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Choose drought tolerant plants for homeowners

URBANA, Ill. - It can be a challenge to choose plants that will survive Illinois’ changing weather patterns.

"While we can go inside and enjoy the air conditioning, our plants don’t have the same luxury," says Gemini Bhalsod, University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator. "Consider planting a drought-tolerant garden that can survive Illinois summers."

Drought tolerant plants

  • Hackberry, Celtis occidentalis: This 40- to 70-foot tall tree grows in zones 2 to 9 and flowers in the spring.
  • Purple Beautyberry, Callicarpa dichotoma: This 4-foot-tall deciduous shrub grows in zones 5 to 8. It is known for its beautiful purple fruit in the fall.
  • Red Twig Dogwood, Cornus sericea: This 7- to 9-foot shrub is best known for its striking red twigs in the winter. It grows in zones 2 to 7.
  • Big Bluestem, Andropogon gerardii: A quintessential Illinois plant, this grass grows 4-6 feet high and tolerates dry conditions in zones 4 to 9.
  • Side-oats Grama, Bouteloua curtipendula: This grass grows 2- to 2.5 feet high in zones 3 to 9. It is known for its seed heads for winter interest.
  • Rock Cotoneaster, Cotoneaster horizontalis: This trailing shrub is often used as a ground cover. It grows in zones 5 to 7.
  • Yarrow, Achillea millefolium: This 1- to 2-foot perennial grows in zones 4 to 8. Its feathery leaves help bring dimension and texture to an ornamental garden.
  • Blue false indigo, Baptisia australis. This 3- to 4-foot tall perennial grows in zones 3 to 9. Its blue flowers bloom in the spring.
  • Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea: This herbaceous perennial grows to 2 to 4 feet in zones 3 to 8. This plant is a favorite of birds and has winter interest due to its long stems and prominent seed heads.
  • Bundleflower, Desmanthus illinoensis: This plant grows 2- to 4-feet in zones 5 to 8. It blooms June through August and the flowers appear as fuzzy balls due to the long stamens.

As summer progresses, watch for symptoms of prolonged drought stress like stunted growth, curling leaves, leaf drop, leaf scorch, and chlorosis.

University of Illinois Extension is the flagship outreach effort of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, offering educational programs to residents of all of Illinois' 102 counties and far beyond. Illinois Extension provides practical education you can trust to help people, businesses, and communities solve problems, develop skills, and build a better future. Through our Agriculture and Natural Resources programs, Illinois Extension supports the economic viability and environmental sustainability of natural and managed landscapes and productive lands in Illinois. Horticulture program educators provide research-based information and training about gardening, fruits and vegetables, flowers, insects and diseases, composting, landscaping, and more.

News source/writer: Gemini Bhalsod, Horticulture Educator, Illinois Extension