have more information on particular species.