Until recently, would-be gardeners in dry climates have had few choices when it comes to beautiful plants.  But now the trend in gardening has come to embrace native plants and flowers in landscape design.  More than ever before there is an abundance of plants and flowers that not only survive in dry climates, but thrive and flourish year after year.  Not only are these plants beautiful, but they are drought tolerant and give gardeners big savings on the amount - and therefore the cost - on the water they use

When gardening in a dry climate such as the southwest, it is helpful to look to Mexico as a model.  Plants that are native to the Sonoran, Chihuahuan or Mohave deserts all do well in a dry climate, and can now be found in most local garden centers and nurseries.  Plants such as American Agave and Golden Barrel cacti are hardy here, and flowers such as marigolds, poppies, lupines and evening primroses add vibrant color and still beat the heat

Keeping plant roots moist critical in dry climates


The trick to gardening in a dry climate is to keep the roots of your plants moist, so that they won't need to be watered often.  Watering early in the morning or at dusk are the optimal times, as it allows the water to sink into the soil before evaporating.  The rule of thumb for most dry climate plants is to water deeply but infrequently, instead of lightly and often. Shallow watering causes roots to grow near the surface of the soil, where they dry out more quickly.  Deep watering encourages roots to grow deeply into the soil, where it remains cool and moist

Many gardeners in dry climates find that drip irrigation systems are the best way to get water deeply into the soil  By setting up a drip irrigation system, where water slowly trickles out of soaker hoses installed in the garden, you eliminate evaporation and promote deep irrigation.  Ask at your local garden center for systems you can set up yourself

When you first plant your dry climate garden, you will need to water more frequently so that the plants can become established.  Slowly scale back watering as the weeks progress.  Start by watering 1-2 days for the first two weeks, then 3-4 days the following two weeks, and finally once a week for the following months.  After six months your garden shouldn't need any additional water other than rainfall, unless it gets extremely dry

Vegetable gardening in dry climates


And don't forget the vegetable garden!  Many varieties of edible plants do well in dry climates including corn, squash, beans, carrots and other root vegetables.  Vegetables will require a bit more water than the native plants described above, but if given just enough care will thrive through the season and provide your table with the freshest of produce

As you can see, it's easier than ever to garden in a dry climate.  By choosing plants that are native to areas with similar weather, you will ensure that you are creating a garden that is not only sustainable, but beautiful to look at year round.