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10 arid and semi-arid garden plants in Spain

Grow with success

Gardening, isn't that hard work and reliant on a regular water supply? A Spanish or Mediterranean garden doesn't have to require regular watering. Green fingers can still work their magic under the Spanish sun with these 10 sun loving plants.

Warm and pleasant Spain

We all love the warm rays of the Spanish sun, and a holiday here both invigorates and recharges the batteries, as much as safely topping up that longed-for golden tan. But gardening in Spain is another ball game entirely, and it can be quite frustrating trying to maintain an oasis of colour and scent when the sun is at its zenith. The summer months don't mean that you have to live in desert-like conditions though, there are plants that will thrive on very little water, and they're perfect for gardening with satisfaction in Spain.

Take a hike

Just a ramble through the countryside will show you that plants can survive anywhere, the mountains of Andalucia burst with colour and scent in spring, dormant shoots pushing through what looks like dry and barren earth, making a Spanish-style family hike a very pleasant alternative from the beach.

Green fingers

So, whether you have a patch of land to call your own, a few acres or even hectares of terra firma, or even just an unloved balcony or terrace, let's explore the horticultual world and discover what are the best planting options - looking at 10 arid and semi arid loving plants suitable for Spain.

Rules and regulations

There're a few fast rules, which are easy to remember and abide by:

Look at the leaves. Choose ones that feel like felt, are furry, waxy or silvery in colour. The latter reflects light, the first ones mentioned are all tougher and less susceptible to damage by sunlight.

Plant according to what you've got, check out where the sunniest corner is on your patch, likewise the shadiest, and use these natural locations wisely.

Mulch. A layer of bark will protect he roots from the drying effects of the sun, keep in any water, and look pretty and neat into the bargain.

See what the neighbours are up to! Have a peek over the fence and see what grows best before you splash out your hard earned cash at the garden centre.

Some plants to look out for are as follows:

1. Succulents and Cacti.

Have a look at places that are hot all year round, the Canary Islands for example. Everywhere you'll encounter species of Cacti and Succulent thriving under the midday sun. They're practically impossible to kill off, and can be ignored completely for lenghty periods. They also survive cooler weather pretty well, but bear in mind some of the Cacti can be pretty vicious, so if you rent your place to families and children then maybe avoid some of the more prickly varieties. The same warning goes for poisonous plants, if in doubt just ask at your local garden centre. Some other succulents are Agave, Aloe, Echeveria, Euphorbia and Sedum.

2. Cycas

These are mostly stunning trees, can be grown in pots, and make great architectural features, they're the wow factor plants. They take a long time to grow, but you can pick them up in mature states very reasonably here in Spain. If you're here in Andalucia, I recommend the Viveros Reina on the Costa Tropical, close to Motril, for a huge and healthy selection of plants and friendly advice, I have used them professionally for almost 8 years with no complaints.

3. Hibiscus

It's just such a pretty plant, the tropical trumpeting flower in all shades, from palest pink to vibrant sunny yellow. Used in hedges, along motorways, to decorate pedestrian shopping streets and balconies and courtyards all over Spain, it's easy to look after and gives instant flowering results. It needs less regular watering if it's planted straight into the ground, rather than a pot.

4. Hypericum

Squat and bushy ornamental plants with showy flowers that just keep on flowering. Some species fall under the RHS society of Garden Merit, and they're a brilliant plant of you're thinking rockery with some nice beach-like pebbles and stones. They handle the heat well, as they're protective of themselves, owing to the squat and dense shape and structure.

5. Kalanchoe

Another type of succulent, with fat rubbery leaves and tiny clusters of showy flowers, plant them small in pots for your balcony, into a rockery or together in clumps for colour and low structure. The leaves will soak up and water and dole it out accordingly to the plant's needs. They're really inexpensive too - so you can go to town on a lot of them if you like without breaking the bank.

6. Lavender

The ultimate favourite for scent and colour, think of the Spanish sun on an evening courtyard with the heady scent of Lavender as you brush past the pretty flowering heads. Useful one to have too, it makes a delicate flavour for ice cream and an interesting note in a chocolate brownie! There are different types, Plant in dry, and well drained sandy soil, in full sun, and take advantage of this natural and wonderful scented plant. As will the busy bees, using the nectar to flavour their delicious Spanish honey.

7. Passiflora

A little passion! The Passion Flower will grow like a weed, ideally propped up against a wall that is sheltered from winds and any harsher weather. They're essentially vines - and we all know how well vines do in Spain! You might even get some of your own passion fruit for a Spanish 'desayuno' or breakfast.

8. Plumbago

Always sounds like backache to me! The flowery cacyx has tiny hairs which secrete a sticky substance which in turn traps ants and insects, preventing them demolishing the plant. It looks fragile enough, but planted in good, drained soil will last well, without the need for daily watering. It'll climb too, even though it's a shrub, adding colour to a blank wall and providing interest.

9. Osteopermum

A fancy name for a member of the Daisy family, a very pretty flower that is also quite clever. It closes up at night and stretches back out to greet the morning sun, protecting itself from night colds and chills. The purple varieties are a firm favourite, and the sheer perfection of this circular flower makes it a popular one for pots and borders, although as before, more watering is needed for the potted varieties.

10. Yucca

A collection of 50 tree shaped shrubs, spiky and tough, elongated sword shaped leaves, and rewarding you in Spain with clumps of white flowers. A good sharp anti burglar plant too, place them below windows for added protection - ouch! Great form and design, they'll suit an architecturally pleasing garden - but may not be so child friendly. They grow brilliantly well anywhere in the warmer regions of Spain - expecially the Canary Islands.

Just a green fingered taster of some of the suitable arid and semi arid plants and shrubs for your Spanish garden - happy planting!

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