With thoughts toward the current drought, and potential water shortages in the future, it's good to think about what likes, or tolerates, hot dry conditions. Here are some choices that I use, which don't need water in the summer. My area has wet winters, with occasional freeze, so these also tolerate the opposite of dry during the winter. I'm in Zone 8, maritime Pacific Northwest.
I don't water these at all during the summer. They may need water during their first summer, to become established. The nurseries here still have some on close-out, not bad if you don't mind giving some extra care at first.
Sedum, a zillion varieties. Very easy to start from cuttings, get from a friend or neighbor.
Sempervivum (hens and chickens). very easy to start from offsets. ditto.
Lavender = highly scented, bees love it
Rosemary = highly scented leaves, great in barbecue marinade.
Monarda / Bee Balm = fragrant leaves, bees and humming birds love it.
Oregano = fragrant leaves.
Chives = dies down some in summer, but recovers. Great in scrambled eggs.
Garlic chives = bees love the flowers. We use them a lot in Chinese cooking.
Bearded Iris = OK to dry off in summer. I just divided mine and bought some more, so those are getting some TLC to establish before winter sets in.
Fruit trees seem to do well without summer water once established. That includes sweet cherries, apples, tart cherries, mulberries, pears, plums. I mulch them but only rarely water, mainly the figs while producing fruit.
Most vegetables need water throughout the summer. Garlic should be harvested by now (last month for me), and is planted in the fall, so is a good choice as well.
I have lots of fruit trees and grape vines. I have a great pomegranate crop this year.
Thanks so much for the post.
I am always glad to try additional things.
Didn't know that cherries could go without water. The county extension agent told me I didn't need to water mine as deeply as I had been, and it sounds like I've been watering mine too often as well (every 3 weeks).
I think the first couple of years watering is more important, but once the roots go deep, they don't need it so much. I haven't watered mine all summer, and they look none the worse for it. They are about 8 years old.
I am in the hot, hot south, sometimes really wet and sometimes really dry. I can get all of these to grow in some way or other but not Monarda at all. Any suggestions?
Interesting that Monarda isn't working for you. I keep mine mulched - I keep everything mulched, so maybe that's keeping it more moist? The mulch is whatever I have on hand, or get locally. Currently it's yard compost from a local recycle center, but I've used weeds, grass, straw, and yard choppings as well.
Somewhere I read that grape roots can go 50 feet deep, seeking water. Of course, they need to survive long enough to do that. It is believable, after seeing the tops grow 10 feet in a year. The tops get pruned back, of course, but not the roots.
I read somewhere that in Italy, irrigation of grapes is not allowed. That way they get the full character of the local soil. I don't know if it's true, but this vineyard is in agreement.
I just found about 20 Sempervivum plants (hens and chickens) in an area that was taken over by weed grass, near a tree trunk and with competing tree roots. They were dried out, pale and soft. No watering this year, and in full sun. I pulled them out, and noted they have long stems vs. tap root. I replanted them in a new spot where they can recover and flourish. I know where they came from, originally. The descended were from my parents' yard in Illinois, and my dad told me he got them from his parents' house. I have other batches of them - they reproduce nicely - but it's nice to have found some more.