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You Can Grow It: Planting drought-tolerant flowers for Earth Day

The North End Organic Nursery showcases flower options to save water in your home landscapes ahead of Earth Day on Friday.

BOISE, Idaho — With Idaho facing low-water issues, one way to celebrate Earth Day on Friday is by finding ways to save water in your home landscapes. 

Recent rain and snow throughout southern Idaho has benefited the summer outlook, but it is not enough to end the Gem State's ongoing drought. 

With home gardeners concerned over sacrificing their pretty plants and flowers by using less water, the North End Organic Nursery (NEON) is providing recommendations of flowers Idahoans can plant that use less water. 

Jared Arp, an assistant yard manager at NEON, said one of his favorite options is sphaeralcea munroana, commonly known as Munro's globemallow.

"There are a few different varieties of globemallow. It's incredibly drought tolerant," Arp said. "It blooms for a lot of the season, stays relatively small, and low maintenance."

One variety of globemallow is the Rocky Mountain columbine. Arp said the columbine is excellent for Idahoans with big trees, shade in their yard or when the flower is planted on the north side of a home. 

The Rocky Mountain columbine grows to around a foot or a foot and a half in height, not including the flowers it will send out. Arp said the globemallow is "drought tolerant" and "really thrives in getting dappled sun or part shade and sun."

Not only is the columbine an excellent option for boosting your home garden with little water use, but the columbine is also native to the area and can be found in local mountains. 

Another option for your garden that benefits Idaho's water supply is the sword fern. Similar to the Rocky Mountain columbine, Arp said the sword fern is incredibly drought tolerant and thrives on the north side of a home with little sun exposure. 

Once the fern is established, it needs little water and adds a green background and contrast to plants in your yard. Arp recommends placing the sword fern under a canopy if your yard has little shaded area. 

RELATED: You Can Grow It: Spring bloomers that don't mind cool weather

If you are searching for more of a mass of flowers, consider adding a gaillardia -- or blanket flower -- to your garden. 

"Incredibly drought tolerant again, but long blooming. It's one of the first things that starts blooming in my yard and will continue to bloom into the fall," Arp said. "Excellent cut flowers. One of my favorites for cutting."

An option more native to the southwest is the firecracker penstemon, although many penstemons are native to this area. Arp said the firecracker penstemon does well in Idaho and has low-water needs. 

The firecracker penstemon is incredibly drought tolerant and attracts a large population of hummingbirds. 

While these plants are drought tolerant, they do need a sufficient amount of water to get established once they are put into the ground. 

"Once they get through that first season, you'll really see the potential of the amount of water that they really don't need," Arp said. 

Another simple way to conserve water is by setting your automatic sprinklers to water less often, but for a few more minutes on each cycle. 

Less frequent and deeper water not only saves water resources in the long run, but it also encourages grass to grow in deeper roots. Your grass will be healthier with another hot Idaho summer ahead.

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