What Is a Drought-Tolerant Plant?
Drought-tolerant plants survive through prolonged periods of little to no rain known as droughts. These plants have adapted to withstand arid conditions and dry spells. In addition to their drought-tolerance, water-wise plants are popular among gardeners because they do well in poor soil where most other plants fail to thrive. Drought-tolerant plants come in a variety of shapes and sizes, ranging from small succulents and herbs to large shrubs and vines. As houseplants, they prefer sandy, well-draining soil or a potting mix specifically formulated for succulents and cacti.
10 Drought-Tolerant Plants
There are many drought-tolerant plants to choose from, so start by familiarizing yourself with some popular plants.
- Tarragon: Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) is an essential herb in French cuisine, with a licorice-like flavor that pairs well with seafood, eggs, chicken, and tomatoes. In addition to being drought-tolerant, it’s also cold-resistant and heat-resistant. Be aware that when the weather gets hot, tarragon will bolt, meaning it will shoot up stalks of flowers that cause the entire plant to taste bitter. Prevent bolting by pruning flowers off the plant before they bloom and trimming tarragon stems to keep them under two feet tall.
- Penstemon: Plants in the Penstemon genus, also known as beardtongues, are shrub-like wildflowers. Their tubular flowers come in a variety of colors and attract hummingbirds, bees, and other pollinators. If you’re looking for deer-resistant landscaping, these drought-tolerant perennial flowers are a solid choice.
- Yarrow: Yarrow plants (Achillea millefolium) are herbaceous, flowering plants known for having clusters of tiny white or yellow flowers. Yarrow makes for great cut flowers, borders, and ground cover. It requires full sun and loamy, sandy soil that’s well-draining. Its bloom time typically runs from late spring to early fall, depending on what variety you have.
- Agave: Plants in the Agave genus are grey-green succulents with hard, spiky foliage. Tequila makers harvest and ferment agave to make tequila, but home growers typically keep them as houseplants or use them in landscaping alongside ornamental grasses. Agave thrives in sandy, rocky soil, which should dry out completely between waterings.
- Coneflowers: Coneflowers belong to any of three genera of the daisy, aster, and sunflower (Asteraceae) family: Echinacea, Ratibida, and Rudbeckia. These plants are native to North America and considered wildflowers in some areas. The name coneflower is a reference to the cone-shaped center of the flower. Coneflowers are perfect for home gardens because they are heat- and drought-tolerant and make great cut flowers. They require full sun to part shade to thrive.
- Lavender: Lavender plants (Lavandula) may be known for their relaxing scent and bluish-purple flowers, but they’re also drought-tolerant and low-maintenance. They are native to Mediterranean climates where the soil is dry and sandy and rain can be infrequent. They’ll need evenly moist soil in their early growing period so the roots can establish themselves. After that, they can thrive in full sun with little maintenance.
- Scarlet sage: Scarlet sage (Salvia splendens), also known as red salvia or red sage, is a flowering perennial indigenous to Brazil. It’s a hardy plant known for its green leaves and red flowers that bloom from early summer to fall. Plant it in a spot with full sun to partial shade ,and water more frequently during the hotter months to keep scarlet sage blooming all summer long.
- Cascade stonecrop: The cascade stonecrop (Sedum divergens), also known as spreading stonecrop, is a low-growing, light green succulent that does well as ground cover or in hanging baskets. Living up to its name, the cascade stonecrop will crawl across the ground, extending several feet away from its crown if not maintained through occasional cutting back or pruning. Cascade stonecrop has low water needs, but it does require plenty of sunlight.
- Russian sage: Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) is a perennial, woody shrub that blooms in the late summer with purple and blue flowers. Like most drought-resistant plants, it needs full sun, well-draining soil, and dry conditions to flourish. As a member of the mint family, the foliage has a slight scent to complement the flowers when it blossoms around August.
- Lantana: Lantana is the common name for a group of flowering perennials and shrubs belonging to Verbenaceae, a family of verbena species. Known for their clusters of tiny, colorful flowers, lantanas are all drought-resistant and thrive in hot conditions. Popular varieties, like the ‘Bandana Pink’ cultivar, have pink flowers and do well in gardens, hanging baskets, and planters.
Grow your own garden with Ron Finley, the self-described "Gangster Gardener." Get the MasterClass Annual Membership and learn how to cultivate fresh herbs and vegetables, keep your house plants alive, and use compost to make your community - and the world - a better place.