Benefits of Drought Tolerant Plants

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

Benefits of Drought Tolerant Plants

The drought in Austin and the surrounding area is taking a toll on the water supply, and there is no sign of improvement.  As area lakes reach dangerously low levels, homeowners and businesses are being required to cut back by reducing the days they can water from two days to one day.  It might be time to consider plants that can handle these drought conditions.

What makes a plant drought tolerant?

Drought tolerant plants must be able to withstand low water and high-heat conditions while still maintaining their aesthetic and functional qualities. Plants that thrive in naturally dry conditions sometimes have small or divided leaves that are waxy or hairy. These characteristics help plants hold in moisture, reducing water loss through transpiration. Sometimes the leaves are spiny, or lack leaves entirely. Other plants survive drought by special internal mechanisms that enable them to minimize water loss through transpiration as well. Some drought tolerant plants survive periods of reduced summer water by going dormant and then resuming growth during the winter and spring. Many low-water-use plants actually avoid drought by producing wide-spreading or long roots to reach stored groundwater.  

Drought tolerant plants have many benefits.  Besides requiring less water, there are other advantages of which you might not be aware. 

  • Lower water bills from reduced water use. 
  • Reduced landscaping labor and maintenance costs.
  • Conservation of natural resources and preservation of habitat for plants and wildlife.
  • Reduced polluted runoff.
  • Fewer yard trimmings to be managed or landfilled.
  • Extended life for water resources infrastructure (e.g., our surrounding lakes), thus reduced taxpayer costs.
  • Deeper roots to reach stored groundwater

To get the most out of creating a drought tolerant landscape other than using plants with low-water needs, group plants together with similar water requirements.  Use mulches and efficient irrigation systems help to conserve water as well.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website has a great list of drought resistant plants for Texas.