The hot, dry conditions in the entire Midwest are causing many Chicagoland gardeners to take a closer look at heat-loving, drought tolerant plant selections for their landscapes. Any newly planted garden needs consistent moisture to help the plants root in and grow, but once established, these hardcore, drought tolerant plants will leave gardeners wondering they did not ‘discover’ them earlier.
Sedum. Here, specific cultivars are too numerous to mention; one has so many choices. There are groundcover types with foliage colors ranging from bright green to dark red. A few standout low growing varieties include, Angelina Stonecrop (Sedum ‘Angelina’), Tricolor Stonecrop (S. spurium 'Tricolor') and Vera Jameson Stonecrop (S. 'Vera Jameson'). There are also upright cultivars. Nearly everyone is familiar with Autumn Joy Sedum; newer cultivars include Autumn Fire, Jose Aubergine (sporting rich purple foliage).
Golden Showers Coreopsis (C. verticillata 'Golden Showers') is an excellent choice for dry soil. Gold, daisy-like flowers top this upright perennial with fine narrow foliage. It boasts an extremely long bloom time, from early June through September. Roy Diblik, in his book, Small Perennial Gardens, The Know Maintenance™ Approach, lists Golden Showers as a ‘Buddy Plant’, meaning it is hardy, reliable in our climate and mixes well with other grasses and perennials.
Sticking with daisy-like flowers, another dependable plant is the more uncommon Yellow Ice Plant (Delosperma nubigenum). This evergreen groundcover sports succulent foliage covered with yellow flowers in May. At only about six inches high, plant this in full sun at the front of a border.
A few of the perennial Pinks prefer dry soil. Bath’s Pink Cheddar Pinks (Dianthus gratianopolitanus 'Bath's Pink’) has this lovely blue-green grass-like foliage with light pink flowers in May through July. Also worth mentioning is ‘Tiny Rubies’ (Dianthus gratianopolitanus 'Tiny Rubies'), which forms a low mound of gray-green foliage with tiny dark pink flowers that hover above the foliage.
A couple of hardcore, native grasses for drought include Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis) or Side Oats Grama (Bouteloua curtipendula). Side Oats Grama is an interesting plant; its coppery-red seed heads hang from the stems in the summer and fall. Both of these native grasses also mix well with the other plants on this list.