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there are many interesting xeric plants offered at High Country Gardens - a lot of them are zone 4, but only for the dryest climates. What does well in zone 4 (Iowa) with a minimum of care and watering? Maybe we could start a list. Here's what I grow in a spot that seldom gets watered by anything but natural rainfall (which is a lot more abundant in Iowa than the desert.) I am grouping plants that need more watering in beds closer to the house, and those that need little or no, in areas further from the hose.
Sedums of all kinds.
Tulips like to go dry in the summer,
as do Iris
Comfrey never gets watered by me
I'm a zone 5 xeriscape gardener, and in the Denver area we get about 14" annual precip. A lot of the plants in the High Country Gardens catalog should do fine for you. How much precip do you get? and what time of year? I think I can add to your list, once I know how much moisture you get.
Wow, that sounds like a lot of rain to me ;-) I'll do a little research and see what I can find out. Umm, when you say xeric plants, what are you looking for? Low maintenance? Can take heat? drying out? natural rainfall only? winter drought? And what kind of precip do you get after June? And what's winter like -- snowy or dry?
From your list of plants so far, I'm thinking you might do well with prairie natives. I have a catalog around the house somewhere -- I'll get you the name. There are some great plants that overlap the xeric and prairie native categories. For instance, Missouri Evening Primrose -- Oenothera macrocarpa -- beautiful flowers! Just don't get the pink ones, they're very aggressive spreaders. Another one is Butterfly Weed - Asclepias tuberosa -- gorgeous orange flowers and butterflies LOVE them! Do you like ornamental grasses? A lot of them would probably do well for you. Another plant I'm very fond of is Gaura lindheimeri, which I have to water in Denver, but you probably wouldn't need to.
Are you looking for herbaceous perennials only? If you'd consider annuals, I think you could try some of the self-seeding annuals that give a cottage garden look. Try California poppies, cornflowers (aka bachelor buttons), cosmos...
I'll give it some more thought, but let me know what you think so far.
I found the name of the mail-order place right here -- silly me! It's called Prairie Nursery, but the Dave's Garden reviewers did not give it favorable reviews. I've never ordered from them, but I like their catalog as a resource. You could probably get a free catalog and then look for other sources for plants and seeds. BTW, I looked up Gaura lindheimeri and it's shown as hardy to zone 6. I'm in zone 5 and I've had them survive, although I have lost a couple -- don't know why exactly. Our winters are generally very dry, which kills some plants faster than the actual temp.
I guess what I am looking for are plants that will survive with little or no watering here in the summer. I have beds near the house that get water as needed, but one faraway bed that doesn't get a hose dragged over to it very often!
Yes, I love grasses - flame grass and several others do well here - also artemisias and nepeta and salvia may night and yarrow and the like - gloriosa daisy - weigela - sedums - Lilies in this bed also - and daylilies in this bed which I water if it is a droughty year. What I love is color and lots of it! Think I will pore over my high country gardens catalog a bit more.
Thanks for any suggestions,
I would actually check the HCG website before you order anything--if you go to the listing for a given plant and scroll down to the bottom of the page it'll give you more detailed info than they have in the printed catalog about how much annual rainfall that plant can take. Your 35-40 inches a year is going to be a bit much for a some of the plants they sell, some may be fine and some will be borderline and will make it only if you have good drainage, but there are a lot of plants in their catalog that would really prefer to live in an area that gets 10" a year and those probably won't do well for you at all. Also you'll need to be ready to water them more frequently for the first year or two after you plant them--even drought tolerant plants need a little more frequent watering until they're established.
Question. I have a High Country Catalog. I like the Agave Parryi
I would like to grow one or two on the south side of our house. I emailed High Country, asking them about this plant. Their catalog says it will grow in zone 4 Western. I didn't get any response yea or nay.
I felt that I would have to probably add more sand to that area to accomadate them. Has any one had success with this plant.
