Drought-Tolerant Perennials for Low-Maintenance Landscapes

by Suzanne DeJohn

Is it my imagination or is the weather making headline news more often than it used to? It seems like the last few years have seen more than the usual share of record snowfalls, extreme temperatures, floods and droughts. We gardeners tend to be particularly tuned into the weather, and although we can't control how much it rains or how cold it gets, we can choose plants that tolerate challenging conditions. And one of the biggest weather challenges is drought.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, right now much of the southern half of the country is experiencing abnormally dry conditions, and in many areas these conditions are expected to persist for at least the next few months. Whether or not your region is currently experiencing drought, chances are good that it will at some point in the not-so-distant future.

Even in "normal" years, most regions receive at least a few prolonged periods of scant rainfall each year, during which we drag out the hoses and water our gardens. In drought years, this task becomes a weekly chore. Vegetable gardens, container plantings, and newly planted trees, shrubs and perennials will always need regular watering. But by choosing drought-tolerant species whenever possible, you can create a landscape that requires less water to maintain.

Xeriscaping (pronounce the X like a Z) describes a landscaping strategy that reduces or eliminates the need for supplemental watering. For example, techniques like mulching strive to minimize water evaporation and runoff. However, the task of creating a water-thrifty landscape starts with plant selection. Species adapted to a climate that experiences regular droughts should need no supplemental water once they're established, unless conditions are extreme.

Following are some easy-to-grow plants that are relatively drought-tolerant. (They'll need water during their first growing season, and may need water during periods of extreme heat and/or drought.)

Black Eyed Susan
Catmint
Coreopsis
Daylilies
Echinacea
Gaillardia
Lavender
Liatris
Penstemon
Russian Sage
Salvia
Sedum
Yarrow

To browse through all our drought-tolerant selections, go to our Perennials page and on the "Narrow Your Results" area of the left sidebar choose "Will Tolerate: Drought/Dry Soil."

For more information on climate and drought, visit the Climate Prediction Center and Drought Monitor.

coreopsis cosmic eyecoreopsis cosmic eye
<a href="/perennials/coreopsis/coreopsis-cosmic-eye">Cosmic Eye Coreopsis</a>
echinacea hot papayaechinacea hot papaya
<a href="/perennials/echinacea/echinacea-hot-papaya-coneflower">Echinacea Hot Papaya</a>
salvia sage blue hillsalvia sage blue hill
<a href="/perennials/sage-blue-hill">Sage Blue Hill</a>
  1. Orange Butterfly Weed With Monarch Butterfly, Asclepias tuberosa

    Butterfly Weed is the iconic, bright orange beauty that's a staple in every butterfly garden. This showy native wildflower is easy to grow, cold hardy, and does well in poor, dry soi...

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    Butterfly Weed Butterfly Weed Asclepias tuberosa
    As low as $14.98 Sale $7.49
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    Butterfly Weed is the iconic, bright orange beauty that's a staple in every butterfly garden. This showy native wildflower is easy to grow, cold hardy, and does well in poor, dry soils. Long-lasting clusters of small, flat-topped flowers are crowned with a yellow, sun-kissed "corona" and bloom from June through August. Butterfly Weed is an important nectar source for Monarch butterflies and its leaves provide essential food for developing Monarch caterpillars - but expect to see a variety of pollinators making use of this plant. Please note the Bag of 3 are bareroots. (Asclepias tuberosa)
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  2. Phenomenal Lavender, Lavandula x intermedia

    Phenomenal Lavender has it all: exceptionally tolerant of both high heat and harsh winter, this easy-to-grow lavender even shows resistance to the effects of humidity. Highly fragran...

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    Phenomenal® Lavender Lavender Phenomenal® PP#24193 Lavandula x intermedia Phenomenal PP#24193
    As low as $13.98 Sale $9.99
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    Phenomenal Lavender has it all: exceptionally tolerant of both high heat and harsh winter, this easy-to-grow lavender even shows resistance to the effects of humidity. Highly fragrant with concentrated essential oils, Phenomenal's spikes of purple-blue flowers attract butterflies and bees to the garden. Edible, deer-resistant and fast-growing, this silver-leafed lavender has left all other new introductions in the dust! (Lavandula x intermedia) PP#24193
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  3. New Vintage Violet™ Yarrow, Achillea New Vintage Violet™

    Throw a dazzling red-violet highlight into your pollinator garden with New Vintage® 'Violet' Yarrow. Compact fern-like foliage softens sturdy upright stems, adding a delicate t...

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    New Vintage™ Violet Yarrow New Vintage™ Violet Yarrow Achillea millefolium New Vintage™ Violet
    $11.98 Sale $9.99
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    Throw a dazzling red-violet highlight into your pollinator garden with New Vintage® 'Violet' Yarrow. Compact fern-like foliage softens sturdy upright stems, adding a delicate texture to blooms that last from late spring to late summer. Remove spent blooms for a second late-season bloom. This native cultivar is deer resistant, and will attract pollinators in hot, dry, and sunny locations. (Achillea)
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  4. Red Sedum spurium Dragon's Blood, Sedum spurium, Stonecrop

    Create a charismatic carpet of changing colors with 'Dragon's Blood' Sedum. Growing only 4 to 6 inches tall, the succulent green leaves are edged in dark cranberry and covered with v...

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    Dragon's Blood Sedum Stonecrop Dragon's Blood Sedum spurium Dragon's Blood
    $9.98 Sale $7.99
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    Create a charismatic carpet of changing colors with 'Dragon's Blood' Sedum. Growing only 4 to 6 inches tall, the succulent green leaves are edged in dark cranberry and covered with vivid red, starry flowers in late summer. Foliage turns crimson with the arrival of cool weather. 'Dragon's Blood' makes an excellent groundcover owing to its spreading habit and tolerance of dry soils. (Sedum spurium)
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