- Best Trees for Drought Areas (Drought Tolerant Trees by Zone)
- What states are currently experiencing drought?
- What are the best drought-tolerant or drought-resistant trees for my zone?
- Growing Drought Tolerant Trees: What Are The Best Drought Tolerant Trees
- Trees that Handle Drought
- 15 Small Trees for Your Yard or Garden
- 15 Small Trees for Your Patio, Garden or Yard
- 1. Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)
- 2. Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)
- 3. Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis)
- 4. Semi-Dwarf Fruit Trees
- 5. Dwarf Fruit Trees
- 6. Palo Verde (Cercidium)
- 7. Little Gem Southern Dwarf Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora “Little Gem”)
- 8. Banana Shrub (Magnolia figo)
- 9. California Lilac (Ceanothus)
- 10. Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis)
- 11. California Juniper (Juniperus californica)
- 12. Tea Trees (Leptospermum)
- 13. California Wax Myrtle (Myrica californica)
- 14. Royal Purple Smoke Tree (Cotinus coggyria “Royal Purple”)
- 15. California Redbud (Cercis occidentalis)
- Some definitions
- HOW to establish your plants
Best Trees for Drought Areas (Drought Tolerant Trees by Zone)
Noticed higher energy or water bills this summer?
You may have if you’ve been cranking the AC or watering your garden more to combat the extreme heat. And, you’re right to take action. 2016 is on pace to be the hottest year on record.
Instead of reacting, though, approach the dry spells and heat proactively. Pick drought-tolerant trees–especially if your state is currently in severe drought. Remember though, wait until fall to plant new trees!
What states are currently experiencing drought?
As of early August, the U.S. Drought Monitor found more than 20 percent of each state below is experiencing severe, extreme or exceptional drought.
- California: 59 percent of state
- Georgia: 28 percent of state
- Massachusetts: 40 percent of state
- Nevada: 22 percent of state
- New York: 27 percent of state
What are the best drought-tolerant or drought-resistant trees for my zone?
Set yourself up for success by picking trees in your planting zone that will also tolerate drought.
Note: Trees with an asterisk are drought-tolerant only when established.
Drought Tolerant Trees: Zone 9 and Zone 10 (California and Las Vegas, Nevada)
Pictured: Sycamore tree
Drought Tolerant Trees: Zone 7 and Zone 8 (Georgia, North California and Southern Nevada)
Pictured: Oak tree
- Kentucky coffee tree (zone 3-8): Drought-resistant shade tree
- White oak (zone 3-9): Large shade tree that can tolerate moderate drought
- Northern red oak (zone 3-8): Fast-growing tree with fall color and some drought tolerance
- Eastern red cedar (zone 2-9): Heat-tolerant evergreen with good drought tolerance
- Thornless honeylocust (zone 3-9): Fast-growing shade tree with moderate drought tolerance
Drought Tolerant Trees: Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 and Zone 6 (New York, North Nevada and Massachusetts)
Pictured: Maple tree
- Sugar maple (zone 3-8): Shade tree with fall color and moderate drought tolerance
- Silver maple (zone 3-9): Large, fast-growing tree with moderate drought tolerance
- Colorado blue spruce (zone 2-7): Evergreen with moderate drought tolerance
- Bur oak (zone 3-8): Large shade tree with some drought tolerance
- Paper birch (zone 2-7): Fast-growing tree with fall color and some drought tolerance
Growing Drought Tolerant Trees: What Are The Best Drought Tolerant Trees
In these days of global warming, many people are concerned about impending water shortages and the need to preserve water resources. For gardeners, the problem is particularly pronounced since prolonged drought can stress, weaken and even kill backyard trees and shrubs. Growing drought tolerant trees is one good way a gardener can make the home landscape more resistant to dry weather. Read on to learn about the best drought tolerant trees.
Trees that Handle Drought
All trees need some water, but if you are planting new trees or replacing those in your backyard, it pays to select trees that handle drought. You can identify drought tolerant deciduous trees and drought resistant evergreen trees if you know what to look for. A few species – like birch, dogwood and sycamore – are decidedly not good dry-weather species, but many others species resist drought to some extent.
