Suggestions for Drought-tolerant Trees, Plants and Shrubs

What are some good drought-tolerant plants to put in my yard in Hedley, B.C.?

Hedley is in what botanists call the Dry Interior Zone – which I’m sure you already know! If you aren’t able to irrigate your new plantings, it would be best to plant in the fall so the plants have a chance to get established before having to face a summer. If you are able to water during summer dry spells, plant in spring. It would also help the plants to add some organic matter (compost, well-rotted manure, etc.) to the planting hole. This will help hold some moisture when it does rain. Also – and this is perhaps the most important – apply a 10-cm (4-in.) mulch of wood chips (not cedar) mixed with well-rotted manure over the entire planting area. This will reduce evaporation and keep the soil moister and cooler.

You can’t go wrong with some native trees and shrubs. I would start with ponderosa pine, Douglas fir and paper birch (Betula paperifera) as you have a large area to replant. Rocky Mountain juniper (Juniperus scopulorum) is also a tough plant. I recall seeing a stunning blue elderberry (Sambucus caerulea) near Keremeos one summer. That would do well in Hedley. Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) is a large shrub or small tree. For the shrubby layer, consider Saskatoon berry (Amelanchier alnifolia), tall Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium), Douglas maple (Acer glabrum), snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus), red-osier dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) and mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii). If you don’t already have it, C.P. Lyons’ old book Trees, Shrubs and Flowers to know in British Columbia is a handy little book on native plants. Plants of Southern Interior British Columbia published by Lone Pine is also excellent.

My B.C. wildflower-artist friend, Michael LeGeyt, suggests some native vines, such as western trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera ciliosa) and white clematis (Clematis ligusticifolia) to scramble along a split-rail fence, if you have one. And my rose-loving friend, Christine Allen, who has visited Hedley in the past, suggests some hardy shrub roses. Any of the Rosa rugosa hybrids are tough and handsome. Scotch brier roses run and form patches, and they have good fall colour and interesting hips. In fact, Christine remembers seeing a beautiful semi-double, buff-pink Scotch briar rose growing in Hedley. Maybe you can track it down and ask for some cuttings! Ornamental grasses would also be a delight.

Check out the website for Bluestem Nursery (, in Christina Lake, B.C., for more ideas.