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. Sensational!™ Lavender, Lavandula x intermedia Sensational!™ harvested in a baskest

    Sensational!™ Lavender is an improved, easy-to-grow variety that makes growing lavender accessible to more gardeners than ever! Silvery foliage is topped by large, dense purple flo...

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    Sensational!™ Lavender Sensational!™ Lavender Lavandula x intermedia Sensational!™
    As low as $9.99 Sale $7.99
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    Sensational!™ Lavender is an improved, easy-to-grow variety that makes growing lavender accessible to more gardeners than ever! Silvery foliage is topped by large, dense purple flower spikes. With a compact, dense habit and notable durability for sun, heat, and humidity, as well as cold tolerance, Sensational stands apart from many traditional Lavender varieties. A favorite of honeybees, these fragrant flowers will attract a wide range of pollinators. (Lavandula x intermedia)
  2. Feather Reed Grass Karl Foerster, Calamagrostis acutiflora

    'Karl Foerster' Feather Reed Grass creates a dramatic garden accent, with tall, slender, vertical growth and feathery plumes of shifting bronze color that stay in place year-round. A...

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    Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass Calamagrostis x acutiflora Karl Foerster
    As low as $12.65 Sale $11.39
    Per Plant - 3.5" Pot
    'Karl Foerster' Feather Reed Grass creates a dramatic garden accent, with tall, slender, vertical growth and feathery plumes of shifting bronze color that stay in place year-round. An early bloomer, 'Karl Foerster' is a cool season grass that grows most rapidly in the spring season and produces notably early blooms. It is a clump-forming decorative grass, with an upward architectural growth habit, making it a dramatic specimen plant in garden or meadow. Torch-like plumes are widely used in dried flower arrangements. This sterile variety does not self-sow, is deer resistant, and notably cold hardy. (Calamagrostis acutiflora)
  3. Hello Sunshine Pre-Planned Garden

    The Hello Sunshine Pre-Planned Garden will give you a sun-drenched paradise of blooms from spring through fall. Designed for areas with 6-12 hours of sun, this easy-to-grow garden of...

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    Hello Sunshine Pre-Planned Garden Hello Sunshine Pre-Planned Garden
    $117.99 Sale $94.39
    Per Garden of 13 Plants
    The Hello Sunshine Pre-Planned Garden will give you a sun-drenched paradise of blooms from spring through fall. Designed for areas with 6-12 hours of sun, this easy-to-grow garden offers cheerful flower combinations in yellow, purple, pink, and white. includes care instructions and planting map.
  4. Sunny Days Daylily Collection

    Plant the Sunny Days Daylily Collection for plentiful flowers and effortless summer color. Four Daylily varieties dazzle in a harmonious color palette of sunny yellow, warm pink, and...

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    Sunny Days Daylily Collection Sunny Days Daylily Collection Hemerocallis
    $58.65 Sale $49.85
    Per Collection of 12
    Plant the Sunny Days Daylily Collection for plentiful flowers and effortless summer color. Four Daylily varieties dazzle in a harmonious color palette of sunny yellow, warm pink, and classic orange, paired with attractive arching foliage that fills in the garden all season. Plant along a fence, driveway, patio, or perennial border for a row of cheerful blooms from early summer to early fall. (Hemerocallis)
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