Drought Weather Conditions — Plant Selection & Care

Blog Category: Landscape Design & Installation, Landscaping & Maintenance
March 28, 2022 by Wright Outdoor Solutions

Iowans are all too familiar with drought weather conditions. The impact of droughts can be sudden, devastating and costly – especially on landscapes. From sun scorched hostas, to dry lawns, countless properties go from lush to lifeless each year. When drought conditions strike, home and property owners must be prepared. With proper planning and on-going care, Iowans can take pride in their landscapes, no matter the season.

In the United States, Iowa ranks among the top three states most vulnerable to droughts along with Oklahoma and Montana. Defined as a prolonged period of abnormally low rainfall, droughts can lead to detrimental circumstances such as damage to crops and vegetation, wildfires, diminished streamflow, reduced soil moisture and more.

There are several factors to consider when determining proper materials and care practices to implement in drought vulnerable landscapes. The best part is, beauty does not have to be sacrificed in the process. We’ve outlined several practices that our team of landscape experts execute to help plant life thrive.

Plant Selection

Choosing the right plants is one of the most important considerations in landscaping. By opting for the use of native and/or drought tolerant plants, you can avoid some of the detrimental impacts of drought conditions. Both options require less water, less money, less maintenance, and provide long lasting beauty. It is important, however, not to assume that native plants are synonymous with drought tolerant plants, so research is critical.

Native Plants

Native plant species are those that are naturally occuring in a geographic area and have adapted to the local climate and soil conditions. The deep roots of native plant species increase the soil’s water storage capacity, decreasing their need for additional watering. Iowa’s native grasses, perennials, trees and shrubs have evolved to withstand the elements often experienced in prairie states. Not only do native plants reduce drought impact, but they also promote biodiversity, provide food and shelter to native wildlife, reduce air pollution, offer a naturally occurring defense to pests and disease, and prevent erosion.

  • Native Iowa plants considered to be drought tolerant include salvia, black eyed susan, prairie drop seed, daylily, switch grass and micanthus to name a few.

  • There are also native trees and shrubs suited for Midwest landscapes, including grey dogwood, sumac, bur oak and juniper.

Non-Native Drought Tolerant Plants

Drought tolerant (or “resistant) plants may not be native to the area but can survive with little or no rainfall. These plants can maintain their healthy aesthetics even in dry times of year. Many, but not all, drought tolerant plants will have a characteristic of heavy wax accumulation on their foliage. Wax helps the plant retain moisture. Another potential characteristic is hairy, silvery foliage.

  • Drought tolerant non-native plants include coreopsis, sedum, hosta, phlox subulate, dianthus, arabis-rock cress, gaillardia-blanket flower and iberis-candytuft to name a few.

Plant Placement

Placement of your plants, shrubs and flowers is important to consider in landscape design. Your landscape may vary in soil type, such as clay soil in one area and more sandy soil in another. Specific areas may receive more light than others, more wind, or more rain. Understanding your landscape’s characteristics and the needs of the selected species will help determine the proper placement of plants.


Mulch is a layer of organic material covering the surface of an area of soil, such as around plants and shrubs. Mulch retains moisture, deters weed growth, and returns nutrients back to the ground when it biodegrades. Each function protects plant life from the impact of drought conditions. Available in a variety of materials and colors, mulch also provides aesthetic benefits adding pops of colors and texture to your landscape. Learn more about our mulch installation service and schedule today.

Contact Wright Outdoor Solutions

Early spring is a great time to begin evaluating the needs of your landscape. Wright Outdoor Solutions can help. Our experts have created, installed and cared for countless landscapes in central Iowa. Not only can we help with proper plant life selection, design and installation, but we can also provide ongoing care during drought conditions. Call Wright Outdoor Solutions today at 515.987.0800 or request a quote online to discuss improvements to your property.