Drought tolerant shrubs zone 7

10 Drought-Tolerant Trees That Will Throw Shade

The summer heat has arrived. With the unpredictable climate patterns, one can only plan strategically when it comes to keeping cool long-term (and lowering energy-costs). Rising temperatures and drought in many communities make planting even harder. But don’t worry, here are 10 shade trees with drought-tolerance that will keep you cool and add beauty to your yard.

1. Eastern Redcedar

Juniperus virginiana

The eastern redcedar tree is a common sight throughout most of the plains states and eastern United States on road cuts, in fence rows and scattered across abandoned fields—especially where limestone soils are present. It is an aromatic tree, with reddish wood giving off the scent of cedar chests and crushed fruit providing a whiff of the gin they once flavored.

Thanks to its tolerance of heat, salt, a wide range of soils and other adverse conditions, the eastern redcedar can be put to good use on the farm in windbreaks and in city landscapes for hedges, screens, clumps or even as specimen trees.

Hardiness zones 2-9

2. Bur Oak

Quercus macrocarpa

The bur oak is a mighty sight to behold. A coarsely textured crown, wild and wooly acorns and a massive trunk with rough and deeply furrowed bark combine to make one impressive tree. But really, those characteristics helped this oak survive the elements of its wide-reaching natural range. In fact, the natural bur oak range is the northern- and western- most of all the eastern oak species.

While its massive size counts this tree out for most urban and suburban yards, the bur oak make a great choice for parks, institutional grounds and expansive yards.

Hardiness zones 3-8

Which Small Trees will Work for your Yard?

3. Northern Red Oak

Quercus rubra

The northern red oak has been called “one of the handsomest, cleanest, and stateliest trees in North America” by naturalist Joseph S. Illick, and it is widely considered a national treasure. It is especially valued for its adaptability and usefulness, including its hardiness in urban settings. This medium to large tree is also known for its brilliant fall color, great value to wildlife and status as the state tree of New Jersey.

Whether you’re selecting a tree to plant in your front yard or out on the farm, it’s a fast-growing species worth keeping in mind.

Hardiness zones 3-8

4. Kentucky Coffeetree

Gymnocladus dioicus

Drought-resistant. Tolerant of pollution. Adaptable to a variety of soils. With its reputation as a tough species, the Kentucky coffeetree is an excellent choice for parks, golf courses and other large areas. It is also widely used as an ornamental or street tree.

The tree’s picturesque profile stands out in all seasons and can be attributed to a unique growth habit of coarse, ascending branches that often form a narrow crown. Tree expert Michael Dirr pointed out that there are “certainly no two exactly alike.”

Hardiness zones 3-8

5. Hackberry

Celtis occidentalis

The hackberry, while often forgotten by casual consumers, is commonly heralded by tree experts as “one tough tree.” Found on a wide range of soils east of the Rockies from southern Canada to Florida, these trees thrive in a broad span of temperatures and on sites that vary from 14 to 60″ of annual rainfall. They can even stand up to strong winds and tolerate air pollution.

All of this hardiness adds up to a good landscape choice, particularly if you’re looking for an energy-conserving shade tree that doesn’t require watering.

Hardiness zones 3-9

Top 10 Shade Trees

6. Chinkapin Oak

Quercus muehlenbergii

With its strong branches and interesting leaves, the chinkapin oak makes a beautiful statement. This conversation piece of a tree is worthy of a prominent place in any larger lawn, estate or park.

The magnificent oak also adds to the ambiance by drawing a variety of wildlife with its acorns. In fact, chinkapin acorns are the food of choice for many animals.

Hardiness zones 4-7

7. Northern Catalpa

Catalpa speciosa

This is a tree that demands your attention. White, showy flowers. Giant heart-shaped leaves. Dangling bean-like seed pods. Twisting trunk and branches. How could you not stop to take it in? And with all of these unique features, the northern catalpa is popular with kids as well.

While not ideal for every location, this unique and hardy tree is a fast grower that finds a home in parks and yards throughout the country.

Hardiness zones 4-8

8. London Planetree

Platanus x acerifolia

The London planetree is a widely planted street tree, and for good reason. Its attributes were discovered in London where the new hybrid first appeared around 1645. The tree was found to thrive in the sooty air and provide wonderful shade. Its ability to withstand air pollution, drought and other adversities assures its popularity as an urban tree. Strong limbs also help make the London planetree a good choice where site conditions allow for its large size.

