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Heat and drought boost interest in less water-intensive plants

Gravel walkway with shrubs on either side.
Rachel Cohen
/
Boise State Public Radio
The Orton Botanical Garden in Twin Falls features plants that thrive in the high-desert climate.

With temperatures in Idaho pushing record-highs this month and drought persisting, some Idaho plant nurseries say they’re seeing more interest from people looking to cut back on watering.

Diane Jones owns Draggin’ Wing High Desert Nursery in Boise, which specializes in “water-thrifty” and native perennials, shrubs and grasses.

“A lot of people are wanting to get rid of their lawns and replace them with less-thirsty landscapes,” she said.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Idaho had the highest domestic water use in the country in 2015.

Jones said fall is a good time to start the drought-tolerant transition, whether it means removing grass or beginning to plant.

“The plants are going into dormancy, we’re going into cool weather,” she said. “So when you plant the plants right now, they have all fall and winter just to get their roots in the ground.”

If you’re just starting out with native plants, Jones suggests checking out a demonstration garden. Draggin’ Wing has some displays, including a section of plants that thrive in the high desert climate of hot, dry summers and cold winters.

Orton Botanical Garden is another demonstration in Twin Falls.

“We have over 400 different species or varieties of plants in the garden,” said LaMar Orton, the owner.

All the plants thrive in the Great Basin Desert which extends into south-central Idaho and gets about 10 inches of rain a year.

“I personally really like the yuccas and the cacti,” Orton said.

Depending on the heat, he might only water this garden six times a summer.

Orton Botanical Garden is also a “firewise” garden, meaning it showcases less flammable plants from succulents to perennials that, along with other landscaping adjustments, can help decrease fire risk to houses in the wildland urban interface.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2022 Boise State Public Radio

As the south-central Idaho reporter, I cover the Magic and Wood River valleys. I also enjoy writing about issues related to health and the environment.