Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - August 28, 2011

From: Dennis, MA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Drought Tolerant, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Drought tolerant plants for MA
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

We have some very very poor soil at our house on Cape Cod and are looking for plants that will take low water and sandy soil. Also we are high on a hill and quite exposed to the elements. The plot gets about 70-80% sun and is front of the side of the house that faces south. I know many people think of Rosa rugosa as native but we'd like to avoid using it as it considered invasive in some New England States.

ANSWER:

You are right that Rosa rugosa is not a North American native, but is native to Asia.  It is widely used in your part of the country as in its native habitat it grows near the coast often in sand dunes and is salt tolerant.

There are some other roses native to your area that would be suitable

Rosa acicularis (Prickly rose)

Rosa carolina (Carolina rose)

Rosa setigera (Climbing prairie rose)

as well as other shrubs, grasses and perennials.  Grasses are particularly well suited to conditions like yours as they have fibrous root systems. You can search our Native Plant Database to find these plants by doing a Combination Search for Massachusetts and selecting your conditions (sunny and dry).  You can generate lists of each plant type you are interested in that have links to more detailed information for each plant.

Some of the plants we think would be suitable are:

Ceanothus herbaceus (Redroot)

Physocarpus opulifolius (Atlantic ninebark)

Rhus aromatica (Fragrant sumac)

Ammophila breviligulata (American beach grass) (although this may be too aggressive to be a good choice)

Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass)

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

Sporobolus heterolepis (Prairie dropseed)

Although you will ultimately be limited by what is available in your nurseries there are also many perennials to choose from.  Read the descriptions (especially growing conditions requirements) and only try the ones that are adaptable to many soil types. Also take your cues from nature and have a look at what is doing well in other gardens in your area.

 

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Prickly rose
Rosa acicularis

Carolina rose
Rosa carolina

Climbing prairie rose
Rosa setigera

Prairie redroot
Ceanothus herbaceus

Atlantic ninebark
Physocarpus opulifolius

Fragrant sumac
Rhus aromatica

American beach grass
Ammophila breviligulata

Switchgrass
Panicum virgatum

Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

Indiangrass
Sorghastrum nutans

Prairie dropseed
Sporobolus heterolepis

More Drought Tolerant Questions

Non-native lambs ears wilting in heat from Fredericksburg TX
October 19, 2011 - 3 days ago I had professional landscaping done in an area with plants that tolerate heat & sun well. We planted 7 healthy, large lambs ear & mulched. Everything planted is doing well except the lambs ...
view the full question and answer

Water-wise plants for clay soil in southern California
September 26, 2013 - My yard is clay. I'm removing turf to put in water-wise plants and bushes. I need some low growing bushes and medium height bushes that will grow in clay and that will stay green in the summer. Hopef...
view the full question and answer

Finding a manzanita species suitable for Fort Worth, TX
April 28, 2015 - Which manzanita shrub would thrive best in the Fort Worth, Tx. area? I was thinking of planting it in a large pot. Thank You!
view the full question and answer

protecting native trees during drought
June 07, 2011 - We are very concerned about our mature live oaks and cedar elms because they are so stressed due to the drought. We have lost several of our mountain juniper and I really don't want to lose our more...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for a bank in PA
April 28, 2012 - I live in Landisburg, PA, (zone 6). I need to find some ground cover for a primarily full sun bank that is roughly 10-12' down over the embankment and up to 100' long. This area wraps around our po...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.