Every garden will benefit from drought tolerant plants, but especially gardens with dry, chalky soil, or those that face south. And if we have another summer heatwave, you’ll be glad you planted up some of these varieties: your garden will look nicer, and you’ll still be providing pollinators with food during extreme weather.
When you’ve chosen the drought tolerant plants you like from our list, find out how to prepare your garden for a heatwave. Then head to our sourcebook of top garden retailers for all your gardening needs.
- 1. Russian sage
- 2. Geranium sanguineum var. striatum
- 3. Sea holly
- 4. Gaura
- 5. Sedum
- 6. Dierama
- 7. Lavender
- More garden plants:
- Drought-tolerant plants save water, money and time
- Heavenly Greens Blog
- What about a lawn?
- Take a holistic approach
- Drought Tolerant Landscaping Design
- What’s the Best Time of Year to Install Artificial Grass?
- Drought Tolerant Landscaping Ideas
- Sustainable Landscaping
- Create an environment conducive to wild things as well as your family
- REPURPOSE ITEMS AND CHOOSE RECYCLED MATERIALS
- Drought Resistant Plants for Your Perimeter
- Drought Tolerant Grass Solutions
- Drought Tolerant Bushes
- Drought Tolerant Vegetables for Your Garden
- 10 Drought Tolerant Garden Ideas for Your Backyard
- Drought Tolerant Garden Ideas
- 1. Gravel
- 2. Succulents
- 3. Perennials
- 4. Gravel
- 5. Grass Patch
- 6. Artificial Grass
- 7. Stepping Stones
- 8. Dry Riverbed
- 9. Modular Artificial Grass
- 10. Fire Pit
- What Did We Miss?
- Drought-Tolerant Plants For Nearly Any Landscape
- Why Choose Drought Tolerant Landscaping?
- Flowers and Plants That Tolerate Drought
- Low Water Use Lawns
1. Russian sage
Best place to buy drought tolerant plants
This gorgeous variety of sage grows tall and is full of silvery purple flowers in late summer. The perennial makes a great addition to tall borders and dies back during winter.
Maintenance: Cut back in March to promote a bushier growth; mulch after pruning.
Soil type: Well-drained, poor to moderately fertile.
Where to plant: Full sun.
Find more low-maintenance garden plants in our guide.
(Image credit: Waitrose Garden)
2. Geranium sanguineum var. striatum
This variety of native geranium is a drought tolerant plant, like many native geranium species. The pretty veined flowers add plenty of interest to borders or rock gardens.
Maintenance: Deadhead regularly to prolong flowering period.
Soil type: Fertile, well-drained soil.
Where to plant: In full sun or partial shade.
(Image credit: Waitrose Garden)
3. Sea holly
Sea holly is a wonderful drought-tolerant plant for adding texture to your planting scheme; its spiky blooms are distinctive and bold. Flowers in July and August.
Maintenance: Lift and divide large colonies in spring.
Soil type: Dry, well-drained, poor to moderately fertile soil.
Where to plant: Full sun.
Find more pretty purple plants for your garden in our guide.
(Image credit: Waitrose Garden)
This delightfully delicate drought tolerant perennial has slender, wispy stems, with a haze of white flowers appearing every May through to September. A great addition to natural-looking planting schemes.
Maintenance: Cut back and lift and divide large colonies in spring.
Soil type: Fertile, well-drained soil.
Where to plant: Full sun.
(Image credit: Waitrose Garden)
Sedum are fascinating plants with fleshy leaves and a variety of shapes and textures. They make excellent container and window box plants, and don’t need much care.
Maintenance: Avoid overwatering, especially during active growth in spring.
Soil type: Moderately fertile, well-drained, neutral to slightly alkaline soil.
Where to plant: Full sun.
Find more ideas for container gardening in small spaces.
(Image credit: Waitrose Garden)
This graceful, wispy plant, commonly known as ‘Angel’s Fishing Rod’, is surprisingly resilient. The stems are slender but tough, making it suitable for windy spots. Once established, this plant does well with little water. Flowers throughout summer.
Maintenance: Water well while growing.
Soil type: Humus-rich, well-drained soil.
Where to plant: Full sun.