Beyond its reputation as a survivor, this tree is simply worth admiring. The unique bark and interesting branching give it amazing visual appeal—whether summer or winter.

Hardiness zones 5-9

9. Shumard Oak

Quercus shumardii

A stately, strong and long-lived tree with beautiful fall color, the Shumard oak is a great selection for yards. This adaptable species has been successfully grown in urban areas where air pollution, poor drainage, compacted soil, and/or drought are common, making it a fine choice for street trees as well.

While this tree is favored by homeowners, deer and squirrels also love its small acorns.

Hardiness zones 5-9

10. Live Oak

Quercus virginiana

Often seen magnificently draped in Spanish moss, the live oak is the iconic tree of the South. It has been called one of the most impressive North American trees and can live to be hundreds of years old.

Its exceptionally strong wood was a key lumber in early navy vessels, including the famous USS Constitution. (Yes, ‘Old Ironsides’ was really made of wood.) Today it is a tree appreciated by arborists and city foresters for its wind firmness, adaptability to various soil types and tolerance to soil compaction and salt spray.

Hardiness zones 7-10

How Much does your Tree Save you?

Boost Your Privacy with Fast-Growing Shade Trees

When siting the best fast-growing shade trees for privacy and charm, keep in mind that they often grow large (50 feet or more), hit maturity within 20 to 30 years, and then decline, making them good candidates where you need quick shade or a windbreak while waiting for slower-growing trees to catch up.

Plant large trees in locations where their root systems won’t affect other plants and plan to cut them down before they pose a threat to buildings, people, or other plants. Always plant trees away from utility lines, homes, and driveways to minimize damage when their branches (or even large trunks) break during storms. Pay attention to the location of septic lines and sidewalks, which can be disrupted by roots.

Some trees, especially quick growers, naturally form with narrow crotch branch attachments. Regular pruning can help but won’t eliminate the problem.

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As long as you understand their limited lifespan, planting fast-growing trees is not a problem. Do expect some extra maintenance and damage issues when they reach maturity. For example, some selections have messy annual droppings of flowers, fruits, needles, or pods you will want to consider.

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Types of Fast-Growing Shade Trees

Bald Cypress

A good choice for wet or swampy sites, bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) has few insect or disease problems. The foliage turns russet red in late fall before dropping and exposing attractive reddish-brown bark. Growing at a rate of 18 to 24 inches per year, it can reach up to 100 feet tall and 40 feet wide. Bald cypress is a North American native plant. Zones 5-10

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Box Elder

Box elder (Acer negundo) has some real drawbacks: It can be messy, weedy, and short-lived. But it thrives in tough conditions—even in the Dakotas, western Nebraska, and eastern Colorado—where many other trees fail. It’s also useful for windbreaks and grows on most sites. Zones 2-9

Test Garden Tip: Check local restrictions before planting; it may be considered an invasive species in your area.

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Chinese Tallow Tree

Chinese tallow tree (Sapium sebiferum) is a good replacement for poplars in warmer regions because it encounters fewer pests. It can show good fall color and grows with a rounded shape. At a growth rate of 12 to 18 inches per year, it eventually reaches up to 40 feet. Although it’s a good shade tree, avoid placing it near decks, patios, or terrace gardens because the flower and fruit litter can be a problem. Instead, boost privacy with this fast-growing tree by placing it in the back corner of your landscape. Zones 8-10

Test Garden Tip: Check local restrictions before planting; it is considered an invasive species in some regions.

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Cottonwoods and Lombardy Poplars

Long known for their propensity to grow along rivers and other moist areas in the Eastern United States, cottonwoods (Populus deltoides) also are known for their brittle, weak wood. They grow 3 to 4 feet per year, reaching up to 70 feet tall. Their relatives, Lombardy poplars (Populus nigra var. italica), named for the Italian region where they originated, are often used as 40- to 50-foot-tall screens. Zones 3-9

Test Garden Tip: Check local restrictions before planting; some species are considered invasive pests.

