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Chesapeake Native Plant Gardens: September

Parched and thirsty with a few thrivers.

An early dry spell this summer combined with heat is making things toasty out there. Gardens receiving supplemental water are getting by just fine. Gardens like ours where only newly planted plants get supplemental water are very dry in September and dryer this September than most. Most native plants will withstand drought but can look pretty terrible in the process. This is really the time to take a look around to figure out which plants can withstand the dryness and heat.


Structure is often a focus of advice about how to make a garden look good in winter. Structure can also carry an arid garden. Plants that have shape even when dried or drooping can make a difference.

Even though leaves on blue hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) in September are drooping and the flower spikes are crisping, the structure of the plant is still helping to define the garden path. Likewise, flower spikes on the cultivar heuchera 'Autumn Bride' (Heuchera villosa 'Autumn Bride'), even though duller and drier, are helping to define the garden beds.

Individual plants can also help in late summer by adding their own individual structure. Even dried flower heads on stoke's aster (Stokesia laevis) add structure. Bonset (Eupatorium hyssopifolium), a late blooming perennial that grows 3 to 4 feet high, is not thwarted in the least by dry conditions. The small white flowers and blue tinged foliage look fresh even now. Dwarf crested iris (Iris cristata), even with fading edges, adds a different type of structure.

Yellow Flower Power

The lawn may be brown and many perennials have lost color. This is when cheerful yellow perennials like black eyed susan, goldenrod and oxeye sunflowers (Heliopsis helianthoides) carry the day. All are drought tolerant and grow in sun and part sun.


To be sure, lots of perennials, shrubs and trees are very, very dry. It's the time of year combined with lack of rain. In years like this, it would not be unusual to lose a plant or two without supplemental watering.

The Thrivers

These plants have not missed a beat as they roll into September. To prove that all gardening is local, silver sedge (Carex platyphylla) which typically likes moist rich soils, is thriving in our garden in drier clay soils. Can't explain it! What is working for you right now?

Rain will eventually arrive and give a boost to all the fall colors to come. The yellow flowers are just a hint of what is to come!

Happy Gardening.


We want you to be as excited about planting Chesapeake natives as we are. “Plant This or That” gives you a native alternative to popular plants. Other posts highlight really fabulous fauna native to the Chesapeake.

Nuts for Natives, avid gardener, Baltimore City admirer, Chesapeake Bay Watershed restoration enthusiast, and public service fan.

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