When you want trees that handle drought, consider a number of different factors to find the best drought tolerant trees for your backyard. Choose native trees that are well adapted to the soil and climate of your region since they will be more drought tolerant than non-native trees.
Pick small-leafed trees like willow and oak, rather than leaves with large leaves like cottonwood or basswood. Trees with small leaves use water more efficiently. Pick upland tree species rather than species that grow on bottomlands, and trees with upright crowns rather than those with spreading crowns.
Opt for colonizing species like pine and elm rather than species that move in later such as sugar maple and beech. “First responder” trees that are the first to appear in burned out fields and generally know how to survive with little water.
Drought Tolerant Deciduous Trees
If you want those beautiful leaves that drift to the ground in autumn, you’ll find lots of drought tolerant deciduous trees. Experts recommend red and paperbark maple, most species of oak and elms, hickory and ginkgo. For smaller species, try sumacs or hackberries.
Drought Resistant Evergreen Trees
Despite the thin, needle-like leaves, not all evergreens are drought resistant evergreen trees. Still, some of the best drought tolerant trees are evergreen. Most pines use water efficiently, including:
- Shortleaf pine
- Pitch pine
- Virginia pine
- Eastern white pine
- Loblolly pine
You can also opt for various hollies or junipers.
15 Small Trees for Your Yard or Garden
Trees beautify your yard, provide shade, serve as wildlife habitat, and can lower the cost to cool your home. However, along with all these benefits, you often also get expansive root systems and towering canopies that may make fitting a tree into a small yard seem nearly impossible. The good news is that there are plenty of small trees for patios and gardens with root systems that are more compact and heights that are more manageable.
Sometimes, when you are looking for small trees for your garden, what you really need is a shrub that can be trained and pruned like a tree. For example, shrubs like hop bush or crepe myrtle make gorgeous trees and, since there is not much difference between a big shrub and a small tree, you will often see them referred to as trees and shrubs interchangeably.
So, to help you on your quest to find the perfect tree for a small space, here are 15 small trees and large shrubs for you to consider.
15 Small Trees for Your Patio, Garden or Yard
1. Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)
Fast-growing crepe myrtles thrive in Hardiness Zones 7 through 10 and are a good choice for warmer climates. While crepe myrtles are somewhat drought tolerant, they require more water than some other Southern California small trees, so you will need to decide if the gorgeous blooms and long blooming season are worth the extra water. Once established, it will require extra water during the hottest months but is fairly drought tolerant.
Crepe myrtle is a great example of a flowering shrub that can be grown as either a shrub or a tree. There are dozens of crepe myrtle varieties, including both deciduous and evergreen options that grow to heights upwards of 30 feet. Choosing a variety like Lagerstroemia indica allows you to add brilliant color to a small yard or patio area with a flowering tree that grows to about 20 feet tall with a 20-foot canopy. You can also choose dwarf varieties that only reach about five feet in height.
Crepe myrtle flowers, which have the delicate look of crepe paper, come in pinks, purple or white. Aside from the gorgeous flowers you can enjoy between late spring and fall, you will also enjoy that this small tree requires little maintenance and can thrive in just a small soil space.
2. Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)
This deciduous beauty may lose its gorgeous leaves in fall, but the elegant silhouette of the bare trunk and branches will provide plenty of visual interest in your garden throughout the winter.
Japanese maples like a little shade, but there are some cultivars that can better handle that sunny spot near your patio. While some varieties can grow quite tall, Japanese maples are ideal for small spaces because their compact root system does not require a large area of soil in which to spread out. In fact, some of these small trees can even be grown in large containers on your patio. Some are even grown as bonsais.
Depending on the variety you choose, leaf color can range from orange or green to deep purple, so do a little research before buying to determine which color will work best with your landscape design.
3. Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis)
Bay laurel can grow in such a small space that you can actually grow this one in a container on your patio. Left to its own devices, it can soar to more than 50 feet tall, but it can be pruned to keep it at a much more manageable size.