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Dawn Redwood

A good fast-growing tree to boost privacy in the corner of a large residential lot, dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) grows about 2 feet per year until reaching maturity at about 80 feet tall. It grows best in moist or wet soil in sun or shade. One interesting thing about dawn redwood is that it looks like an evergreen during the growing season with soft, fine needles. Then in autumn, the needles turn shades of red and brown before dropping, exposing the tree’s interesting branching pattern and bark in winter. Zones 5-8

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Empress Tree

An interesting tree with an unusual shape and look, empress tree (Paulownia tomentosa) lends a tropical effect to the landscape. Plant it near other trees and fast-growing shrubs, allowing for its wide spread. It grows at least 2 feet per year, reaching 50 feet tall and wide. Zones 7-9 (and southern Zone 6)

Test Garden Tip: Check local restrictions before planting the empress tree; it may be an invasive weed tree in your area.

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European Black Alder

Ideal for low, wet spots in the landscape where other trees often fail, European black alder (Alnus glutinosa) is native in most areas of Europe. Avoid planting near sidewalks and sewer lines. Growing rapidly when young, it slows to 12 to 15 inches per year, reaching 40 to 60 feet tall and 20 to 40 feet wide. Zones 4-8

Test Garden Tip: Check local restrictions before planting European black alder; it may be an invasive species in your area.

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Strong, vigorous growers, gum trees (Eucalyptus spp.) can anchor a western landscape, making them a good fast-growing tree for privacy and shade. Locate gum trees where their fallen leaf and stem debris won’t be a problem. Growing 2 to 3 feet per year, gum trees come in a variety of species that range from 25 to 70 feet tall. They do not perform well in the climatic extremes and humidity of the Southeast. Zones 9-10

Test Garden Tip: Check local restrictions before planting gum; some species are considered invasive pests.

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Japanese Pagoda Tree

Flourishing in a somewhat limited range in the United States, Japanese pagoda tree (Sophora japonica) needs little care and offers creamy flowers in summer. A native of China and Japan, it grows 12 to 15 inches per year and can reach 75 feet tall and wide. Zones 6-8 (and mild areas of Zone 5)

Related: Elements of Japanese Garden Design

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Lemon Bottlebrush

Tolerant of southern heat and drought, lemon bottlebrush (Callistemon citrinus) can be grown in northern climates in large containers and brought in for winter. It shoots up at a rate of 10 to 15 inches per year, eventually reaching 25 feet. Bearing red flowers, it attracts hummingbirds. Zones 9-10

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Leyland Cypress

Leyland cypress (Cupressocyparis leylandii) can be used as an individual specimen tree or grouped for a tall, fast-growing hedge for privacy and screening. It grows 1 to 3 feet per year, reaching up to 70 feet, and prefers full sun. Its size can be controlled with pruning. Zones 7-10

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Silver Maple and Red Maple

One of the most common trees in the United States, the silver maple (Acer saccharinum) is native to the eastern part of North America. It grows 12 to 20 inches per year, reaching up to 100 feet tall and 70 feet wide. A common shade tree, it unfortunately has shallow roots and weak branches. Its cousin, the red maple (Acer rubrum), is also native to North America and is known for its stunning fall foliage color. Red maples grow smaller: 50 feet tall and 40 feet wide. Zones 3-9

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Tulip Tree

Tulip trees (Liriodendron tulipifera) are known for their beautiful yellow-orange spring flowers, unusual leaves shaped somewhat like tulip silhouettes, yellow fall foliage, and attractive form. They grow 15 to 18 inches per year and can reach up to 100 feet tall. The wood is weak; train young trees to develop wide, strong branch angles to avoid losing limbs to splitting. Zones 5-9

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Eastern White Pine

With silky, fine-texture needles and long, graceful branches, North American native Eastern white pines (Pinus strobus) are beloved for their feel and look. They grow 12 to 15 inches per year and can reach up to 100 feet tall. Zones 3-8

Related: Fast-Growing Evergreens

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Southern Catalpa

An old-fashioned shade tree, southern catalpa (Catalpa bignonioides) offers small white flowers in spring. The slender seedpods that result can be messy, so grow catalpa in a background situation. It grows 12 to 15 inches per year, eventually reaching up to 40 feet tall and wide. It’s native to areas of southeastern North America. Zones 5-9

Top Evergreens for Your Landscape

  • By Deb Wiley

Once established these 25 best Drought Tolerant Fruit Trees need very occasional or no supplemental watering to grow and produce fruits.

