While the purpose of an irrigation system is to keep your landscape consistently watered, some plants don't like or require consistent watering. There are some wonderful flowering plants that actually prefer dry conditions, which requires special irrigation design considerations.
Plant Water Requirements: Getting Into the Zone
Irrigation system design is so complicated that entire college courses are taught on the subject. One very important element is watering zones, which involves the separation of the system by using multiple timers to determine the rate and frequency of watering for each type of planting area. For example, lawns are not watered the same as flowerbeds or shrubbery beds. If you want to include a drier area for drought-loving plants, you will need a separate zone to ensure that it receives very little water. A single-zone system is hardly ever the most efficient, because lawns, shrubbery and flowers all need different rates and frequency of watering.
Flowers That Thrive on Neglect
Choosing plants for your dry zone is exciting, since there are so many flowering plants that thrive in drought conditions. Most of these are native plants, many of which have been hybridized to produce more and better flowers. Three of the more popular drought-loving flower families are
- Salvias and Sages - These members of the Lamiaceae family absolutely love dry conditions and come in an immense variety of shapes, colors and sizes, with annual and perennial species. They are a favorite of bees and butterflies, with some of the larger varieties even attracting hummingbirds. From the diminutive lyre leaf sage that is often used as a ground cover, to the shrub-like Russian sage that can grow to five feet tall, there is a salvia or sage that will fit beautifully into your dry garden.
- Flowering Milkweed - Often seen growing in fields and along roadsides, there are several species of milkweed that fit beautifully into a dry garden. An added bonus is that they are larval plants for several species of butterflies. Common orange butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) has a deep taproot that does not transplant well, so plant it where you want it to live. There are several tropical milkweeds that come in colors ranging from white to yellow to red, and even a giant milkweed that has unusual star-shaped flowers and grows up to 16 feet tall. With 140 known species, there are bound to be several you will love.
- Poppies - If you've ever seen a field full of poppies, you know that these amazing plants can withstand neglect with the best of them. Poppies can be annual, biennial or short-lived perennials, but they reseed so readily that they may as well be perennials. They come in a wide variety of colors, including white, yellow, orange, red and even blue. Bees flock to these flowers in droves for their pollen.
Irrigation system design is complicated, and should always be done by a professional. A dry irrigation bed will require a separate zone with its own timer. There are many beautiful flowers that will bloom prolifically in a dry bed. Ask your landscape irrigation specialist for help in designing and choosing the proper plants for your dry growing area. Click here to learn more about sprinkler installation.