Bay laurels are evergreen trees that prefer full sun, part sun or part shade and are hardy in zones 8 through 11. Since you will be pruning it anyways to keep it small, save the leaves to dry for culinary use or to make aromatic wreaths for décor or gifts.
4. Semi-Dwarf Fruit Trees
If you love the idea of stepping into your garden to pick oranges for fresh-squeezed juice but do not have room for a 30-foot orange tree, semi-dwarf fruit trees might be your answer. Most semi-dwarf fruit trees grow to be about 12 to 15 feet tall and wide, which makes them about half the size of their standard-size counterparts. This makes these small trees a perfect choice for small yards and allows homeowners to grow their own fruits even if they do not have much space.
Another advantage of choosing semi-dwarf fruit trees is that they begin producing fruit much sooner than full-size trees. This option comes in lots of varieties, so talk with a pro at your local garden center to determine which fruit trees will do best where you live. For folks living in Southern California, citrus fruits and avocados are usually a good choice, but this may not be the case if you live in an inland or mountainous area with hard freezes.
5. Dwarf Fruit Trees
For folks with even less space for their backyard orchard, there are dwarf fruit trees. Dwarf options generally grow to between eight and 10 feet tall and some can be grown successfully in containers. While they do not produce nearly as much fruit as semi-dwarf options, dwarf trees reach maturity faster and start producing fruit sooner. Their size also makes it easier to harvest fruits and to perform maintenance tasks like pruning.
Like semi-dwarf trees, dwarf fruit trees come in many varieties, so do a little research to see which types of fruit trees will grow best where you live. Also, while it might seem like a shorter tree should be sturdier than their taller cousins, dwarf trees usually need to be staked at least until they reach maturity.
6. Palo Verde (Cercidium)
Palo Verde trees are truly drought tolerant, so this is a great choice for Southern California where we seem to be in a never-ending state of some level of drought. Some varieties reach 40 feet in height, so choose carefully if you are in the market for small trees.
Your best bet is Desert Museum Palo Verde, which is a hybrid that grows to be about 20 feet tall, has no thorns and has a long blooming season. Your other option is a Foothill Palo Verde, which also grows to about 20 feet tall but has thorns that make it a less-than-ideal choice for small spaces or spaces where children play. You will enjoy beautiful yellow blossoms with either of these varieties.
A fun fact about Palo Verde trees is that their green trunks and branches can photosynthesize. In fact, the trunk and branches do most of the work, which is unique in the plant community where photosynthesis is usually left up to the leaves. This unique quality allows Palo Verde trees to drop their leaves in times of extreme drought, which is a survival mechanism that makes this option particularly drought tolerant and able to survive in the desert.
7. Little Gem Southern Dwarf Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora “Little Gem”)
If you are looking for small trees with big flowers, a Little Gem magnolia might be your perfect choice. These slow-growing evergreens do well in Hardiness Zones 7 through 10, prefer full sun, and have large, showy blooms from late spring through summer. If you have a spot in your garden that is part sun or part shade, this magnolia will still do fine, just know that you will see fewer flowers if you choose a shady spot.
Little Gem magnolias are not drought tolerant and require regular watering, so this is a better choice for folks looking for a tree for an area that already requires regular irrigation. For example, you might choose this magnolia for a flowerbed or border where you have a drip system. You can also grow this one in a container.
This dwarf magnolia can grow upwards of 25 feet in height, but the average height is closer to about 15 feet. It is a relatively compact tree and will spread to between about seven and 10 feet wide.
8. Banana Shrub (Magnolia figo)
Banana shrubs are versatile, flowering shrubs that can be planted as a privacy hedge, will grow well in borders along fence lines, can be grown in containers on your patio, or can be added to your landscape design as small trees. These slow-growing evergreens prefer partial to full sun and will grow to a height of between about six and 13 feet with an equivalent spread. Banana shrubs require regular watering and are hardy in zones 7B through 10.