In hot and arid areas availability of water even for regular chore is difficult sometimes, forget about watering plants. If you live at such a place or really a busy person who can’t about trees growing in your yard, then these low maintenance and drought tolerant fruit trees are perfect for you.

Also Read: Best Drought Tolerant Flowers

1. Jujube

Botanical Name: Ziziphus jujube

USDA Zones: 6-9

Other Names: Chinese Date, Indian Plum, Malay Jujube, Indian Cherry, Korean Date, Ber, Dunks, Masau

With the fruits similar to figs in size an apple in taste with some tanginess, this phenomenal fruiting tree can reach a height of 40 feet. Plus, if you do not pluck the fruit and let it become dry and shriveled up, it’ll last forever without any preservative. Also, note that the fruits of the Chinese jujube varieties are sweeter and bigger than their Indian cousins.

Growing Tips:

Locate it in full sun and well-draining sandy-loamy soil, it grows well in poor hard clayey soils as well. Remember, Indian jujube varieties are more drought and heat tolerant than Chinese varieties.

2. Dragon Fruit

Botanical Name: Hylocereus undatus

USDA Zones: 10-11

Other Names: Cereus triangularis, Thanh long, Strawberry Pear, Cactus fruit, Night blooming Cereus, Jesus in the Cradle

It tops the list of exotic fruits and why not! The bright pink outer shell with scales give the fruit a unique, appealing look. Fruits are also rich in fiber, potassium, antioxidants and vitamin C making it invaluable.

Growing Tips:

Being a cactus, it requires well-draining soil with lots of sunlight for optimum growth. Water only when soil turns dry to touch. It needs sturdy support as its a vining plant.

Also Read: How to Grow Dragon Fruit

3. Prickly Pear Cactus

Botanical Name: Opuntia ficus-indica

USDA Zones: 9–11

Other Names: Indian fig opuntia, Barbary fig, cactus pear, Spineless cactus, Nopal Cactus

Valued both for its ornamental beauty and tropically flavored fruits. Juicy fruits also have a thirst quenching quality to them. Ranging from white to yellow to orange the flowers are very showy and charming.

Growing Tips:

Apart from tropical regions, it can do well in mild climates and can tolerate some cold (-8 C) and wet climates. For a fruiting and thriving plant locate it in a sunny spot.

Also Read: How to Grow Prickly Pears

4. Pomegranate

Botanical Name: Punica granatum

USDA Zones: 7-10

Pomegranate is actually a shrub, which can be trained as a small tree. It doesn’t grow above 12-15 feet tall. Given proper care, it can stay alive for more than 200 years. The fruit is delicious and juicy and packed with antioxidants.

Growing Tips:

It does well in full sun to partial shade in the slightly acidic to neutral potting medium. If growing on the ground, in the initial growing period, water it regularly, but once the tree has established deep watering once in a week in a warm climate is sufficient.

Also Read: Growing Pomegranates in Containers

5. Grapes

Botanical Name: Vitis vinifera

USDA Zones: 7-10

The grapevine is very common and grown commercially for wine production, juice production, and table grapes. It’s found in recent research that grapevine is very drought resistant and can tolerate heat easily.

Growing Tips:

Grow it where it can receive 6-8 hours of sun each day in a well-draining sandy or loamy soil. Pruning is crucial for maximum yield.

Also Read: How to Grow Grapes in Pots & Care

6. Kei Apple

Botanical Name: Dovyalis caffra Warb

USDA Zones: 9-11

Native to South Africa, it is a small to medium size tree and can grow to a height of 6-9 meters tall. The fruit is ovate and posses an acidic flavor which leaves an extremely acidic and funny but pleasant taste in the mouth. Also, the fruit is highly aromatic and used in jams, sorbets and fruit salads.

Growing Tips:

It can grow in highly saline soil and is also drought resistant. You can locate it in full sun or partial shade in a well-draining growing medium.