(Image credit: Waitrose Garden)
A gardeners’ favourite for millennia, lavender is an unfussy, useful perennial that is bee friendly, pet friendly, and one of the best plants for health. And it will happily go without water for a little while during the summer.
Maintenance: Cut back when finished flowering; prune gently in spring, avoiding cutting into old growth.
Soil type: Moderately fertile, well-drained soil.
Where to plant: Full sun.
(Image credit: photograph Leigh Clapp)
More garden plants:
- The best fragrant garden plants
- Best low maintenance garden plants
- The best shade loving garden plants
Planting drought tolerant plants in your garden saves on irrigation costs.
If a drought-tolerant garden makes you think of cacti and rock gardens, then think again – there are many colorful and lush choices that are perfect for a low-maintenance, water-conserving landscape. As parts of the country experience a reduction in rainfall or restrictions on water use, drought-tolerance has become an increasingly desirable characteristic in cultivated plants.
The thick succulent leaves of sedum help it withstand drought.
The term “drought-tolerant” indicates that once a plant is established, it can survive with minimal or no supplemental irrigation. This differs from a plant’s “water use” since some species use high amounts of water when it’s available, then go nearly dormant during a drought. Conversely, some plants use very little water overall but require a steady supply, making them unable to endure a severe shortage.
Many flowering fruit trees—such as apples, pears, and plums—are drought-tolerant.
Drought Tolerant Plant Options
A surprising number of plants and shrubs are drought-tolerant. Some of the best choices are also quite beautiful.
Colorful options for your garden include:
- Butterfly bush
- Flowering Quince
- Sugar Maple
- Shrub Roses
- Fringe Tree
Containers plants include:
- Ornamental Kale
For more options, see our printable lists of drought-tolerant plants:
Cercis Canadensis or “forest pansy” Redbud.
Tips for Choosing Drought-Tolerant Plants
Though they can’t always be identified by appearance, certain characteristics usually indicate drought-tolerance:
- Native plants are often hardy and drought-tolerant.
- Plants with gray or white foliage, or foliage with a silvery underside, tend to use less water.
- Small or narrow leaves reduce water usage and transpiration (water loss through the leaves).
- Succulent plants survive by storing water in their thick, spongy-feeling foliage.
- Ornamental grasses are often drought-tolerant, though turf grasses usually are not.
- Many plant labels now give water usage and drought tolerance, so your local plant nursery may have already done the research for you!
Most plants need water to become established and benefit from occasional irrigation during periods of extreme heat or drought. The idea is to minimize irrigation while still maintaining a healthy plant.
By choosing plants wisely, and maintaining your garden with water-conservation in mind, you can have a lush, colorful garden that is tough enough to withstand hot, dry summer conditions with very little maintenance required.
Mahonia and aucuba form a low-maintenance border.
Helping Your Garden Survive a Drought
- Mulch deeply (2-4 inches) to help hold in moisture.
- Enrich soil with organic matter so it will retain more moisture.
- Limit fertilizing to prevent rapid growth that requires more water.
- When you irrigate, water deeply to encourage root growth.
- Avoid watering during the heat of the day or in windy conditions.
- Use a drip or soaker system, targeting only the plants that need it.
- Even healthy plants may wilt slightly during the hottest part of the day. Irrigate only if they do not perk up in the evening or early morning.
- Plant shade trees to cut down on wind and evaporation.
- Create a small reservoir of soil around each plant to prevent irrigation water from running off.
Crape myrtles bloom in summer and make a shady retreat.
- Xeriscape for Drought-Tolerant Landscaping (article)
- Tips for Conserving Water in Your Lawn and Garden (article)
- Dry Climate Gardening (video)
- How to Cope with Drought in Your Yard (video)
- Calculating Lawn Irrigation Costs (article)
Drought-tolerant plants save water, money and time
With climate change concerns, unpredictable droughts and high energy prices across the country, nearly everyone is looking for ways to conserve resources and cut costs. A simple step to conserve water usage in your landscape is to select drought-tolerant plants. Many of these thrifty plants use less water, but still provide beauty and function in the landscape.
Start off smart
When creating a water-wise landscape, follow these key strategies for success.