The yellow and purple flowers are not edible, but they give off a banana-like fragrance that makes them an aromatic addition to outdoor living areas. The deep green foliage of these trees also provides year-round visual interest to your yard.
9. California Lilac (Ceanothus)
The first thing to know about California lilacs is that they are not true lilacs, but they do have gorgeous clusters of flowers usually found in white, pale blue, dark blue, pink or lavender. The second thing to know is that there are dozens of cultivars that range in height from six inches to about 10 feet, so you will need to choose the taller versions to use this flowering shrub as a tree in your landscape design. Some cultivars are evergreen, some are deciduous, and each has its own blooming period. This means that you will want to work with a pro at your local garden center to find the variety of California lilac that best suits your needs.
This one is a California native, so it will require regular watering until established, and then infrequent, deep watering once or twice a month after that. If you plant your California lilacs in late fall, the rain we get over the winter will help take care of the early irrigation needs for these small trees.
California lilacs are a great choice for a drought-resistant garden and for folks who want to attract birds, butterflies and pollinators to their yard.
10. Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis)
Desert willows are a solid option if you are looking for small trees for a drought-tolerant garden. Native to southwest deserts, these deciduous beauties have only a brief leafless period but are still attractive, even when their branches are bare. Desert willows bloom from spring to early fall with pink, white, purple, or lilac flowers that look a bit like a cross between an iris and an orchid.
Some cultivars of this shrub or small tree can grow as tall as 24 feet, but others have a mature height of around five feet, which makes them a good choice for patios or small gardens. This drought-resistant option does not require excessive irrigation, but you are going to need to prune it regularly to maintain a tree-like shape.
11. California Juniper (Juniperus californica)
California juniper is another native, drought-tolerant option that works well in small, sunny spaces with dry soil. These small trees can grow between 10 and 25 feet tall and have berry-like cones resting amongst scale-like leaves. This one is an evergreen, so you can enjoy the foliage throughout the year.
California junipers grow best at elevations between about 2,500 feet and 5,000 feet, so this one is best for folks living in foothills and mountainous areas in Southern California. This is also a good choice for gardeners hoping to provide habitat for birds and other wildlife.
Since these can be bonsaied, you should have no trouble growing your juniper in a container, if that is the space you are trying to fill.
12. Tea Trees (Leptospermum)
Tea trees is a general term used for a group of large shrubs or small trees in the myrtle family primarily native to Australia and New Zealand. You have probably seen tea trees pruned as shrubby hedges in Southern California, but you can also prune them as small trees for patios or outdoor living areas.
These evergreens prefer a sunny spot, are hardy in zones 9 through 12, and grow to between about six and 10 feet tall, depending on the variety. These can be grown in borders and containers, so they are a good choice for small gardens and patios. Look for white, pink or red blooms from late spring through early fall.
Aside from the quality of being small in stature, tea trees also appeal to folks looking for options that are drought tolerant, deer resistant and attractive to pollinators.
13. California Wax Myrtle (Myrica californica)
Also called pacific wax myrtle, California bayberry or pacific bayberry, California wax myrtles are native to most of the west coast and straddle that line between evergreen shrub and small tree. They generally reach a maximum height of about 25 feet, but can be as short as about six feet. While you can enjoy the dark green leaves throughout the year, you will also get white or yellow flowers in spring and summer, as well as purple berries.
This one thrives in sun, part sun or part shade, and is a drought-tolerant option that needs little water once established. Pacific wax myrtles are also tolerant of wind and salt spray, which means you can use them as a windbreak in coastal gardens. Since it a fast-growing evergreen, this one can also be used to block unsightly views or make your patio a bit more private.
14. Royal Purple Smoke Tree (Cotinus coggyria “Royal Purple”)
This deciduous tree grows to about 15 feet tall and 12 feet wide, which makes it a perfect choice for adding color and visual interest to a small space. Royal purple smoke trees offer a completely different look than other trees on this list with their feathery plumes and purple-red foliage. They prefer full sun, part sun or part shade and are drought tolerant, so you can expect to water these regularly before they are established and occasionally after they are established.