Also Read: Best Fruits to Grow in Pots

7. Oriental Persimmon

Botanical Name: Diospyros kaki

USDA Zones: 5-11

Other Names: Persimmon, Oriental Persimmon, Japanese Persimmon, Kaki, Tendu, Tendu Fal, Sharon Fruit, Divine Fruit

Don’t mistake the fruits for tomatoes; they might look alike but are different. It’s the national fruit of Japan and why not it’s nutritious and very unique in taste. In winters, the bright orange-red fruits dangling on bare branches are enough to add winter interest to any landscape.

Growing Tips:

Prune when the trees are young for optimum fruiting. Will do well in neutral to slightly acidic soil. It can tolerate short drought periods but thrive best with regular watering. There are many varieties available for both cold and hot climates.

Also Read: Best Drought Tolerant Plants

8. Fig

Botanical Name: Ficus carica

USDA Zones: 8-11

Other Names: Edible Fig, Common Fig, تين عادي, Anjeer, פיקוס התאנה

Figs produce deliciously sweet fruits that are rich in potassium, calcium, and other dietary fibers. They are easy to plant in both garden and containers. This small fruit tree or large shrub can tolerate short periods of seasonal drought due to its large deep roots.

Growing Tips:

Put your fig tree at a spot where it can receive around 6-8 hours of direct sun. It prefers warm climatic conditions, but go for more cold-hardy varieties such as Chicago Hardy if you live in colder regions.

9. Natal Plum

Botanical Name: Carissa macrocarpa

USDA Zones: 9-11

Other Names: Large Num-Num, Amatungulu, Noem-Noem

Dark green foliage, spiny branches, and white star-shaped aromatic flowers enhance its ornamental beauty. The mouthwatering red fruits are rich in vitamin A, B, and C and can be used in various soup, pie, sauce and salad recipes.

Growing Tips:

For optimum results plant it in full sun. It is adaptable to harsh conditions like heavy shade, moisture, drought, heat, and intense sun. It can’t tolerate cool winters, so it’s a good idea to grow it in a container in temperate zones.

10. Feijoa

Botanical Name: Acca sellowiana

USDA Zones: 8-11

Other Names: Pineapple Guava, Guavasteen, Guayabo Del Pais, Brazilian Guava, Fig Guava

Reddish white Flowers, as well as guava-like fruits, both are edible. It bears reddish fruits in fall which are fragrant and contrast well with the dark green foliage. Its self-pollinating nature and manageable size make it perfect for small space.

Growing Tips:

Can tolerate temperatures as low as 12 F (-11 C). Fertilize once in every two months with a light and well-balanced 8-8-8 fertilizer. Young trees require weekly watering whereas watering needs recede as the tree matures.

Also Read: How to Grow Feijoa

11. Guava

Botanical Name: Psidium guajava

USDA Zones: 9b-11

The small-sized guava tree is an ideal choice for container gardeners as well. It produces nutritious fruits that taste like a combination of strawberries and pears, though really soft while chewing. Fruits are eaten fresh or used widely in jams, juices, and chutneys.

Growing Tips:

It bears fruits year round at regular intervals in tropics. Protection from cold and frost is necessary to keep the plant alive. Soil rich in organic matter gives the best results. Requires deep and regular watering when the plant is young. Check out our guava growing guide to learn how to grow it.

12. Tamarind

Botanical Name: Tamarindus indica

USDA Zones: 9-11

Other Names: Imlee, Imli, Tamarin, Tamarindo, Tamarindus indica, Tamarinier, Tamarinier d’Inde, Tintiri

This is the fruit tree that thrives on neglect. Widely used in cuisines for flavoring and in many Asian curry and chutney recipes, its pulp is a key ingredient. Plus, it is used in traditional medicines because of the laxative properties and effectiveness against bacteria and fungi.

Growing Tips:

Make sure the climate is warm enough and sunny if you plant it outdoors. It prefers deep loamy soil with good drainage. A well-established tamarind tree can tolerate long periods of extreme drought. In cool climates, you can keep it indoors in winters while growing it in containers. It’s also grown as a bonsai.

Also Read: How to Grow Tamarind Tree

13. Karanda

Botanical Name: Carissa carandas

USDA Zones: 9b-11

Other Names: Bengal currant, Christ’s thorn, carandas plum, karonda

It produces a berry-sized fruit that is extremely tart and is commonly used in curries, pickles, and spices in the Asian countries. Priced for its medicinal uses in Ayurveda because it treats ailments such as stomach pain acidity, indigestion, fresh and infected wounds, skin diseases, urinary disorders, and diabetic ulcer.