- Recognize site variations. Areas in your landscape may significantly vary in soil type (sand versus clay), exposure to light (sun versus shade) and wind, evaporation rates and moisture levels. Sandy, well-drained soil dries out quicker, while heavy clay soil is likely to remain moist longer. Adding in exposure to sun and wind can create a dry microclimate even in areas with adequate rainfall.
- Select plants that match the site conditions. Use plants that thrive under existing site conditions. A poor match leads to poor performance and possible plant death.
- Group plants of “like needs.” Intentionally group plants together that have similar water and sun exposure needs. Group any water-demanding plants together in a site close to a water source.
- Provide care during establishment. Even drought-tolerant plants require supplemental watering during establishment. Once the root system is established, the plant will require less attention. Apply mulch to conserve soil moisture for newly developing roots.
Characteristics of “drought tolerance”
Drought-tolerant plants have built-in features to minimize water loss and maximize water uptake. Plants may have reduced leaf areas and bear small leaves or needles in the case of evergreens. Some drought-tolerant plants with large leaves have deep indentations (sinuses) between lobes in the leaves to reduce their leaf area. Another sign of drought tolerance is leaves covered with a heavy accumulation of wax such as that seen on white fir (Abies concolor). This wax serves to conserve water within a plant. The presence of fine hairs on the leaves of some plants like silver sage (Salvia argentea) is another adaptation that traps moisture at the leaf surface. Drought tolerant plants like false blue indigo (Baptisia austalis) have deep roots that pull in moisture well below the soil surface.
Plants with silvery or hairy foliage such as silvery sage (Salviaargentea) tend to be very water smart. Photo credit: Rebecca Finneran, MSU Extension
Are native plants drought tolerant? Perhaps. It depends on where the plant evolved and site conditions where the plant will be placed. Do some research; don’t assume “native” is synonymous with “drought tolerance.” There is some information in the Plant Facts section of MSU’s Native Plants and Ecosystem Services website.
A plethora of plants: suggestions to get you started
Michigan State University Extension has put together a list of plants that are drought-tolerant, hardy to Michigan and have few known insect and disease problems. Plants native to Michigan are designated with an asterisk (*).
- White fir (Abies concolor). 40-70’ – Slow-growing, stately evergreen with soft, bluish-green needles; one of the most drought-tolerant firs; great alternative to the overused Colorado blue spruce.
- Bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa).* 90’ – Large, majestic tree with extreme drought hardiness; ultimate “tough tree for tough places”; good growth rates when young.
- Japanese tree lilac (Syringa reticulata). 20-30’ – Single or multi-stemmed with huge clusters of creamy white flowers in early summer; one of the toughest lilacs.
- Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi).* 6-10” – Evergreen groundcover with glossy, green leaves turning bronze in fall; bears white to pink flowers in spring; small, red fruits in mid- to late summer persisting through winter; tolerates sandy, dry, gravely or acid soils; sun or part shade; salt-tolerant.
- Bottlebrush Buckeye (Aesculus parvifolia). 8-12’ – Outstanding deciduous shrub with a mounded, multi-stemmed habit; white flowers borne on 8-12” bottlebrush clusters in summer; tolerates sun or shade (even flowers in shade!); deer and rabbit resistant.
Bottlebrush buckeye produces showy summer flowers in full sunas well as shade. Photo credit: Mary Wilson, MSU Extension
- Bush Cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa).* 3-4’ – Versatile, long-blooming shrub for sunny areas; tolerates heat, drought and various soil types; showy flowers from early summer through frost with color ranging from yellow, white or orange; deer and rabbit resistant.
- Yarrow (Achillea spp.). 18 – 36” – Easy to grow with several selections; fern-like foliage topped with large, flat blooms in late spring to mid-summer; flowers available in shades of yellow, pink and red; plant in full sun; salt-tolerant; deer and rabbit resistant.
‘Pink grapefruit’ yarrow is one of many outstanding yarrowcultivars for dry sites. Photo credit: Chicago Botanic Garden
- Blue False Indigo (Baptisia australis).* 36 – 48” – Upright with purple, spring flowers in erect, 12” clusters above a mound of bluish-green leaves; ornamental black seed pods; full sun to part shade; rabbit-resistant.
