Gardening Guide: Nurturing Plants During Droughts and Deluges – From Sunny to Shady Lovers, Perennials to Annuals

With weather patterns becoming more unpredictable in recent years, our plants can face periods of intense heat and drought, suddenly followed by heavy rain and thunderstorms. This fluctuation can be hard on our leafy companions, especially when they’re not adapted to such extreme conditions. This comprehensive gardening guide will shed light on how to nurture your plants during both droughts and heavy rain, focusing on flowers and plants that prefer shade or sun, and discussing the needs of perennials and annuals. We’ll also delve into the world of soil conditions to ensure that your garden thrives come rain or shine.  If you need any assistance with your Howard County landscaping, let us know.  Learn more about our Landscaping Maintenance.

Understanding Your Plant’s Preferences: From Sunny to Shady Lovers

Before delving into drought and rain care, it’s crucial to identify whether your plants are sun-lovers or shade-dwellers. A common mistake many gardeners make is not catering to these natural preferences, which can have a detrimental impact on plant health and growth.

Sunny Lovers

Full-sun plants such as roses, lavender, marigolds, and zinnias thrive in at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. During intense heatwaves and droughts, however, even these sun lovers can become stressed. You can recognize the signs of drought stress when leaves turn brown at the edges, wilt, or fall off.

During drought conditions, water your sun-loving plants early in the morning or late in the evening to prevent water loss due to evaporation. Implementing a thick layer of organic mulch around the base of these plants will also help retain moisture and keep the roots cool.

Conversely, sudden heavy rain can waterlog the soil, leading to root rot. If you live in an area prone to heavy rain, consider improving your garden’s drainage by adding organic matter to your soil or planting in raised beds.

Shady Lovers

Shade-loving plants, such as impatiens, begonias, and ferns, need protection from the harsh midday sun. They tend to be more sensitive to drought conditions due to their natural predilection for moist, cooler environments. Regular watering is essential, especially during dry spells, but do not overwater, as this can also harm the plants.

During periods of heavy rain, most shade-loving plants are generally well-adapted to handle the extra moisture. However, if the rain is excessive, ensure proper drainage to avoid waterlogged soil.

The Annual and Perennial Question

When considering plant care during extreme weather conditions, it’s important to understand the difference between annuals and perennials.


Annual plants, such as petunias, marigolds, and zinnias, complete their life cycle in one growing season. They are more vulnerable to weather extremes since they have less time to recover from damage. During droughts, water these plants regularly but take care not to overwater during periods of heavy rainfall.


Perennial plants, including roses, daisies, and lavender, live for more than two years, going dormant in the winter and returning in the spring. They often have more robust root systems, allowing them to withstand droughts better than annuals. However, like all plants, they still need attention during extreme weather. During dry periods, deep watering will encourage their roots to grow further down into the soil, helping them access water during future droughts.

Soil Conditions: The Foundation of a Healthy Garden

The ideal soil conditions can vary from plant to plant, but there are general characteristics of healthy soil to strive for.

Texture and Structure

Healthy soil should have good structure, which refers to the way soil particles combine to create larger particles or “aggregates.” The texture of your soil (the proportions of sand, silt, and clay) greatly influences its structure and, therefore, its ability to retain or drain water. Loam, a well-balanced mix of these three particles, is generally considered the best soil type for plant growth, as it retains moisture but drains well.

During periods of drought, sandy soils can struggle due to their fast drainage rate. To improve water retention, add organic matter like compost or well-rotted manure. On the other hand, in heavy rain, clay-heavy soils can become waterlogged. Improving drainage in these soils can be achieved by adding organic matter or coarse grit.

pH Levels

The pH level of your soil determines the availability of nutrients to your plants. Most plants prefer a slightly acidic to neutral pH range (6.0 to 7.0), but certain plants, like rhododendrons and camellias, prefer more acidic soil. During times of extreme weather, ensure your soil maintains a balanced pH, as drought or heavy rain can influence the soil’s acidity levels. Testing kits are readily available, and amendments like lime (to raise pH) or sulfur (to lower pH) can correct imbalances.

Nutrient Content

A fertile soil is high in nutrients necessary for plant growth. Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K) are the primary nutrients required by plants. Organic matter is an excellent source of these nutrients and helps improve the soil structure and water-holding capacity. Regularly testing your soil’s nutrient content can guide you in amending the soil to maintain optimum nutrient levels.

Wrapping Up

Proper plant care is an intricate dance that balances the specific needs of each plant, changes in weather, and soil conditions. While dealing with erratic weather can be a challenge, understanding how to care for your plants in these conditions can help you maintain a vibrant, healthy garden. Always remember to keep in mind your plants’ sunlight preferences, their annual or perennial nature, and the current state of your soil. By paying close attention to these details, your garden will be ready to weather any storm – or drought – that comes its way.