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Drought Tolerant Plants

August 31, 2021

Drought Tolerant Plants

Drought Tolerant Plants

All plants require water, light, and nutrients to grow; however, there are some plants that can go for extended periods of time without watering (once established). These are what we call “drought-tolerant” plants.

There is a relatively new concept in landscape design known as exeriscaping, which is the practice of choosing plants that will survive on only the natural water that is available to them. These plants should be grouped together in a dry, sunny area of your garden.


To lessen the frequency of watering, you’ll need to:

  • Incorporate organic matter like peat moss, manure, and compost into the planting bed; this will create a more fertile soil, and the organic matter will hold onto moisture, making it available to plants for an extended period after rain or watering.
  • Cover the soil with 5–10 cm (2–4”) of mulch such as bark chips, cedar mulch, or cocoa bean mulch to minimize moisture loss through evaporation.
  • For the first year, your xeriscape plants will need supplemental watering during dry periods.
  • After 5–7 days without water, use a trowel to check the soil. If it is dry four inches down, water thoroughly.
  • In subsequent years, you can let your plants go for 10–14 days between deep watering.
  • Water in the morning before 10 am or in the evening after 6 pm; this will prevent the water from evaporating during the hottest hours of the day.
  • Honey-locust – A shade tree that can withstand drier summers and a wide range of soil conditions.
  • Turkish hazel – An excellent choice for drier sites; it has a broad, pyramidal shape, and dark green foliage that turns yellow in October.
  • Larger shrubs like the Russian olive, Five-leaf Aralia, Sea buckthorn, and sumac are also suitable choices.
  • For smaller shrubs, try bayberry, honeysuckle, butterfly bush, or caryopteris.
  • Junipers – These evergreens grow naturally in many dry environments ranging from rock outcrops to sand dunes.
  • Yuccas – These evergreens do best if they aren’t watered once established, as they grow a long taproot and will be able to find all the water they need on their own.

Perennials can be divided into two categories: moderately drought-tolerant and very drought-tolerant. Moderately drought-tolerant perennials include:

  • Artemisia
  • Red valerian
  • False indigo
  • Daylilies
  • Lavender
  • Red-hot poker
  • Russian sage
  • Thyme
  • Marguerite daisy
  • Sea lavender
  • Wall cress
  • Basket-of-gold
  • Rock rose
  • Creeping baby’s breath

Very drought-tolerant perennials include:

  • Prickly pear cactus
  • Sedum
  • Hens & chicks (sempervivum)
  • Purple and yellow ice plant
  • Donkey-tail spurge

For continuous summer colour, plant these annuals:

  • Portulaca
  • Celosia
  • Amaranth
  • Gomphrena
  • Sunflower
  • Zinnia
  • Gazania
  • Dusty miller
  • Sea thrift
  • Butterfly weed
  • Gloriosa daisy
  • Liatris
  • Blanket flower
  • Sea holly
  • Purple coneflower
  • Thread-leaved coreopsis
  • Yarrow
  • Bachelor’s button

Perennial ground covers are a practical solution if you are interested in replacing your lawn grass:

  • Goutweed will cover a large area very quickly; however, proceed with caution as it is virtually unstoppable.
  • Lamb’s ears, creeping phlox, and snow-in-summer are suitable for small areas.
  • Ornamental grasses are deep-rooted and suitable for xeriscaping. Suitable choices include mosquito grass, lyme grass, fescue, blue oat grass, ornamental fountain grass, and feather grass to name a few.
  • Bluestem and switch grass (panicum) are beautiful North American natives that get by on very little water.