- Barrenwort (Epimedium spp.). 12” – Tough, slow growing groundcover good for dry, shady areas, even under large trees; spring flowers range from white and yellow to red and purple; blooms rise on little stems above foliage; deer and rabbit resistant.
- Stonecrop (Sedum spp.). 24 – 30” – Groundcover species (2-3”) to tall, upright plants (24-30”); best in full sun; lower growing species tolerant of partial shade; showy flowers in pink, red or yellow shades; seed heads provide winter interest and food for birds; succulent foliage that can be variegated, bronze, reddish-purple, green or blue-gray; salt-tolerant; rabbit-resistant.
- Wax Begonia (Begonia x semperflorens-cultorum). 6-10” – Good choice for dry shade, also grows in full sun; bushy plants with shiny, heart-shaped leaves of green, bronze-red or mahogany; continuous blooms of white, pink, rose or red flowers throughout summer.
Annual wax begonia are good, drought-tolerant border plantsfor the garden. Photo credit: Rebecca Finneran, MSU Extension
- Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus). 6-12” – Thrives in full sun to part shade, intense heat and, once established, is drought-tolerant; glossy green leaves; five-petaled flowers in shades of white, pink, purple and lavender.
- Moss Rose (Portulaca grandiflora). 2-8” – Low growing, succulent groundcover for full sun; flowers are semi-double to double in a wide range of colors.
- Nasturtium (Tropaelum majus). 6-12” – Thrives in infertile, dry clay soil; blooms profusely in part-shade or morning sun; yellow, orange, red and mahogany flowers rise above clumps of trailing leaves; flowers and leaves are edible.
- Verbena (Verbena x hybrida). 6-10” – Trailing and upright annual blooms from spring to frost; flowers can be mauve, purple, white, pink, apricot or red; beautifully dissected foliage; full sun.
Additional hardy, drought-tolerant landscape plants:
For more information on a wide variety of Smart Gardening articles, or to find out about Smart Gardening classes and events, visit www.migarden.msu.edu.
Download a printable PDF: Drought-tolerant plants
Heavenly Greens Blog
After years of severe drought, California residents are now used to dealing with water restrictions. Recently-enacted new state laws make those restrictions permanent and call for even stricter limits in the future. Wasting water is not only out of fashion, it’s beyond our budgets. So we’ve been forced to rethink our relationship with water, including how we sustain our landscaping.
This is not really much of a sacrifice, because you can still achieve whatever look you want – you simply have to approach planning and growing a bit differently. Landscaping in low-water conditions gives you a multitude of options. Whether you call them “drought tolerant” or “drought resistant,” there are hundreds of plants appropriate for a water-stingy yard. You’ll find them in every category:
- Succulents and cacti
What about a lawn?
A pristine lawn is a thing of beauty. It provides a counter-point to the rest of your landscaping, both plants and hardscapes. If you have kids or a dog, lawn is a virtual necessity for outdoor play. You can still have a lawn, even in the driest conditions, thanks to artificial grass. You get all the benefits, without water, chemicals, or hassles. You can extend those benefits by using artificial grass for walkways, or even a backyard putting green.
Take a holistic approach
You have to comply with water regulations, or face a stiff fine (not to mention glares from your neighbors). That means using less water, but you can also be smarter about how you use it. Along with choosing the right plants, you can personalize your space with permeable hardscape materials, decorative objects, and construction and gardening techniques that retain natural moisture and rainfall.
There’s no need to be depressed, or distressed. Drought tolerant landscaping does not sentence you to a yard that is ugly or no fun to use. It is an invitation to get creative, and the result can be supremely beautiful, functionally practical, beneficial for the environment, and a lot less work and expense. Nice.
Read on to get more ideas on creating a landscape that thrives with little water.
Drought Tolerant Landscaping Design
Don’t get out your shovel or head to the nursery quite yet. By taking time to learn some basic principles and best practices used by landscape design professionals, your own design will look amazing and serve you well.
- Start with the big picture. In front, the yard should complement your home or provide an eye-catching contrast to it. In back, your outdoor lifestyle takes precedence. Do you have kids, or a dog? Your patio, pool, outdoor kitchen, and veggie garden are all elements that form the foundation of your design. The plants you choose can separate as well as decorate each of these “rooms.”