I looked it up on their website, and there it says with care (which means perfect drainage) it can handle up to 30-40 inches of rain per year. If you get more than that, you probably won't have luck, and if you get in the 30-40 inch range then you'll definitely want to improve the drainage in your soil. Be careful with adding sand to your soil though--if you have clay and you add sand to that, it will make concrete. If you add organic matter too then that prevents it from turning to concrete. I'm not sure why they say for western climates only--since it can tolerate a pretty high amount of rainfall then the only other thing I can think of is maybe it doesn't like humidity. So if you decide to try it, make sure you put it somewhere that it has plenty of air circulation to minimize the chances of fungal growth.
ecrane3; Thank you for your immediate response. I did not consider the humidity issue. We do get a lot of 90% humidity, even some 95 and 100% during the summer. So I agree there could be a fungal issue. That does give me some idea of what I could do though.
That is if the length of time the temperature stays below freezing doesn't make a big issue. We sometimes don't get above 0 for up to 3 weeks at a time.
I don't know how cold it gets and stays below 0 at a time in the Flagstaff area. Maybe some body could help me out there too.
I could put it in a more protected setting, to where I could give it a hot cap so to speak.
Given that it's listed as hardy to zone 4, I don't think long periods of cold are going to hurt it. I can't think of anywhere in the country that would be in zone 4 where there wouldn't be prolonged periods of cold. But snow cover could be a factor...when I think of the places in the west that would be zone 4, they're mostly in the mountains so they'd have lots of snow cover for the majority of the winter, and in your area I would guess there are some times that you may get cold weather but not have snow on the ground. Snow can offer a decent amount of protection to a plant, so if that's important for this one then that could be a factor too. Hopefully you'll hear back from HCG...they don't mark all their plants as good only for the west so I have to think there's a good reason why this one is marked that way.
I did some checking for Flagstaff area, which is where they said the seed was from. There is Considerable difference between the record lows and the normal lows. Between here and there. Now we do have Yucca growing here and they stay green all winter. But why they don't freeze and die is above my knowledge of the plants chemistry. I'm sure the Agave has more water stored than the yucca. Prickly pear, will grow but the old growth dies and comes back from the root system. Never gets very big but spreads out some. I think I may have to make them container plants. and protect them in the winter. Thanks again.
I wonder if it would work just to plant things like agaves in containers, and overwinter in an unheated garage. You could put the containers up on something, or even put an umbrella over them if you get torrential rains! This answers my question too, I would love to grow some of their gorgeous cacti and agaves.
How about some of these? Yucca-great architectual plants with some beautiful varigation. Mine do very well in northern Michigan as long as I protect them from deer in the winter when there is little else green for them to munch on. Also, baptisia have long taproots once established. Again, there are beautiful new cultivars available quite readily. Perovskia is gorgeous. I like little spire since it doesn't sprawl so much. There are several artemesia. Oriental Limelight if very pretty but I found it to aggressive for my small space garden but if you have the room the colors are gorgeous. Gaillardia should also work for you.
I would recommend you use Native plants - find a local nursery that carries them.
If you want to experiment with very low-water Western plants, good drainage is a must - especially the crown, especially in winter.
Regarding zone 5 plants in zone 4, I experiment with zone 6-7 in zone 5 with mixed results. Plant them in mid to late Spring - not fall to early spring - so they don't have to deal with temps in the low 20's before they have settled in. Evergreens and slow-growing deciduous stuff should be planted in a sheltered south-facing location and mulched &/or wrapped to protect the above ground part of the plant, especially the first winter. However, herbaceous and fast-growing deciduous (that can be cut back like an herbaceous) might be better off where they get winter shade or winter snow cover to keep them dormant. I have found that often it isn't the record lows in January that kill them, it is the late frost in the Spring when they are breaking dormancy too early. Last spring I remulched in late March before April's hard frosts with good results. I don't cut them back in the fall - I leave at least tall stubble to hold the mulch.
Thanks; for the tip, nancyruhl.
I will check out some of those and I do have the room. I was thinking of 2 or 3 for our private garden area between the south side of our garage and our privacy fence.
I would think that should offer considerable protection for winter. I wouldn't mind having to use mulch to help that along either.
Need to run now, have some things that need our attention in the city.
Will get back to you after.