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Save Time, Money, and Water; Plant Drought Tolerant Plants

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plant perennial plants

Dear Casual Gardener Ms. Green Queen,

Okay, Ms. Green Queen, I live in Winfield, Illinois, and have been reading your column for over a year now. Your ideas are great for going green. I love it!!

What’s the #1 thing I can do to reduce my water bill?


Water Boy in Winfield

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Dear Water Boy,
The solution to your problem is simple – plant perennial plants and bushes which do not require watering once established. No garden watering equals a low water bill.
All plants need water to get established. For more effective plant introduction, water less frequently, but deep down at the soil level. Heavily soaking the garden at the root level during establishment ensures a deeper and better-developed root system as well as fewer fungus issues on the top of the plant.
Be sure to plant your perennials according to the nursery’s directions. For example, if you plant a shade plant in a sunny area, you will have to water much more frequently for it to survive. By planting perennials in their preferred conditions, you will have more success and happier plants.
Drought tolerant conservation gardening can still be an experience filled with lots of flowers. Below are my favorite flowering drought-tolerant plants, both common and native for the Illinois area (if you live outside of Illinois, please consult a local nursery for advice on native plantings which might offer a lot of flower power).

Top 10 Drought Tolerant Common Perennial Varieties
Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida sullivantii goldsturm)Black Eyed Susan Native
Blanket Flower (Gaillardia) ANY variety
Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata) – Spring bloomer
Coneflower (Echinacea) ANY variety
Coreopsis (Coreopsis) ANY variety
Lamb’s Ears (Stachys byzantine)
Penstemon (Penstemon) Any variety
Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)
Stone Crop (Sedum) ANY variety – Fall bloomer

Top 10 Drought Tolerant NATIVE to Illinois Perennial Varieties

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)  Butterfly Milkweed
Blazing Star or Gayfeather (Liatris pycnostachya)
Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Little Bluestem Grass (Andropogon scoparius)
New England Aster (Aster novae anglae)
Prairie Coreopsis (Coreopsis palmata)
Prairie Dropseed Grass (Sporobolus heterolepis) – Salt tolerant
Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)
Wild Petunia (Ruella humilis)
Yellow Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata)
There are several local suppliers of native and drought-tolerant plants. Be sure to hit the large home centers like Walmart, Loews, or Home Depot for “generic” low-cost natives like Rudbeckia and Russian Sage. The prices are more than reasonable and the plants are often in good shape at the beginning of the season.

Local nurseries include:
Midwest Groundcovers (
The Growing Place (
Planters Palette (

Online resources include:
Bluestone Perennials (
High Country Gardens (
Plants of the Southwest (
XRated Gardening (

Thank you, Water Boy, for the exciting new title, it sounds much better than my current designation; Mulching and Manure Management Executive. Happy drought-tolerant planting!

An Easy Project For Memorial Day Weekend

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