horned poppy

Denny Schrock

plants that beat the drought

This combination of prickly pear (Opuntia) cactus, horned poppy (Glaucium flavum), and hummingbird mint (Agastache cana) is looking good despite the heat and lack of moisture.

This combination of prickly pear (Opuntia) cactus, horned poppy (Glaucium flavum), and hummingbird mint (Agastache cana) is looking good despite the heat and lack of moisture.

Earlier this week while making the rounds in the yard, I noticed how many plants were showing moisture stress. It’s not surprising. After one of the warmest Julys on record, and just an inch and a half of rain in the last six weeks, only the toughest perennials could be expected to be perky in these drought conditions.

Plants must be tough to survive in my yard. I don’t water, except during the establishment year. (That may soon change. I intend to set up some rain barrels, and use my new RainPerfect solar powered rain barrel pump to water some of the more sensitive perennials. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the rain barrels in place before the rains dried up.) But for now, I rely on natural rainfall and mulch to keep the perennials happy during dry periods.

The airy bubblegum-scented foliage of hummingbird mint is a perfect complement to its tubular lavender-purple flowers which, as it’s name suggest’s, attracts hummingbirds, as well as other pollinators. It can grow up to four feet tall. If that’s too large for your yard, consider ‘Purple Pygmy’, a dwarf version that remains under three feet in height.

The combination of hummingbird mint, horned poppy, and prickly pear provides a long season of color. The prickly pear starts the season with bright pink flowers (see below), closely followed by golden blooms on the horned poppy. The “horned” part of the name comes from the long, curved seed pods that develop after blooms fade. I deadhead the seed stalks to expose the deeply fringed silvery foliage, which looks great all summer. If you prefer, you can allow the seed pods to ripen and self-sow.

Pink prickly pear blooms

Pink prickly pear blooms

Deep yellow horned poppy bloom

Deep yellow horned poppy bloom

Purple Pygmy hummingbird mint

Purple Pygmy hummingbird mint