- Elevation changes create an overall harmony. Think about tall trees, mid-size shrubs, smaller perennials, and low-growing groundcovers. Use taller plantings to create walls or screens that provide privacy or just a comforting sense of enclosure. If your yard is flat, use large boulders or build low mounts to add interest to your terrain. If your yard slopes, use tiers and wide steps.
- If your space is small, incorporate vertical gardening.
- Create a few focal points to lead the eye around your garden. Focal points can be a statue or a birdbath, an interesting rock, an unusual flowering tree, or a block of bold color.
- Pick plants based on their mature size, and plan accordingly. Giving them room now saves you time and headaches later.
Now that you have the basics in mind, let’s look at how you can transform your vision into a water-wise reality.
What’s the Best Time of Year to Install Artificial Grass?
Since artificial grass is the plant kingdom’s poster child for “drought resistance,” chances are good that you’ll want at least some lawn in your landscape. But is there a specific time of year that’s best for installation?
Nope. Fake grass is happy to accommodate whatever schedule works best for you. That said, we’ve noticed there are a couple of times home owners seem to prefer. Here’s why:
- Early spring installation puts artificial grass in your yard and under your feet right from the beginning of your outdoor living season. How clever of you to deftly avoid that dreaded “spring cleaning” your natural lawn always requires. You can kiss that goodbye forever.
- Early fall installation is also a good time. Your outdoor activities are coming to a close for the season, and your natural grass is slowing down, too. Get rid of it now, and you’ll have gorgeous, vibrant grass to admire all winter. And when spring arrives, you’ll be ready to play.
Artificial grass can even improve your indoor landscape, providing far more comfortable flooring for your basement or sun room than concrete or carpet. It’s fluffy, fun, and never absorbs dampness. And just like outdoors, you can install it any time you like.
Why wait? The sooner you get your artificial grass in place, the sooner you can start to build out the rest of your drought tolerant landscape plan.
Drought Tolerant Landscaping Ideas
You’re armed with a list of landscape design principles, and your artificial grass is in place – or at least drawn in place on your landscape plan. Now what? The possibilities are almost endless. Let’s start with some general ideas for transforming your property into a pleasing, purposeful space.
Location is everything
Landscaping ties your entire property together, no matter the size of your yard or how you use it. Did you decide to jettison lawn in your front yard? Lots of home owners are doing that now, leaving grass for their backyard, where it can both create and accentuate outdoor living areas. That’s artificial grass, of course. After all, your goal is miniscule water usage, right?
In front, no-lawn landscaping provides a setting for your home. You can use plantings and hardscape elements to emphasize angular, ultra-modern architecture or soften it. You can go minimalist or fill the space with fluffy, colorful vegetation. Yep, there are drought resistant plants for that. (Keep reading.)
Aside from choosing an overall look for front vs. back yards, you’ll want to consider the setting. How much sun or shade do your spaces receive, and at what time of day? “Right plant, right place” means matching plants with their favorite comfort zones, so they can thrive beautifully with little water or maintenance. There are drought tolerant plants for every conceivable setting.
It takes more than trees, shrubs, and smaller plants to create a really great landscape. Consider how you can use geometric or curving pathways, dry “rivers” of smooth stones, found objects, or a tiny “watering hole” for butterflies to add practicality and visual interest.
Your landscape can do more than reduce household water usage, if you consider the broader issue of sustainability. Plants and hardscape materials help you conserve multiple natural resources, and deliberately support environmental diversity.
For example, don’t plant something that will get big in a space that’s too small. This common mistake leads to repeated pruning, which leads to unnecessary yard waste in our landfills. Do choose natural insect controls and organic fertilizers, if you use any at all.
Create an environment conducive to wild things as well as your family
Native plants are acclimated to our weather conditions, so they are naturally drought tolerant. They are also favorites of bees, butterflies, and other pollinators as well as birds, who eat bugs and small fruits.
By selecting the right plant varieties of native and non-native plants, you can invite a wide variety of these small beauties into your yard, to feed, rest, and reproduce. And you get to sit back and watch the show.
REPURPOSE ITEMS AND CHOOSE RECYCLED MATERIALS
“Found” items from around the house, thrift shops, and flea markets make great garden containers, yard ornaments, and outdoor furniture. Permeable pavers, crushed rock, and recycled concrete allow you to build practical-use landscape elements and support the environment, too.
