Best Drought-Resistant Plants for Your Garden

What should you plant in your garden in case we have a very dry spring, summer and fall? How can you beautify your landscape if you can’t water it?

The key is to plant drought-resistant plants that will do well on a minimum amount of moisture. Plants that don’t require a ton of watering make sense whether there’s a drought or not. Water for a yard or garden is expensive no matter where you live, so the less you need to create a beautiful yard, the better. Plus, watering takes time if you don’t have automatic sprinklers set up. You’ll end up wasting both water and time if you don’t choose plants that can get buy on a minimum of H2O.

Here’s a guide to choosing the least thirsty plants, along with some suggestions for flowers, bushes and ground covers that won’t require a downpour to do well.

How to Find the Best Drought-Resistant Plants

One approach is to fill your landscape with drought-tolerant specimens and save thirstier varieties for containers that can add a pop of color to a hill or bed without dominating the entire space.

But more importantly, choose the right plants for the amount of rain you’re likely to get. Contact your county extension service to get their recommendations; they will probably have a list you can download and use when you shop.

Browse the plant aisles at a local nursery as well. Big box stores will sell a lot of plants, but they won’t necessarily know anything about them. The local nursery will be more expensive, but you’ll get better advice there and probably a better selection of perennials that will do well in your region.

Shop for plants at farmer’s markets, too. Local farmers will be able to tell you how much moisture and sun a plant needs, as well as what pests it might be susceptible to. Remember that any plant you buy, you can propagate and turn into many more. Even if one plant seems expensive, it’s an investment in the future, as long as you care for it well.

Don’t forget to check out native plants. Natives to your region have evolved to do well in your climate. PlantNative.org offers this excellent guide to planning, planting and maintaining a native plant garden.

Finally, consider your soil. Does it retain moisture, so you can water it less and still keep your plants happy? Or is it sandy and dry and not capable of providing moisture to a plant’s roots when needed? You can often send soil samples to your county extension office for testing; they’ll also let you know what nutrients or soil amendments you need. Plan to add compost, which will enrich the soil and increase its ability to hold moisture.

Examples of Drought-Resistant Plants

As for plants to look into, here are some suggestions, depending on where you live:

Cactus – If you live in the American southwest or in another particularly dry but sunny part of the U.S., cactus has got to be on your list. These plants come in an infinite variety of shapes, sizes, textures and colors. Many of them flower, and some of them even produce fruit. They’re gorgeous when planted in a bed that mixes up varieties to create visual interest.

SedumSedum are considered a succulent; they store water in their leaves to help them survive dry spells. Sedum makes for a wonderful ground cover, especially on a slope.

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Purple SagePurple sage is a member of the genus Salvia. It’s native to the western U.S., which historically is a dry habitat. Some varieties produce showy purple flowers. There are also shrub varieties. Flowers can be quite large and fragrant.

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Joe Pye WeedEupatorium purpureum, or Joe Pye Weed, is a tall, majestic plant with airy pink-purple flowers that last from mid-summer through fall. While the plant does best in a moist environment, I have it planted in dry shade and never water it. It proliferates, but doesn’t get as tall in dry shade as it would if it were in moist sun. It attracts a bevy of insects and butterflies and is beautiful towards the back of the garden.

Sempervivum – This is a big group of alpine succulents. Their natural habitat is typically 3000-8000 feet above sea level in a cooler, drier climate. There are about 50 species and over 3000 varieties, so you have a lot to choose from!

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Echinacea – Also known as Purple coneflower, this plant is a native of the great plains of the U.S. It thrives in dry, sunny conditions, where its big beautiful flowers attract birds, butterflies and bees.

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Lavender – It’s hard to go wrong with this beautiful plant. The flower is gorgeous and fragrant; it resists hot summers and cold winters, repels deer and resists most pests. It will add color and variety to your landscape for many years; you can also cut flowering stems, dry the flowers for potpourri or pulverize it and add it to your favorite lotion or liquid soap.

Russian SageWayside Gardens describes this plant as having “super tolerance of heat, humidity and drought.” It will attract butterflies and hummingbirds, and bloom all summer long. What’s not to love?

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108 comments

Lisa M
Lisa M2 months ago

Noted.

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Lisa M
Lisa M2 months ago

Noted.

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Peggy B
Peggy B3 months ago

Excellent. I love succulents.

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Renata B
Renata B3 months ago

Beautiful plants. I love succulents!

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Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgen3 months ago

Thank you

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Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgen3 months ago

Thank you

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Clare O
Clare O'Beara3 months ago

I see a petition advertised after this article calling the laptop ban on planes racist. Get your heads straight. The only racist people are the brainwashed religious nutcases who want to kill everyone who does not worship what they do. Do you notice anyone else on the planet who is bombing, stabbing, shooting and threatening innocent holidaymakers and shoppers and kidnapping schoolgirls? These nutcases jobs all follow the same medieval religion and warped culture, and whoever put that petition forward, they would cut off your daughter's hand if she wore nail polish. They would stone you to death if you held a gay man's hand. They would rape a woman who went out to pick up the kids from school on her own or without covering her head. This is a culture issue not a race or religion issue. Nobody cares what race the attackers are or which sky fairy they want to believe in this week. It's their culture that is the problem. That's what has to be fought. Get some sense and sanity and believe that the best intelligence services on the planet know something about a threat that you do not.

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Clare O
Clare O'Beara3 months ago

Good to see colourful suggestions which will help pollinators.

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Clare O
Clare O'Beara3 months ago

My sympathies and support to London inhabitants today.

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Ellen J
Ellen J3 months ago

Good to know. Contact your county extension agent or agency to find out what may be invasive or what won't grow well in your area.

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