Drought-Resistant Plants


Texas Desert

Last Monday I posted a list of plants that are adapted to moist soils… so of course I received questions from gardeners who wondered if I could produce a similar list, but of drought-tolerant plants, also known as xerophytes. Well, as always, your wish is my command! What follows is a list of plants adapted to dry conditions.

Note that this text is written primarily for gardeners in the Northeastern United States and Eastern Canada, in other words a fairly moist climate, never truly arid, but where plants can still suffer from lack of moisture for various reasons, such as:

  • Soil that drains excessively (sandy or rocky soil);
  • Steep slopes that rainwater has difficulty penetrating;
  • Prolonged periods without rain;
  • Spots, like under a roof overhang, that naturally receive little rain;
  • etc.

It would also be quite adapted to most European gardening conditions.

To learn more about gardening in a truly arid climate, however, like Arizona or Australia, you’ll have to find another source of information. I’m afraid that is beyond my expertise.

Some Xerophytes to Try

If drought problems haunt you every year or if you find yourself caught up in a cycle of endless watering, here are a few plants that should survive all but the worst droughts without your needing to step in:

  1. Acer saccharinum (silver maple) zone 2
  2. Achillea filipendulina (fernleaf yarrow) zone 3
  3. 1

    Achillea tomentosa

    (woolly yarrow) zone 3

  4. Aegopodium podagraria (goutweed) zone 3
  5. Anthemis tinctoria (golden marguerite) zone 3
  6. Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (bearberry) zone 2
  7. Arctotis spp. (African daisy) annual
  8. Armeria maritima (sea thrift) zone 3
  9. Artemisia spp. (mugwort, wormwood) (silvery leaved species) zones 2 to 8, depending on species
  10. Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed) zone 5
  11. Aurinia saxatilis, syn. Alyssum saxatile (basket of gold) zone 3
  12. Fleurs

    Baptisia australis

    Baptisia australis (blue false indigo) zone 4

  13. Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry) zone 4
  14. Calendula officinalis (pot marigold) annual
  15. Caragana arborescens (Siberian peashrub) zone 2
  16. Catharanthus roseus (Madagascar periwinkle) annual
  17. Celtis occidentalis (common hackberry) zone 3b
  18. 3

    Centaurea cineraria

    Centaurea cineraria (dusty miller) annual

  19. Centaurea cyanus (bachelor’s buttons) annual
  20. Cerastium tomentosum (snow-in-summer) zone 2
  21. Chasmanthium latifolium (northern sea oat) zone 5
  22. Convolvulus tricolor (dwarf morning glory) annual
  23. Coreopsis tinctoria (Plains coreopsis) annual
  24. Cosmos bipinnatus and C. sulphureus (cosmos) annual
  25. Cotoneastre spp. (cotoneaster) zones 3 to 9
  26. Deschampsia caespitosa (tufted hair-grass) zone 3
  27. Dimorphotheca spp. (African daisy) annual
  28. 4

    Elaeagnus angustifolia

    Elaeagnus angustifolia (Russian olive) zone 2b

  29. Elaeagnus commutata (silverberry) zone 1b
  30. Eschscholzia californica (California poppy) annual
  31. Euphorbia marginata (snow on the mountain) annual
  32. Festuca spp. (blue fescue) zone 4
  33. Gaillardia spp. (gaillardia, blanket flower) annual or zone 3
  34. Gazania spp. (gazania, treasure flower) annual
  35. Ginkgo biloba (ginkgo, maidenhair tree) zone 4
  36. Gleditsia triacanthos (honeylocust) zone 4
  37. Gomphrena globosa (globeflower) annual
  38. Hakonechloa macra (Japanese forest grass) zone 5
  39. Hemerocallis spp. (daylily) zone 3
  40. 5

    Inula racemosa

    Inula racemosa (elecampane) zone 4

  41. Juniperus spp. (juniper) zones 1 to 7
  42. Kniphofia spp. (tritome) zone 6
  43. Lavandula angustifolia (lavender) zone 5
  44. Liatris spp. (blazing star) zone 3
  45. Limonium platyfolium (sea lavender) zone 3
  46. Lobularia maritima (sweet alyssum) annual
  47. Lonicera spp. (honeysuckle) zone 2
  48. Lychnis coronaria (rose campion) zone 3
  49. Mahonia spp. (Oregon grape) zones 5 to 9, depending on species
  50. Mirabilis jalapa (four o’clock) annual
  51. Miscanthus sinensis (maiden grass) zones 4-5
  52. 6

    Molinia caerulea

    Molinia caerulea (purple moor-grass) zone 4

  53. Nierembergia hippomanica (cup flower) annual
  54. Onopordium acanthum (scotch thistle) zone 4
  55. Opuntia spp. (prickly pear) zones 3 to 9, depending on species
  56. Osteospermum spp. (African daisy) annual
  57. Pennisetum alopecuroides (fountain grass) zone 5
  58. Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian sage) zone 4b
  59. Phalaris arundinacea ‘Picta’ (ribbon grass) zone 4
  60. Phlox subulata (moss phlox) zone 3
  61. Portulaca grandiflora (portulaca) annual
  62. Potentilla fruticosa (shrubby cinquefoil) zone 2
  63. 7 Ratibida pinnata

    Ratibida pinnata

    Ratibida spp. (prairie coneflower) zone 3

  64. Rhus typhina, R. glabra (staghorn sumac) zone 3
  65. Robinia pseudoacacia (black locust) zone 4b
  66. Rosa rugosa (rugosa rose) zone 3
  67. Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) tender aromatic herb
  68. Salvia spp. (salvia) annual or zones 3 to 10, depending on species
  69. Sanvitalia procumbens (creeping zinnia) annual
  70. Sedum spp. (sedum) zones 2 to 10
  71. Senecio bicolor (dusty miller) annual
  72. Shepherdia argentea (silver buffaloberry) zone 2
  73. Sporobolus heterolepis (Prairie dropseed) zone 3
  74. 8Stachys_byzantina

    Stachys byzantina

    Stachys byzantina (lambs ears) zone 3

  75. Syringa vulgaris (common lilac) zone 2b
  76. Tamarix spp. (tamarisk) zones 3 to 9
  77. Thymus spp. (thyme) zones 3 to 8, depending on species
  78. Tithonia rotundifolia (Mexican sunflower) annual
  79. Yucca filamentosa (Spanish bayonet) zone 6
  80. Yucca glauca (soapweed yucca) zone 3

Xerophytes Need Some Water

20150816B… at planting time. Even plants said to be drought-resistant need to be watered until they are well established. It’s only when their roots are fully developed that their drought resistance kicks in. For fast-growing xerophytic annuals, that may mean only watering once or twice early in the season, but for other drought-resistant plants, it’s best to treat them like any other plant the first year, watering them thoroughly whenever their soil dries out. From the second year on, however, you can free yourself from all work and let them grow as they please!


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