Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

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

    Baptisia australis (blue false indigo) zone 4

  14. Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry) zone 4
  15. Calendula officinalis (pot marigold) annual
  16. Caragana arborescens (Siberian peashrub) zone 2
  17. Catharanthus roseus (Madagascar periwinkle) annual
  18. Celtis occidentalis (common hackberry) zone 3b
  19. 3
    Centaurea cineraria

    Centaurea cineraria (dusty miller) annual

  20. Centaurea cyanus (bachelor’s buttons) annual
  21. Cerastium tomentosum (snow-in-summer) zone 2
  22. Chasmanthium latifolium (northern sea oat) zone 5
  23. Convolvulus tricolor (dwarf morning glory) annual
  24. Coreopsis tinctoria (Plains coreopsis) annual
  25. Cosmos bipinnatus and C. sulphureus (cosmos) annual
  26. Cotoneastre spp. (cotoneaster) zones 3 to 9
  27. Deschampsia caespitosa (tufted hair-grass) zone 3
  28. Dimorphotheca spp. (African daisy) annual
  29. 4
    Elaeagnus angustifolia

    Elaeagnus angustifolia (Russian olive) zone 2b

  30. Elaeagnus commutata (silverberry) zone 1b
  31. Eschscholzia californica (California poppy) annual
  32. Euphorbia marginata (snow on the mountain) annual
  33. Festuca spp. (blue fescue) zone 4
  34. Gaillardia spp. (gaillardia, blanket flower) annual or zone 3
  35. Gazania spp. (gazania, treasure flower) annual
  36. Ginkgo biloba (ginkgo, maidenhair tree) zone 4
  37. Gleditsia triacanthos (honeylocust) zone 4
  38. Gomphrena globosa (globeflower) annual
  39. Hakonechloa macra (Japanese forest grass) zone 5
  40. Hemerocallis spp. (daylily) zone 3
  41. 5
    Inula racemosa

    Inula racemosa (elecampane) zone 4

  42. Juniperus spp. (juniper) zones 1 to 7
  43. Kniphofia spp. (tritome) zone 6
  44. Lavandula angustifolia (lavender) zone 5
  45. Liatris spp. (blazing star) zone 3
  46. Limonium platyphyllum (sea lavender) zone 3
  47. Lobularia maritima (sweet alyssum) annual
  48. Lonicera spp. (honeysuckle) zone 2
  49. Lychnis coronaria (rose campion) zone 3
  50. Mahonia spp. (Oregon grape) zones 5 to 9, depending on species
  51. Mirabilis jalapa (four o’clock) annual
  52. Miscanthus sinensis (maiden grass) zones 4-5
  53. 6
    Molinia caerulea

    Molinia caerulea (purple moor-grass) zone 4

  54. Nierembergia hippomanica (cup flower) annual
  55. Onopordium acanthum (scotch thistle) zone 4
  56. Opuntia spp. (prickly pear) zones 3 to 9, depending on species
  57. Osteospermum spp. (African daisy) annual
  58. Pennisetum alopecuroides (fountain grass) zone 5
  59. Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian sage) zone 4b
  60. Phalaris arundinacea ‘Picta’ (ribbon grass) zone 4
  61. Phlox subulata (moss phlox) zone 3
  62. Portulaca grandiflora (portulaca) annual
  63. Potentilla fruticosa (shrubby cinquefoil) zone 2
  64. 7 Ratibida pinnata
    Ratibida pinnata

    Ratibida spp. (prairie coneflower) zone 3

  65. Rhus typhina, R. glabra (staghorn sumac) zone 3
  66. Robinia pseudoacacia (black locust) zone 4b
  67. Rosa rugosa (rugosa rose) zone 3
  68. Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) tender aromatic herb
  69. Salvia spp. (salvia) annual or zones 3 to 10, depending on species
  70. Sanvitalia procumbens (creeping zinnia) annual
  71. Sedum spp. (sedum) zones 2 to 10
  72. Senecio bicolor (dusty miller) annual
  73. Shepherdia argentea (silver buffaloberry) zone 2
  74. Sporobolus heterolepis (Prairie dropseed) zone 3
  75. 8Stachys_byzantina
    Stachys byzantina

    Stachys byzantina (lambs ears) zone 3

  76. Syringa vulgaris (common lilac) zone 2b
  77. Tamarix spp. (tamarisk) zones 3 to 9
  78. Thymus spp. (thyme) zones 3 to 8, depending on species
  79. Tithonia rotundifolia (Mexican sunflower) annual
  80. Yucca filamentosa (Spanish bayonet) zone 6
  81. 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!

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

2 comments on “Drought-Resistant Plants

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