You will want to prune them a bit to keep them looking like a tree, rather than a shrub, and to keep them small, but they require little maintenance other than that.
15. California Redbud (Cercis occidentalis)
The California redbud – also known as western redbud – is native to the Southwestern United States and comes in both single-trunk tree and multi-trunk shrub options. This means you will need to be sure you select the right option for your landscaping needs.
This is a gorgeous, flowering tree that offers visual interest every season of the year from the purple flowers you will enjoy in spring to the elegant silhouette of silvery branches in the winter. Redbuds grow up to 20 feet in height with an equivalent spread. They prefer full sun or partial sun and are drought tolerant once established, but you will see more blooms in the spring if you give it a little extra water.
Sedum is one of the plants that tolerates dry weather. It can get by with very few waterings.
(MICHELLE D. WISE/THE OREGONIAN )
What do daylilies, rudbeckia, penstemon, salvia and echinacea have in common? These drought divas belong to a group of water-thrifty plants that bring on a downpour of color with the least amount of water.
Without ample moisture, many plants are fated to shrivel up and die. But drought divas can handle the dry spells of summer with little to no supplemental water. And by combining drought-resistant plants with these seven water-wise steps, you can help your plants survive and thrive without spending an excess of time or money on irrigation.
1. TUNE IN ON TRAITS
Drought divas vary in their dependence on water. Some can get by with no irrigation, while others need a little, with monthly waterings during dry spells. Plants with moderate moisture needs perform best with a deep soaking every two to three weeks. This category is still water-thrifty, especially when compared with plants with regular moisture requirements that translate to a good soaking at least every week or more depending on how high the temperature soars.
A plant’s drought tolerance also depends on soil, climate and location. Plants suited to your growing conditions will always give a better show with less care. For example, hollyhocks (Alcea rosea) will do just fine without any supplemental water when grown in areas of the country that receive some summer rain. But in our climate these statuesque blooms will have a powerful thirst without summer irrigation.
2. SIZE UP YOUR SPACE
Your personal microclimate will be as varied as your plants. South and west exposures (especially near paved surfaces) dry out quicker, making these “hot zones” ideal for your most drought-tolerant plants, such as artemisia, California wild lilac, lavender cotton and cotoneaster.
3. DO YOUR GROUNDWORK
Healthy plants can get by on less water than plants that are stressed. Therefore timely weeding, feeding and a watchful eye for pests are all important. But you can always enhance the drought tolerance of almost any perennial, shrub or tree by improving the soil. And the best way to improve soil is to dig in a 3- to 6-inch layer of organic matter before you plant.
Enriching soil with organic matter creates an environment that encourages roots to grow deeper, which makes it easier to find and absorb moisture in times of drought. What’s more, organic matter such as compost or decomposed manure increases the water-holding capacity of any soil.
4. MAXIMIZE MOISTURE WITH MULCH
Organic mulches like compost, shredded leaves, aged wood chips, straw, or rotted hay provide a multipurpose defense against drought. For starters, a thick 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch is one of the most effective methods for capturing moisture — even from a dewy morning — and letting it soak evenly into the soil.
An annual layer of mulch conserves water by keeping soil cooler, moisture levels more consistent, and by reducing surface evaporation due to drying winds. Since mulch also prevents weeds from growing, the moisture and nutrients that are in the soil will be more accessible to your garden plants.
5. WATER WISELY
Our winters may be wet and wild, but our skies are relatively dry from June to October, depending on your area. When you do water you can easily maximize moisture by watering deeply, which will promote a deeper and more extensive root system. Another tip is to water on a cloudy day or in the cool of the early morning or evening. That way more water will seep into the soil and less moisture will be lost through evaporation.
The right type of irrigation system can do wonders to minimize moisture loss and excess runoff by distributing lower volumes of water over longer periods of time. Drip irrigation is best for spot watering around perennials, shrubs and other permanent plantings. Low-volume sprayers or bubblers are ideal for trees and ground covers. Weave soaker hoses through annual and perennial beds and borders. Either drip irrigation systems or soaker hoses are effective in kitchen gardens. Of course, there is always hand watering, which can be a highly efficient way to water.