Isn’t it nice to know that your landscaping plan can be both water-wise and proactively eco-friendly?
Drought Resistant Plants for Your Perimeter
If you’ve chosen artificial grass to create a lawn or a backyard putting green as part of your landscaping plan, drought resistant plants are ideal to surround and complement those spaces with color and texture. Since your grass is very low, you can go up, up, up with your planting plan.
To choose the perfect plants, consider their:
- Height and width at maturity
- Leaf color, shape, and size
- Bloom time and color, if any
- Fall and winter interest – evergreen, eye-catching bark or structure when leaves are gone, fall colors or berries, etc.
Your yard has multiple “perimeters”
Larger trees and shrubs combine with wooden fences or low stone walls to mark the perimeter of your property. They provide privacy, protection from wind or hot afternoon sun, and create a living foundation for the rest of your garden and outdoor living areas.
Many of us here in the South Bay Area have pools. Nothing offsets your pool like pretty flowering plants around the perimeter. There are drought tolerant varieties which are also pool-friendly because they don’t shed lots of leaves or other debris. What else is ideal to surround your pool? Faux grass. It’s a major improvement over traditional decking in every way.
Containers are nice for perimeters, too. Use several in series to create a very low “wall,” or just one as an accent. Grow veggies or herbs as well as flowers.
Drought Tolerant Grass Solutions
Just because you’ve jettisoned your water-hogging live lawn doesn’t mean you can’t have grass. We’ve discussed the many ways artificial grass can grace your yard, but there is another type of grass you should also consider, especially for a drought tolerant landscape. We’re talking about ornamental grasses.
These beauties can solve many landscaping challenges, but you may well want them simply for their stylish good looks. Why?
- They come in just the right size for your space, big or small. For example, Elijah Blue fescue is a bluish gray variety with very fine leaves. It grows no taller than a foot. Love that blue color but want something in the 2-3 foot range? Blue oat grass is for you. For warm, rusty-red color, go with leatherleaf sedge. Miscanthus can be a stunning focal point or grouped as a living hedge, getting as tall as 4-6 feet when it blooms.
- Different varieties have feathery flower plumes or striped leaves. Leave them in place for a striking winter impact, then cut them down in spring so they can grow right back.
- No matter what type of hardscapes you have – decorative or purely practical — grasses soften their appearance.
Grasses are so versatile, you could design your entire landscape around them. But they make excellent companions for other types of trees, shrubs, and flowers.
Drought Tolerant Bushes
Call them bushes, or call them shrubs, every drought tolerant landscape needs some mid-size plantings. Yet again, your biggest challenge will be choosing from the numerous options. Depending on where your home is situated, you might want to consider varieties that are wildfire resistant as well as drought resistant.
Shrubs lead the eye downward from trees or tall structures on your property. Since shrubs can be anywhere from a couple of feet high to 6-8 feet at maturity, you can use them to edge your lawn, create a privacy screen for your pool or hot tub, or separate outdoor living spaces within your yard.
Drought tolerant shrubs also come in an amazing array of shapes and leaf and flower colors. Many are evergreen. And many that aren’t are as eye-catching in fall and winter as they are in summer. Not only that, shrubs provide critical protection and nesting spots for several types of birds. Set out a birdbath, and you’ll be a happy at-home bird watcher.
Some good choices?
- Butterfly bush
- Panicle hydrangea
- Russian sage
Want something mid-size but not the usual “bush”? Consider larger succulents such as aloes or agaves. They can be spectacular, especially when they send up their gorgeous flower stalks.
Drought Tolerant Vegetables for Your Garden
Never thought you’d use “drought tolerant” and “veggies” in the same sentence? We have news for you – good news! Lots of popular vegetables are surprisingly water-miserly. Your landscape plan can be the soul of sustainability and a culinary masterpiece, too. Yum. And if you have kids, planting veggies can be a wonderful way to introduce them to the joys of gardening as well as get them to eat their vegetables.
