Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Xeriscaping: Drought-tolerant plants add color to Tampa Bay yards

We're in the middle of a dry season during a three-year drought. Could it get any worse? The colorful water-guzzling plants being sold in stores seem to taunt, and thirsty St. Augustine grass dries up without weekly irrigation. What's a green thumb to do? Cue drought-resistant plants. No, we're not talking cacti. This isn't Arizona. You can have a lush, colorful lawn in Florida with just rainwater, says Riverview Flower Farm co-owner Rick Brown. And he's talking about the current rate of rain — not much. You can choose your price tag and commitment level. If some of your plants have died, replace them with hardy Mexican petunias or red star cordyline. Or go all the way and rip out your irrigation-dependent grass to save water and lower your monthly bill. Ground covers like beach sunflower or ornamental sweet potato will keep your yard looking good. Brown's farm, which sells to Home Depot, grows about a dozen varieties of plants that don't need much water, and many can handle Florida's full sun. He has started providing more because the watering restrictions have made them popular. "It's what people want right now," he said.

Senecio "blue chalk fingers"

This succulent has exotic-looking blue-green leaves. It's also heat-tolerant.

Purple queen

Rainwater is sufficient for this plant, and it spreads, so plant them 18 to 36 inches apart.

Lantana "gold mound"

This popular plant attracts butterflies and can take the full sun.

Mexican petunia, purple showers

It's salt-tolerant, so it's good for the coast. Rainwater is sufficient, but weekly hand watering will increase blooms. Thrives in the sun or partial shade.

Beach sunflower

This ground cover can survive on only rainwater, and it attracts butterflies. Plant them about 3 feet apart and they'll cover the ground quickly. It's salt-tolerant and can take the full sun.

Verbena cultivar, "little one"

It attracts butterflies and grows to be about 2 feet tall, so it's a good option to change the topography of your flower bed.

How much will this cost?

Replacing a 9- by 9-foot plot of grass will cost about $12.97, if you choose Home Depot's beach sunflowers, perennial peanuts, ornamental sweet potatoes or purslane, which come in sets of nine small plants. Place each about 3 feet apart. If you can't wait long for full cover, plant them closer in a smaller space or buy more.

These also resist drought

Ground covers: ornamental sweet potato, purslane, perennial peanut and Livingstone daisy "Mezoo trailing red."

Attracts butterflies: pentas

Makes nice arrangements: diamond frost.

Adds height to flower beds: red star cordyline and variegated flax lily.

More resources

For more information on gardening in Florida:


• www.florida


Xeriscaping: Drought-tolerant plants add color to Tampa Bay yards 05/03/09 [Last modified: Monday, May 11, 2009 5:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Spain planning to strip Catalonia of its autonomy


    BARCELONA, Spain — The escalating confrontation over Catalonia's independence drive took its most serious turn Saturday as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain announced he would remove the leadership of the restive region and initiate a process of direct rule by the central government in Madrid.

    Demonstrators in Barcelona protest the decision to take control of Catalonia to derail the independence movement.
  2. Funeral held for U.S. soldier at center of Trump fight


    COOPER CITY — Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

    The casket of Sgt. La David T. Johnson of Miami Gardens, who was killed in an ambush in Niger. is wheeled out after a viewing at the Christ The Rock Church, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017  in Cooper City, Fla. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP) FLMIH102
  3. Chemical industry insider now shapes EPA policy


    WASHINGTON — For years, the Environmental Protection Agency has struggled to prevent an ingredient once used in stain-resistant carpets and nonstick pans from contaminating drinking water.

    This is the Dow chemical plant near Freeport, Texas. Before the 2016 election, Dow had been in talks with the EPA to phase out the pesticide chlorpyrifos, which is blamed for disabilities in children. Dow is no longer willing to compromise.
  4. Unforgiving wildfires affect vineyard workers and owners


    SONOMA, Calif. — When the wildfires ignited, vineyard workers stopped picking grapes and fled for their lives. Some vineyard owners decided to stay and fight back, spending days digging firebreaks and sleeping among their vines.

    Wilma Illanes and daughter Gabriela Cervantes, 8, found their home intact, but had lost a week’s wages and sought aid.
  5. O'Reilly got new contract after big settlement


    Last January, six months after Fox News ousted its chairman amid a sexual harassment scandal, the network's top-rated host at the time, Bill O'Reilly, struck a $32 million agreement with a longtime network analyst to settle new sexual harassment allegations, two people briefed on the matter told the New York …

    Bill O’Reilly was fired by Fox News after multiple allegations.