Plant Survival Tactics in Drought

by Stephanie Suesan Smith on January 17, 2012

Everywhere in North America is still undergoing a historic drought.  Plants are dropping like flies from heat, stress, and lack of water.  Texas is estimated to have lost ten percent of its’ trees from the drought, and other states are just as hard hit.  Most of us will be planting new trees, shrubs, and flowers to replace those lost this last year.

Before you rip out the dead plants, however, you should be aware that some plants exhibit signs during a drought that would mean they were dead any other time, but will come back if given love and water.  Perennials drop not just leaves, but may die back all the way to the roots.  So do some shrubs and trees. Before pulling these, look for spring growth around the base of the plant.  If you see any green, the plant can probably be nursed back to health with water and TLC.

Annuals, on the other hand, are probably done.  They put all their energy into producing seeds to make sure then next generation, then died.  The seeds will lie dormant until conditions are more favorable, then burst into bloom.

On the other hand, some seeds need extreme temperatures to break down the hard outer shell that protects the seed. While fire usually does this, as when the prairie burned, the extremely long hot and dry spell is working the same magic.  You may see beautiful displays of wild flowers in heat stressed pastures and lawns from these seeds.

The drought has killed a number of our plants.  Many of us cannot offer supplemental water because of water restrictions due to the same drought.  Before replanting, think about how much  water you have available for the new plants.  Pick native plants that are from your part of the country, not just your state.  They have the best chance of surviving another dry year.  Unfortunately, it looks like that will be what we have this year — another dry year.  Plan accordingly.

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