Here is a sampling of veggies that are low on thirst but high in flavor:
- Blue corn
- Mustard greens
- Onions and garlic
- Summer and winter squash (including pumpkins)
- Sweet and hot peppers
To conserve water, choose varieties with smaller fruits and shorter growing seasons. To conserve space, grow vining and twining veggies on trellises. If you choose the right varieties, you can even extend your veggie garden’s productivity into fall or winter.
Don’t neglect herbs
The woody varieties such as culinary sage, rosemary, and thyme are gorgeous additions to any garden and culinary staples as well. All three come in a variety of sizes, leaf or flower colors, and fragrances. And most of them are evergreen here in the Bay Area.
As Californians, we know we will always face drought — or the threat of drought – as we move into the future. But we’re tough, and we’re creative. And we care deeply about our environment. So we’ve embraced drought tolerant gardening as the new normal.
If you’ve read this far, you’re now well aware that there is nothing restrictive about drought tolerant landscaping. You can design whatever you want, no matter the size or shape of your space, no matter your aesthetic or functional goals.
With so many choices, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. We’ve offered lots of ideas, and you need only look online to find a wealth of additional ideas. You may also want to learn about are the latest trends in garden design.
Plan with care, but be flexible. Your tastes may change, or the way you use your outdoor spaces may change, but your landscaping can evolve right along with you.
10 Drought Tolerant Garden Ideas for Your Backyard
Looking for drought tolerant garden ideas?
You’re not alone.
The more the temperature increases, the more difficult it becomes to manage the health and appearance of your landscaping. Cutting back on water is a great way to help support your state during a time of low water levels, but it also causes another problem – increased cost of water.
For this reason, homeowners like yourself are replacing their traditional landscaping with drought tolerant solutions.
Let’s take a closer look.
Drought Tolerant Garden Ideas
A drought tolerant landscaping solution is anything that reduces how much water you need to effectively maintain it.
We want to look at a few drought tolerant garden and yard ideas you can implement to lower how much water you use in your yard, so you can save water and money moving forward. The cool thing about drought tolerant solutions is they’re long-lasting.
You can rest assured your savings will be for years to come once you make a shift toward some of these drought tolerant garden ideas.
Instead of laying grass throughout your yard, consider using a combination of gravel, perennials and low-water grasses instead. This will reduce your need for water, create an interesting style, and protect your property from drought for years to come.
We talk about succulents a lot because not only are they low-water plants, they’re also beautiful as well.
The range of succulents is pretty big, which means you can be creative when it comes to creating your landscaping. Choose from a variety of colors and shapes and layer plants to resemble a traditional flowerbed.
Drought tolerance can be quite colorful.
Using a combination of colorful perennials and grasses can be a great alternative to the desert-style landscaping you may have seen neighbors install.
s combination of perennials and bold, colorful grasses proves low-water gardens don’t have to be brown.
If you’re considering installing gravel as a ground cover, consider looking for creative colors that add personality and style to your backyard. These can greatly impact the overall feel of your backyard, and even become a memorable differentiation if you’re selling your property.
Instead of installing the standard beige and grey gravel, consider mixing it up with alternative colors.
5. Grass Patch
Adding a small area of low-water grass to your backyard adds texture to your outdoor space.
A patch of grass may involve longer grass, compliment a path of colorful gravel, or border a walkway – however you decide to implement it up to you. Be creative and allow yourself to try something different.
6. Artificial Grass
Replacing your natural lawn with artificial grass is one of the best ways to reduce how much water you use in the backyard. Natural grass requires more water than any other part of your landscaping, so you can rest assured your water bill will be lower once you move to artificial grass.
Artificial grass looks just like the real thing, only it doesn’t require water and looks great all year long.
Combine low-water succulents and perennials around your artificial lawn to create a beautiful balance.
7. Stepping Stones
Stone is another popular drought tolerant landscaping solution, because it helps break up the yard and reduces how much water you need for your yard.
Create a path through your yard using geometric stepping stones if you’re interested in a modern architectural style. Combine stepping stones with gravel, succulents, and more for a stylized pathway.
8. Dry Riverbed
Combining small succulents, gravel, and stones resembles both a dry riverbed and the flow of water. This has become a popular trend among homeowners, as it implements a few drought tolerant landscaping ideas into one to create a cool piece of artistic work.
