Drought Tolerant? Not Really!
I’ve been intending to write this article for some time as recently I gave up on a group of plants that didn’t really live up to the claims being made on their label. I’ve been growing these plants for nearly three years in my front garden and last summer was the summer that I decided that these plants had well and truly had enough time to establish themselves. As a consequence last summer was the summer that they were pretty much on their own.
So here’s what they’ve got written on their labels;
“Low water requirement once established”,
And believe it or not the one that I found to be the least drought tolerant of the lot actually had “drought tolerant” written on the label. I had a small row of about 8 of these growing alongside a path and these ones actually died.
And then, even more unbelievably, the only one that actually told the truth had, “will grow in most soil conditions, however they prefer a moist, well drained position” written on the label. This actually turned out to be the most drought tolerant of the lot.
So what are these plants I’m talking about?
Phormium (New Zealand Flax).
Explanation; The varieties I’m talking about here are the ones with variegated and dark foliage. You know, the ones that look fantastic, are everywhere you look in the garden centres and cost 2 or 3 times more than the green one’s.
Why am I so disappointed?
Well I have to say that Phormiums now come in all types of spectacular colours and do look fantastic in modern gardens. As a consequence you can now see them everywhere in housing estates, both in private gardens and also in public landscaping. And they look fantastic……..as long as they get watered……….and guess what…………….because of the drought…………you guessed it………..nobody waters them……….as a result, all of this fantastically coloured foliage is all brown and dead looking. So why not just give them a prune and let it regrow? Well that would be the common sense thing to do………but guess what……..all of these gardeners that planted these plants thought that they were purchasing low maintenance, drought tolerant plants. As a consequence, now as you drive (or walk) around the neighbourhood (we’re now in the middle of winter) all you see are plants everywhere that once looked fantastic but now look messy, dead and ugly.
So in summing up all I can say is that Phormium aren’t drought tolerant plants and if you decide to buy them you are going to have to water them in summer and if you don’t then there is far chance that the leaves will get burnt, your plant will look like rubbish and you will have to cut it back to ground level in Autumn, but only if they don’t die in the meantime.
Tip: From my experience, the darker the foliage the less drought tolerant.
So, if you like the look of these plants and want to plant them in your garden then that’s fair enough but you have make sure to water them over summer and then cut all the dead foliage off in the autumn. But if you want low maintenance, drought tolerant plants then I wouldn’t bother with Phormium.
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