6. USE WATER-THRIFTY TOOLS
Drying winds and hot temperatures make plants more susceptible to moisture loss. A lightweight row cover will help protect susceptible plants from drying winds. And a temporary shade cloth will help minimize moisture loss from searing heat. Simply drape the shade cloth over any temporary structure, such as a mini “hoop house” consisting of equal pieces of PVC pipe with each end stuck in the ground to form the shape of a hoop.
7. DIAL IN TO THE DIVA
All divas need to be pampered now and then, including drought divas. As such, they need to be watered during dry spells the first year or two until they become established in their new home. Once established, these water-thrifty plants will save you time. That way you’ll have more time than ever to relax, sunbathe and soak in the view.
DROUGHT DIVAS BY THE DOZENS
There are many colorful plants that easily adapt to dry periods once they become established in the garden. Try a few of these on for size, but keep in mind that a plant’s drought tolerance can vary depending on your soil, microclimate and location.
Needs no to little irrigation (water during drought from twice a season to monthly)
Bush anemone (
California wild lilac (
Deer grass (
Lavender cotton (
Naked ladies (
Red-hot poker (
Rock rose (
Russian sage (
Sedum (varies by species)
Needs little to moderate irrigation (water during drought every three to four weeks)
Blanket flower (
Butterfly bush (
Ice plant (
Jupiter’s beard (
Rock soapwort (
Smoke tree (
Needs moderate irrigation (water during drought every two to three weeks)
Coral bells (
Dwarf plumbago (
Golden chain tree (
Lady Banks’ rose (
Snow in summer (
Strawberry tree (
Garden writer Kris Wetherbee is the author of “Attracting Birds, Butterflies & Other Winged Wonders to Your Backyard”:
“Drought tolerant” — will survive extended periods without additional water after being established with regular water and fertilizer for two growing seasons. The plant may, however, look marginal and neglected without some supplemental watering during dry periods in later years.
“Low water use” — the plant will need periodic watering after being established, but can be minimized with the careful management of watering habits.
“Growing season” — spring-summer-fall. “Two growing seasons” essentially means two calendar years not counting winters.
“Establishing a plant” — planting and caring for a plant (especially the roots) to ensure that it can thrive with minimal intervention in the future.
HOW to establish your plants
How do you “properly establish” a plant (drought tolerant or not), and get those roots deep, for two growing seasons? Many of our resources listed below explain watering techniques more fully, but let’s summarize their important points here:
• Prior to planting, prepare the soil to make it easier for the roots to grow. Dig the hole 2 to 4 times the diameter of the rootball and 1 to 1.5 times as deep. Add up to 25% compost to the backfill mix, especially if the native soil is compacted or hard to dig. This increases both water-holding capacity and air spaces allowing the roots to “breathe.”
• For each and every plant in the ground, water the soil where the roots actually are right now. This means water the small root ball when the plant is new, or the diameter (at least) of the plant’s branches (the “dripline”) on an older plant. This goes for either watering by hand or irrigation system, which may need careful adjustment to get the water to the right spots.
• Water to saturate the entire the root zone (width & depth). Make sure the water penetrates through the upper layers of crusty or powdery soil. Initially, it can be like trying to wet a dry sponge. It may take some patience and ingenuity to get the water to soak in rather than run off the top.
• Let it dry out a bit before watering it again. How long? It’s hard to specify, as there are many factors; it might be a couple of days to a couple of weeks. Maybe every day during hot, dry weather. Best thing is to check the soil moisture every few days at first. Roots need a rhythm of water and oxygen. Too dry is not good — constantly wet isn’t much better. Too frequent, shallow watering makes shallow roots, which may suffer during the next drought.
• Mulch the soil surface with compost or other organic material. This reduces soil water loss, helps surface water infiltrate better and bolsters soil health and fertility.