9. Modular Artificial Grass
If you’re interested in creating an outdoor sitting area, you may want to consider using a small portion of artificial grass as a way to differentiate the area from the rest of your yard. Adding a modular of artificial grass creates a modern feel for your backyard, which compliments other modern aspects of your yard.
10. Fire Pit
Adding a fire pit in your backyard is a great way to add value to your backyard. In addition to creating a functional area for your backyard, a fire pit also reduces the water you need. Lay a section of gravel or stone as the foundation for your fire pit and you can rest assured your water spend will be reduced dramatically.
What Did We Miss?
Combining a variety of these drought tolerant garden ideas is a great way to achieve greater savings, both now and into the future. Whether you’re concerned the drought won’t let us, water will continue increasing in price, or property value will diminish due to failing landscaping, you can rest assured moving toward drought tolerant landscaping and garden solutions will help protect the value of your property for years to come.
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Drought-Tolerant Plants For Nearly Any Landscape
Plants that naturally survive in your area are the ones best adapted to your soil, climate and rainfall. By selecting plants that either avoid or tolerate dry conditions, a beautiful, thriving landscape can be made possible.
Why Choose Drought Tolerant Landscaping?
Drought-tolerant plants survive long periods of drought by storing water internally or by developing extensive root systems that sink deep into the soil. Many drought-tolerant plants have additional protection through a waxy coating that reduces evaporation or hairs on the leaf surface that reflect some of the light, insulating the plant. Most plants that tolerate drought use several of these features to survive on low amounts of precipitation.
Native plants often are considered more drought tolerant than exotic landscape plants. However, there are also many exotic plants adapted to use in the xeriscape environment. The use of drought-tolerant plants will reduce time and money spent on irrigation. Many of these plants are also tolerant of poor to average soils. Some even prefer poor soils.
Flowers and Plants That Tolerate Drought
While cacti and succulents may have a place in some drought-tolerant gardens, they are not the only alternatives. There are numerous plants found in most landscapes that survive periods of drought. Placing these plants in the garden reduces the need to supply extra water during periods of inadequate rainfall.
- A popular choice for drought-tolerant perennials is sedum, also known as stonecrop. Sedum and many other succulent plants are not only tolerant of drought but favorites in rock gardens.
- Coreopsis and coneflowers are valued for their long blooming periods as well as their drought-resistant properties. These will also tolerate a wide range of soils.
- Lamb’s ears provide wonderful texture in rock gardens and spread easily. It is typically grown for its silvery foliage, which has a velvety texture. Because of its velvet-like texture, lamb’s ear is very drought tolerant.
- There are numerous types of African daisies that can grow most anywhere and all are very drought tolerant.
Other types of flowers that thrive in arid conditions include:
- Gaillardia blanket flower
A number of bulbs, such as iris and daffodils, will also do well in dry areas, as most of them go dormant during the summer.
Don’t forget to include drought tolerant shrubs and trees as well. There are a variety of native shrubs and trees that are tolerant of drought as well as those from other areas. For instance, spirea can be used as an ornamental accent in a rock garden or as a low border along a walk or drive. These shrubs are drought tolerant and beautiful. Spirea is also easy to care for in the garden. Another drought-tolerant shrub you can grow nearly anywhere is viburnum. This shrub can be found in many varieties, provides year-round interest and is easy to care for.
Heat-resistant trees for the landscape can include:
- Crepe myrtle
Low Water Use Lawns
From the standpoint of water use, the lawn is the largest and most demanding portion of the landscape. For maximum water use efficiency, lawn size should be limited as much as possible. Bermuda grass, a native of the drylands of Africa, is very drought tolerant. It will go dormant during the summer and revive when rains return in the fall. Once established, this grass will survive without supplemental watering.
You can also consider using drought-tolerant ornamental grasses within the landscape. A few of the choices available include:
- Maiden grass
- Blue fescue
- Pampas grass
There are many types of plants that will survive arid-like conditions. While most of these may be native to your area, others can be found in some of the most unlikely of places. To find the best drought-tolerant plants for your garden, perform some research or check with your local extension office for ideas. You might be amazed at what you’ll find. There are actually numerous plants that will grow in nearly any landscape and are tolerant of heat too.