Drought to Deluge Problems | Daphne Richards |Central Texas Gardener


With so many people trying to be good citizens
and adjust their gardening habits to conserve water, we often get asked about why drought-tolerant
plants die in periods of heavy, lengthy rainfall, especially when combined with cold temperatures. Not that it isn’t obvious. You understand that drought-tolerant plants
prefer to be on the dry side, and that when we get more rain than they prefer, they are
going to react negatively. No, the questions that we get are more curious
about the specifics of plant growth and development, and about how to handle the issue in the face
of climate change. I would say that if you’ve lost a specific
drought tolerant species of plant, replant with something different, and in general,
try to avoid non-native succulent species unless you have the capacity to completely
change the soil and topography of your landscape to recreate their native region as a microclimate
in your own yard. Look to plants that are native to your area
and reach out to your local county extension service. Here in Travis County, we maintain a demonstration
garden with the specific purpose of trying out different plants so that we can answer
your questions based on our own experience when you start to have issues with those plants. On a similar topic, what causes perennials,
herbs, and bulbs to rot, and is humidity a factor? These plants often spend winter entirely underground,
so if we have an extra wet winter and the soil has a lot of clay or for some other reason
holds too much water, they will rot. Also, yes, if we have periods of high humidity,
these plants may crater and die, seemingly overnight. Fungal and other pathogens, whose spores are
always at the ready, lie dormant until the environment is conducive for their growth. And on the flip side, why do we lose plants
in extended hot, dry conditions? This question allows me to dig back into my
memory of Dr. Murray Milford’s introductory soil science class at Texas A&M, where I learned
the term “permanent wilting point,” which is the point at which the soil is so dry that
a plant will wilt and not be able to recover. As you might guess, this amount of soil moisture
is different for every plant. I could wax nostalgic all day about soil,
but instead, I’ll just say that I also lose plants in my garden for all kinds of reasons. Most recently, in our demonstration garden,
we had to say goodbye to some lovely lavender that cratered after an extended period of
cold, wet, and cloudy late winter days. We’d love to hear from you! Visit centraltexasgardener.org to send us
your questions, pictures and video.

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