After a couple of growing seasons, you can gradually wean your plants off the watering routine, but check them occasionally for individual water needs, supplemental mulching, or other needs. By the way, this is a good routine for establishing almost any kind of plant.
Even with nine months of rain, Pacific Northwest summers can be challenging for gardeners because of the lack of water. Any plant will need a few years of water to become established, but once they are, there are a number of plants that will thrive without much irrigation. Here are a few ideas for shrubs, perennials, and trees that thrive in the Pacific Northwest, without a lot of irrigation.
Pacific Wax Myrtle (Morella californica) – This easy, adaptable shrub is a Pacific Northwest native and can thrive in nearly all light conditions from full sun to full shade. Its evergreen nature makes it a perfect backdrop plant in the garden, or to form an excellent hedge. It takes pruning well but can also grow into a 10’- 15’ small tree if desired. In late summer it will produce clusters of small black fruit which last until midwinter. Birds love it! It performs best in well-draining soil but can also tolerate sandy and clay soils. This deer-resistant native is a ‘great plant pick’ for the pacific northwest, and with good reason!
Strawberry Tree (Arbutus Unedo) – Here’s to a shrub that has it all – showy fruit, flowers, bark and evergreen leaves! From October to December the shrub is covered in clusters of small, white flowers with fused petals (like a blueberry’s flower). Alongside the flowers are large round fruits that ripen from orange to red. The combination of the flowers and fruit together is quite stunning and will attract pollinators. The leaves are a beautiful dark green which goes well with the mottled, cinnamon-colored bark. This shrub grows best in full sun but will tolerate some shade.
Alpine Mint Bus (Prostanthera cuneata) – Just as the name implies; this small Australian native has a wonderful minty fragrance. The tiny leaves are evergreen and will only grow to a little over 1-foot-tall. It is resistant to deer, slugs and snails and aphids; yet is irresistible to bees and butterflies. It flowers late spring or early summer with small orchid-like flowers.
Dawin’s Barberry (Berberis darwinii) – My favorite barberry! This evergreen barberry is native to Chile and was discovered by Charles Darwin in the voyage of the ‘Beagle’. It is very tough, and will keep a compact habit when grown in full sun. It can reach over six feet and very little pruning is needed. The unique part of this barberry is the flowers. In early March, the shrub will be covered in reddish/burnt orange buds that open to vibrant orange flowers. Truly stunning! The leaves contrast perfectly with the flowers, having a rich dark green color with a shiny finish. To top it off, it’s deer resistant and attracts bees, birds, and butterflies!
Rockrose (Cistus x hybridus) – This is a shrub that actually thrives best with neglect! Full sun, hot sites, and well-draining, sandy soil is the sweet spot for this evergreen shrub. The more water the plant receives, the more susceptible it is to flopping and winter damage so the less water the better! This shrub is a wonderful problem-solver because it can tolerate salt spray making it a great choice for coastal gardens. The white rock rose is the hardiest of the group, but it does come in several shades of pink as well. It becomes covered in papery, large flowers in the spring, which attract bees and butterflies.
Sedums – I can’t write a blog about drought-tolerance without mentioning sedums! These problem solving perennials come in all colors, from vibrant lime green foliage to brilliant blue-grey to rich dark purple. Sedums are often grown for their foliage, yet some species such as Autumn Joy and Vera Jameson have beautiful upright bright pink flowers in the fall. All sedums are a type of succulent; which in botany means they have thickened, fleshy leaves which help retain water. Sedums can actually store water in their leaves! They thrive on poor soils with very little water. They make a great container for those that don’t want to water much in the summer!
Sun Rose (Helianthemum nummularium) – This evergreen perennial looks like a miniature cistus with grey-green leaves and small delicate flowers. The plants put on a big show late spring with scattered blooms throughout the summer. It grows low, only about a foot tall, but will spread to a nice clump, 3’ around. My favorite variety is ‘Henfield Brilliant’ because of its outstanding orange color, but it comes in a number of other colors, including pink, yellow, red and peach. Bees and butterflies are attracted to the bright colored flowers and the greyish foliage makes a great contrast. Hot sunny locations will encourage profuse blooming!
