17 Drought-Tolerant Plants That Thrive In Tough Soil

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Whether you live in an arid region or simply seek to reduce your ecological footprint, this blog will equip you with the knowledge and inspiration needed to cultivate a thriving garden that can withstand prolonged periods of drought.

From striking succulents to native grasses, here we’ll list 17 plants that can thrive in periods of drought, even through the heat of summer.

What does it mean when a plant is drought-tolerant?

Drought tolerance, as it pertains to gardening, describes a plant’s ability to grow and withstand periods of drought or minimal rainfall and watering. Remember – this doesn’t necessarily mean they handle dryness all season long. Drought is a temporary environmental condition, and drought-tolerant plants have adapted to survive through them, even in the heat. The length of time that a plant can survive in drought conditions can vary between a few days to weeks or a month. Between periods of drought, they require a good soaking to keep them growing happily through the season. While they are low maintenance, they can’t be forgotten in your landscape! 

Remember that these plants are drought-tolerant once established, requiring frequent and deep watering after planting or as a young plant. It can take 1-2 years for perennials and shrubs to become established and up to 3 years for trees.

Expert-recommended garden plants for drought:

Green succulent flowers on Sedum (Stonecrop)

Stonecrop (Sedum)

Stonecrop is resilient to just about every tough condition; heat, humidity, drought, and freezing temperatures! Even though stonecrop is incredibly drought tolerant with succulent foliage, it still should be watered every 7 to 10 days during the intense summer heat.

Silvery-grey green stems with blue flowers

Catmint (Nepeta)

It’s hard to take your eyes off of catmint’s gorgeous spikes of blue and purple flowers – but we promise, it thrives on neglect! With full sun and good drainage, catmint can survive prolonged periods of drought, even in zone 8. Give your plants a deep soak every 10 to 12 days to keep the blooms fresh.

Lavender (Lavandula)

Drought may slow down its growth, but lavender plants still boast gorgeous flowers and a powerful fragrance through periods of dryness. Try cutting this sun-loving perennial and adding it to a cut flower arrangement to bring the relaxing scent indoors! 

White flowers on beardtongue

Beardtongue (Penstemon)

Beardtongue stands out all season with its interesting foliage and pollinator-attracting flowers. This drought-resistant perennial serves a purpose too and can help prevent erosion on sloped landscapes and sandy dunes.

yellow and red Tickseed flowers

Tickseed (Coreopsis)

Talk about toughness – tickseed is long-blooming and can thrive in poor and dry soils once established. It makes a colorful addition to rock gardens and fits nicely in tight spaces or containers.

Butterfly Bush (Buddleia)

Invite the pollinators to play in your garden with butterfly bush! This vibrant and unique shrub blooms all summer long, even during prolonged periods of drought once established. When you do water your butterfly bush, do so thoroughly.

Reddish-brown plumes float above the thin green foliage of the Variegatus Maiden Grass

Maiden Grass (Miscanthus)

Not only is maiden grass drought tolerant, but it also resists disease and deer. Watch plumes emerge in the fall that start a fluffy pink and transition to a wonderful beige color. If you notice the foliage drooping or browning, definitely supplement with some water.

Wormwood

Wormwood (Artemisia)

The incredibly versatile wormwood features silvery-grey fragrant foliage that thrives in nearly every grow condition thrown at it; heat, humidity, drought, and more! Try in a mass planting along a garden hedge or add to your rock garden.

Salvia (Salvia)

Attract pollinators and deter deer with indigo flowering spikes from salvia! Don’t worry about watering more than once every 2 weeks once it’s established, and watch this fragrant perennial thrive, especially in late spring and early summer.

pink flower spikes of Hummingbird Mint

Hummingbird Mint (Agastache)

Looking for eye-catching flower power without all the maintenance? Look no further than hummingbird mint! Plant in a dry area with plenty of sunlight and watch it live up to its name – attracting pollinators in troves.

Light orange blooms of the Rainbow Rhythm Orange Smoothie Daylily

Daylily (Hemerocallis)

Looking for colorful flowers that won’t fade in the summer heat and prolonged periods of drought? Daylilies are truly tough as nails and can store moisture and nutrients in their long, tuberous roots.

Yarrow (Achillea)

Yarrow is an extremely drought-tolerant and easy-to-grow perennial. Aside from rainfall, It doesn’t require much additional water, but weekly watering is encouraged during the summer for the best flower production.

Close up of Color Coded 'The Price Is White' Coneflower with white blooms

Coneflower (Echinacea)

Coneflowers are vibrant perennials that come in an array of gorgeous colors with flowers stacked on top of sturdy stems. They require some minimal watering, but be sure to let the soil dry out in between.

Pink blooms from Muhly Grass

Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia)

This gorgeous native grass can tolerate high heat, poor soil, and prolonged periods of drought – all without sacrificing the fluffy and airy pink-hued blooms above foliage. During warmer temps, give this grass a good watering once a week.

Dogwood (Cornus)

If you’re looking for a plant that adapts well to changing environmental conditions, look no further than dogwood! Shade, sun, drought, it doesn’t matter – dogwoods are incredibly adaptable.

white and pink flowering Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)

Enjoy bright and bold blooms all summer long with rose of Sharon! This shrub is drought-tolerant once established, though soil should never fully dry out during the peak season (summer). 

Spirea (Spiraea)

Spirea can thrive in tough soil, is low maintenance and drought-tolerant, and attracts pollinators. You can find spirea in various flower colors, including pink, purple, white, and yellow!

Buy drought-tolerant plants for sale:

Written by: Lindsey Griffith, click here to read bio.

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