Plants conserve water by using important internal processes which play a huge part in releasing water vapour into the atmosphere. Many plants also have structural adaptations which allow them to survive throughout dry days.
Plants help conserve water as they absorb it through their roots and conserve it in their interior water storage cells until it is needed. This means that after it rains, more water is maintained in your garden instead of washing away. Plants also provide shade which slows down evaporation of water in your garden.
So while you might initially think that more plants equals more watering. This is not the case. The more plants you have in your garden, the better the ecosystem works together harmoniously to make the most of the natural resources such as water. In this article we take you through how plants help conserve water, and give you tips that you can start using straight away in your garden!
HoW Do Plants Help Conserve Water?
To understand how planting trees can help save water you need to learn a little about your gardens ecosystem, and how it is naturally designed to survive. While plants need water to survive, this does not automatically mean you need to put more water on them. In fact a single plant alone, or a skimpy garden, will have more trouble surviving as it is working on its own. Just remember, plants like to work in teams! This is what an ecosystem is all about!
Plants Store RAIN Water in Your Garden Instead of Letting It Wash Away
Plants play a critical role in the water cycle. This is the process which occurs when water circulates between the earth’s bodies of water, atmosphere, and land. The cycle has four main steps which are evaporation, condensation, precipitation, and collection.
Once it rains the water has to go somewhere. Now if you don’t have any plants in your garden, chances are a lot of the rain is going to wash away. It might end up in rivers, the sea or creeks. But this doesn’t store the water as well as a good planted ecosystem.
Plants store water in sacs which are called vacuoles. They either use the water, or gradually let it evaporate into the atmosphere from their leaves, stems, or flowers. You might think this is a waste, but it is a very important process. It ensures that even when it is not raining, water is being released gradually, ensuring that the climate is not too dry for plant life. Basically, you can thank the humble plant for keeping our own environment humid enough, and preventing desertification
The process of releasing water vapour in the air is called ‘transpiration’. Only a small amount of water is needed for a plant’s growth and metabolism. The remaining 97-99% is lost by Transpiration. Without planted landscapes, the amount of water vapour being released into the air would be significantly minimised.
How do plants reduce water loss?
Despite a plant’s need for water, they do have some structural adaptations to avoid total dehydration and the impact of drought. This means that many plants often don’t need as much water as we sometimes think they do. Given their internal mechanisms and adaptation abilities, plants are a true necessity in water conservation and play a vital part the earth’s water cycle.
Plants reduce water loss by using several mechanisms. This includes closing their stomata, acquiring leaf hairs to increase their frontier layer, or developing thick cuticles. Their stomata can quickly adapt to environmental changes in order prevent major water loss.
Many plants live in environments which have a short supply of water. For example, in dry areas, deserted land or even in a setting where the water is frozen. This means that these plants must conserve the water since it is not easily accessible.
Some plants such as cacti have needle-like leaves which can cut down the surface area, this then results in less water being needed. Other plants such as evergreens have a thick waxy layer which causes a decrease of water loss through its leaves.
The plants which have leaf hairs can use these by trapping nearby air. This creates a ‘microclimate’ which causes humidity around the leaf. The hair-like fibres then prevent the air from blowing away and the humidity slows down the rate of transpiration. This ultimately results in the leaf being able to conserve the water.
Plants Produce Shade which Reduces Evaporation from your Garden
Plants provide shade in the hot summer days. This has a cooling effect on the soil and plants underneath it and helps to conserve its moisture. With a combination of strong rays, high climates and little or no shading, the soil would quickly dry out, causing a loss of water. Just think about a rainforest, and how in that ecosystem you have all the layers of plants. There are the tall plants at the top that prevent the strong sun rays, and the shorter plants at the bottom that provide a cover for the forest floor. They provide a lovely humid ecosystem which retains water extremely effectively.
Think of your garden like a mini rain forest. What layers can you introduce to help your plants work harmoniously together? Layered gardens are more interesting visually, save water and also provide a great environment for helpful insects and bugs. Not only that, you will have less of a problem with weeds coming through once established, as ground covers are great for blocking out weeds.
Save water by choosing drought tolerant plants
Drought tolerant plants are usually native to hot and dry climates such as the Mediterranean and Australia. Although they can also survive in other climates, they have generally evolved to flourish in a dry environment with very little rainfall. They are known to be useful for those who manage low-maintenance landscapes such as gravel gardens.
In addition to conserving water, drought tolerant plants also tend to be pest-resistant and more disease free. This means that they require even less maintenance time that may be spent on fertilization.
Choose Drought tolerant plants to conserve water in your garden!
The first thing you should do is look for plants that are native to your area. This is because plants that are native, are most suited to the specific conditions where you live. It is also a great idea to consider natives first, as they are also the type of plants that many of your native insects and animals rely on to survive. We want to nurture our environment as it is, as it has developed that way for a reason.
In Australia, common natives are Grevillias, Myoporum, Callistemon (Bottlebrushes), Dianella Grass Plants, Banksia Trees and Gum Trees
Here are some of the best drought tolerant plants on a more world wide perspecitve. grow in general:
Palms: These plants are said to be a “staple addition to tropical-style gardens”. Once grown, palms can survive long periods without rainfall and will continue to look pretty in your garden.
Cape daisy: Rich in pollen, this plant comes in a range of beautiful summer colours. This is what makes them very tolerant to drought. These plants can flower from February until Autumn, proving its ability to adapt to different climates. Not only are they a great plant for water conservation, but they are also known to attract bees.
Watsonias: This plant has tall, peach toned flowers and sharp leave. This results in a small amount of needed water. They usually flower in mid-summer and can survive throughout the hottest and driest days.
Jerusalem sage: Native to the Mediterranean climate, this pastel yellow flower is extremely tolerant to dry spells. Although it does need particularly well-draining soil.
Sea holly: Due to its unique spikey leaves, the sea holly plant requires very little water and still looks intriguingly beautiful throughout the summer months.