Yellow Wild Indigo (Baptisia ‘Carolina Moonlight’) – This perennial resembles lupine with spikes of butter-yellow flowers. It will form a 4’ clump with flower spikes reaching 4’ as well. This perennial is very easy to grow without any major health issues. It will grow best in full sun, well drained soils, but will tolerate clay soil. It will flop if given too much water or grown in too rich of soil. This means the poor soil, hot locations of your yard are perfect for it to thrive!
Twirling butterflies (Gaura lindheimeri) – This wildflower is native to Arizona, making it a great choice for a drought-tolerant landscape. It grows to nice 3’ clump, sending out tall spikes of pink or white flowers. The flowers bloom along a wand-like stem creating an airy, graceful texture which is perfect for a border. The newer forms of Gaura have red-variegated leaves making it attractive even when out of bloom.
Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) – This hardy, deer resistant perennial sends out airy, upright spikes of grey-purple flowers from August to September, adding late season color to your garden. The foliage is a bluish grey which is a nice contrast to surrounding green foliage. The flower spikes will finish blooming in the fall, but the silver stems can be left through winter to add interest. The plant can reach up to 4’ tall, and form 3’ clumps.
Giant Feather Grass (Stipa gigantea) – This grass has been described as a well behaved pampas grass. It sends out exquisite tufts of 8’ seed heads topped with dangling, honey-colored seeds. The grass will hold its seed head form early summer to late fall, and removed once they become damaged by winter weather. Its airy nature make it ideal for a border or as a center piece in a garden. It is deer resistant and tolerates full sun and sandy soils.
Vine Maple (Acer circinatum) – A wonderful Pacific Northwest native with a multi-stemmed growing habit. These maples are closely related to Japanese maples and have great fall color and grow to only 15’-20’ tall. They turn a lovely orange in the fall, and keep their color throughout the fall season. This delightful little tree is especially popular in urban gardens where space is limited. It can grow in nearly all soil conditions, sandy, clay, moist or well drained.
Maidenhair Tree (Ginkgo biloba) – Considered a ‘living fossil’, Ginkgo trees evolved over 200 million years ago! They have unique, fan shaped leaf with a scalloped outer edge. It has outstanding fall color of rich gold and is considered one of the most beautiful deciduous trees. It is so hardy it is often grown as a street tree on bluffs with salt spray and cities with bad pollution problems. The female ginkgo can produce fruit with awful odors so make sure to buy a male. Very little pruning is required because it has such a nice branch structure. With all these traits, who wouldn’t want a living fossil in their garden!
Golden Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’) – This tree has outstanding foliage. The leaves are a bright lemon-yellow which will brighten any landscape from spring to fall. The more sun the tree receives, the brighter yellow the foliage, however in partial shade the leaves will turn a lovely chartreuse. Each leaf is about a foot long, and made up of over 20 separate leaflets. The bark becomes gnarled overtime and the tree will eventually grow to 50’ tall.
Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica) – This witch hazel relative is a 4 season tree. The unique branch structure and peeling grey bark adds winter interest. It flowers before the leaves just like a witch-hazel. The flowers are tiny and spider-like and appear in late winter. The large scalloped leaves emerge in the spring, and start their outstanding fall display in August. They turn bronze then bright crimson before they fade to orange and finish their show in October with a bright gold color.
Spanish Fir (Abies pinsapo) – One of the most majestic species of conifer, this Spanish fir is disease resistant and evergreen. It will perform best in full sun and well-draining soil and once established is heat tolerant as well. The needles on the fir are radically arranged, meaning the needles cover the entire branch. This will add an architectural element to your garden! The blue-green color provides interest year round, and contrasts to surrounding green foliage. In the spring the tree produces small red cones at the tip of the branches. There is a new variety out named ‘Aurea’ which has golden colored new growth, adding even more reason to grow this rare conifer.