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Sun-loving plants

Putting the right plant in the right site is vitally important for hot and dry areas. In this article, Rebecca Hughes from Blue Mountain Nurseries shares advice to help you plan the perfect patch for your clients 

There are so many factors involved in successfully establishing a plant: how and when it was planted, wind, sun, fertiliser, root system, soil type and condition, and water supply. Plants are expensive and, unfortunately, failure to thrive can discredit a planting plan and the business that created or installed it. 

The planting mantra is 'right plant for the right site'. 

Tricky areas – but not impossible 

Hot and dry sites, or areas with water restrictions, would count as one of the bigger challenges to plant – but, with a bit of forethought and research, there are many options for a dry, sunny  situation.   

Consider a plant’s origin. Was it from a hot and dry location? If the answer is yes, the chances are it will be suitable for similar conditions here, such as the proteas from South Africa, pohutakawa from coastal New Zealand, olives from the Mediterranean etc. Our natives are a good option too!  

Plants will often have adaptations to cope with hot and dry conditions. Many have silvery or furry leaves; eg, Lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantine). This helps the plant retain moisture either by reflecting sunlight or by minimising water loss by reducing air flow and creating a humid microclimate, which reduces evaporation.  

Other plants have fleshy leaves for storing water, such as sedum, or ice plants or waxy or tiny leaves to conserve water loss, such as Griselinia or Muehlenbeckia. Some have roots that grow deep into the soil to reach precious moisture.  

With knowledge of the site, consider placing plants with similar water needs together (hydro-zoning) or consider drought-tolerant landscaping or xeriscaping. Xeriscaping is the process of water-conserving landscaping that reduces water consumption, or even eliminates the need for irrigation, using drought-tolerant plants and landscape materials.  

All plants will need some water until established. To conserve water, use a thick layer of mulch to keep moisture in and weeds out. Mulch should be at least 6cm thick and applied twice a year.  

Consider the below plants for your next job in a hot and dry climate. 

These are Blue Mountain Nursery’s top 10 picks for planting in hot and dry climates!

Lavandula angustifolia Blue Mountain Blue flowers during summer. Well-drained soil, full sun. Used for hedging, potpourri, lavender bags, cut flowers, dried decorations and lavender oil. Ht: 50cm 

Phlomis fruticosa Jerusalem Sage. A small grey foliaged shrub for a hot sunny position. In summer the heads of yellow flowers are produced. Ht: 50cm. Evergreen. 

Euphorbia cyparissias A perennial with upright stems to 40cm tall, bearing very narrow blue-green leaves and greenish-yellow flowers in late spring and early summer, often becoming orange with age. Ht: 40cm 

Astelia chathamica  Silver green leaves with a metallic sheen. Spring flowers of white and followed by orange berries on female plants. Ht: 1m. 

Ilex crenata Mariesii Tom Thumb A dwarf hardy Holly for the rock garden and a sunny spot. Female. 

Ht: 50cm. Evergreen. 

Rubus pentalobus Hardy ground cover for hot, well-drained sites. Rough, round leaves, dark green above and paler beneath. Leaves turn purple-red in cooler temperatures. Small pale pink/white flowers in spring, occasionally followed by orange raspberry-like summer fruit

Griselinia littoralis Kapuka or NZ broadleaf. Shiny attractive foliage. Prefers well-drained soil in full sun. Very hardy. Can tolerate frost, wind and coastal sites. Can be pruned to maintain a short shrub or hedge habit. Ht: 2.5m. Evergreen. 

Agapanthus Blue Mountain Dense heads of deep blue flowers in February. Ideal cut flower and garden decoration. Sunny site. Ht:75cm. Deciduous. PVR No 1283. Blue Mountain Nurseries release. 

Grevillea Mt Tamboritha  Prefers full sun with well-draining soil. Tolerates poor soil and dry conditions once established. Soft grey-green foliage. Red flowers in winter and spring. Flat spreading bush and almost hardy ground cover. Ht: 50cm. Evergreen. Mountain Nurseries release. 

Sophora chathamica Milligold Small, compact, pendulous tree of deep green foliage. Yellow spring flowers attractive to birds. Flowers as a young tree for a sunny spot. Evergreen. 

Rebecca Hughes is a horticulturalist from Blue Mountain Nurseries, which is based in Tapanui, West Otago, and known for its rare and unusual plants. 

Today the nursery has 10 hectares in production and produces over 4,000 varieties of plants for national distribution to other nurseries, parks, landscapers, garden centres and gardeners throughout New Zealand. The nursery specialises in the propagation and growing on of hardy trees and shrubs, rhododendrons, azaleas, conifers, climbers, natives, perennials and pleione orchids. Visit for more information


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