Tips for Growing Drought Tolerant Plants

If you are like many people across the country this year, your area may be experiencing drought. While extreme drought tends to end the gardening season due to severe watering restrictions, it’s possible to keep your garden going in areas that are experiencing mild drought by growing plants that can adapt to drier soils.

Even if your garden receives ample rainfall or irrigation, it’s still a good idea to plant at least a few things that won’t need consistent watering to thrive. They will help to lessen the pressure on your city or well water system, plus they are far less worry if you don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to garden maintenance. You can leave for vacation and know that your plants will survive in your absence. 

We’ll recommend 30 of our best drought tolerant plants below, but before we do, let’s take a look at three myths surrounding this issue.

3 Myths and Facts About Drought Tolerant Plants

MYTH #1: Drought tolerant plants don’t need water.

FACT: All plants need some water. Even cacti require water. The most critical time to water drought tolerant plants is the first few months after planting them. This is when their roots are getting established and diving deeper into the ground where moisture is more plentiful. When you water, soak the soil around the plants thoroughly and then let it dry down a bit before watering again. Once they are fully rooted, drought tolerant plants will only need to be watered every couple of weeks depending on their level of drought resistance and supplemental rainfall.

MYTH #2: All drought tolerant plants need the same amount of water.

FACT: Each type of plant is different; some can survive with less moisture than others. For instance, succulent plants that store water in their leaves will be able to last longer between waterings than plants with thin leaves. Those that have fuzzy, silver, or waxy leaves also tend to be able to tolerate longer periods without water. If your drought tolerant plant wilts or its leaves start to shrivel, you’ll know it must be very dry and it should be watered immediately.

MYTH #3: Native plants are more drought tolerant than non-native plants.

FACT: Where in the world a plant originates does not determine its level of drought tolerance. Native plants like goldenrod which grows naturally in dry, open fields would be much more drought tolerant than our native cardinal flower which is found in swampy areas and growing along streams. If your goal is to plant a drought tolerant garden, select plants that can handle drier soils, regardless of their native origin. 

Recommended Drought Tolerant Perennials

Hyssop (Agastache)

Perennial with good drought tolerance in full sun, zone varies by type, deer resistant, attracts pollinators.

Yarrow (Achillea)

Perennial with good drought tolerance in full sun, zones 3-8, deer and rabbit resistant, attracts pollinators.

Milkweed (Asclepias)

Select native species have good drought tolerance in full sun, zone varies by species, deer resistant, host plant for monarch butterflies and attractive to many pollinators.

False Indigo (Baptisia)

Native perennial with strong drought tolerance due to its deep tap root, zones 4-9, deer resistant, attracts pollinators.

Tickseed (Coreopsis)

Native perennial with good drought tolerance in full sun, zone varies by type, deer resistant, attracts pollinators.

Ice Plant (Delosperma)

Evergreen groundcover with strong drought tolerance in full sun, zone varies by variety, deer resistant.

Blanket Flower (Gaillardia)

Native perennial with strong drought tolerance in full sun, zone varies by species, deer resistant, attracts pollinators.

Baby’s Breath (Gypsophila)

Perennial with good drought tolerance in full sun, zones 3-9, deer resistant, attracts pollinators.

Lenten Rose (Helleborus)

Evergreen perennial with good drought tolerance in part shade to full shade, zones 4-9, deer and rabbit resistant, attracts pollinators.

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Red Hot Poker (Kniphofia)

Perennial with good drought tolerance in full sun, zones 5-9, deer and rabbit resistant, attracts pollinators.

Lavender (Lavandula)

Perennial with strong drought tolerance in full sun, zones 5-9, deer and rabbit resistant, attracts pollinators.

 

Beardtongue (Penstemon)

Native perennial with good drought tolerance in full sun, zone varies by type, deer resistant, attracts pollinators.

Stonecrop (Sedum)

Perennial with strong drought tolerance in full sun, zone varies by species, rabbit resistant, attracts pollinators.

Goldenrod (Solidago)

Select native species have good drought tolerance in full sun to part shade depending on species, zone varies by species, rabbit resistant, attracts pollinators.

Hen and Chicks (Sempervivum)

Perennial with strong drought tolerance in full sun to part shade, zone 3-8, deer and rabbit resistant.

Creeping Thyme (Thymus)

Perennial with good drought tolerance in full sun, zones 3-9, deer resistant, attracts pollinators.

Russian Sage (Perovskia)

Perennial with strong drought tolerance in full sun, zones 4-9, deer resistant, attracts pollinators.

Recommended Drought Tolerant Shrubs

Chokeberry (Aronia)

Native shrub with good drought tolerance in full sun to part shade, zones 3-9, deer resistant, attracts songbirds.

Bluebeard (Caryopteris)

Shrub with good drought tolerance in full sun, zone varies by type, deer resistant, attracts pollinators.

Quince (Chaenomeles)

Shrub with strong drought tolerance in full sun to part shade, zones 5-8, deer resistant, attracts butterflies.

Mirror Bush (Coprosma)

Tropical evergreen shrub with good drought tolerance in full sun, zones 9-11, deer resistant.

Bush Honeysuckle (Diervilla)

Native shrub with good drought tolerance in full sun to part shade, zones 4-7, deer resistant, attracts pollinators.

Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus)

Shrub with good drought tolerance in full sun, zones 4-8. 

Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei)

Evergreen shrub with good drought tolerance in full sun to part shade, zones 5-8.

Panicle Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata)

Shrub with some drought tolerance (more than other hydrangea species) in full sun to part shade, zones 3-8, attracts pollinators.

Juniper (Juniperus)

Evergreen shrub with strong drought tolerance in full sun, zone varies by species, deer resistant.

Oleander (Nerium)

Tropical shrub with good drought tolerance in full sun, zones 8-11, deer and rabbit resistant, attracts pollinators.

Buckthorn (Rhamnus)

Native shrub with good drought tolerance in full sun to part shade, zones 2-7, deer resistant.

Lilac (Syringa)

Shrub with good drought tolerance in full sun, zone varies by species, deer resistant, attracts pollinators.

Smokebush (Cotinus)

Shrub with good drought tolerance in full sun, zone varies by variety, deer resistant.

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