Growing Tips:

It flourishes best in hot climates and requires full sun to part shade. This woody shrub or small tree needs sturdy support in the beginning when it’s establishing.

14. Date Palms

Botanical Name: Phoenix dactylifera

USDA Zones: 9-11

Bring the tropical feel of deserts to your backyard with this low maintenance palm. For growing in a container and indoor plantation go for Pygmy date palm, which is smaller in height in comparison to the true date palm.

Growing Tips:

In winters, water a couple of times in a month, whereas in summers, water weekly. It suffers damage from frost and cold so provide shelter if growing in a cool climate. Constantly look out for common pests such as mites, aphids, scale, whitefly, and mealy bugs.

15. Mango

Botanical Name: Mangifera indica

USDA Zones: 10-11

It’s not just by chance that mango became king of fruits. The delicious juicy fruit backs up this title with the rich flavor and satiating aroma. Consuming this fruit has excellent health benefits as it boosts immunity, lowers cholesterol, good for eyesight, etc.

Growing Tips:

Fruit production is best in full sun, so locate the plant likewise. Avoid really wet and heavy soil, rest all are suitable. When the plant is young, water regularly, established mango trees are extremely drought tolerant. Learn how to grow a mango tree in a pot in our guide here.

16. Moringa

Botanical Name: Mangifera indica

USDA Zones: 10-11

Other Names: Drumstick, mallungay, munga, munge, horseradish tree, drumstick plant

A wonder plant when it comes to medicinal uses and benefits. Fruits, seeds, flower, leaves, and bark all are utilized in making medicine. Because of its high content of calcium, potassium, vitamin A, C, and antioxidants, its also called a miracle tree.

Growing Tips:

It’s a wild tree, which can tolerate drought and poor soil easily. To encourage fruiting, cut back the older branches and flowers in the first year. Check out our growing guide to learn more.

17. Phalsa Fruit

Botanical Name: Grewia asiatica

USDA Zones: 9-11

Other Names: Falsa, sherbet berry

Phalsa is a large shrub or small tree that can be grown in containers. It produces berries akin to grapes in shape, size, and taste. Rich in antioxidants, Vitamin C and other nutrients you can prepare delicious phalsa juice or consume the berries raw.

Growing Tips:

It prefers the warm climate but can tolerate the light frost. Plant it in containers so that you can move it indoors in winters. It’s a drought tolerant plant but adequate watering during fruiting is required.

Tip: For growing phalsa in containers, choose dwarf busier varieties.

18. Asian Pears

Botanical Name: Pyrus pyrifolia

USDA Zones: 5-10

Other Names: Chinese pear, Nashi pear, Japanese pear, Korean pear, Taiwanese pear, Zodiac pear

Not only does it inherit the sweetness and juiciness of common pear but it has also got the crunchiness of an apple. You can benefit from the goodness of this fruit for months as it’ll stay edible for a long time in the refrigerator.

Growing Tips:

It needs regular and deep watering when the plant is establishing. While it can tolerate a season of drought easily, keeping the soil slightly moist let the plant remain in optimum condition.

19. Carob Tree

Botanical Name: Ceratonia siliqua

USDA Zones: 9-11

Other Names: St. John’s Bread, Carob, Locust Bean, Locust Tree, خَرُّوبٌ, חרוב‬, Carob Bush

The goodness of chocolate without the added calories is the reason why it’s considered as a healthy substitute for chocolate. Growing up to 10 meters tall it’s a deciduous tree, and the canopy of foliage provides welcome shade in hot tropical regions.

Growing Tips:

Can grow in many soil types such as deep sandy, loamy or even arid soil but won’t tolerate acidic substrate. Learn to Grow a Carob Tree in our growing guide.

Also Read: Best Chocolate Scented Flowers

20. Mamoncillo

Botanical Name: Melicoccus bijugatus

USDA Zones: 10-11

Other Names: Chenette, quenette, gnep, guinep, guaya, quenepa, kenip, genip, ginnip, kenepa, knippa, Spanish lime, limoncillo

It’s a tall, erect tree that can reach a height of 25 meters and produces juicy fruits with hard green shells that resemble small unripe mango. The inner soft pulp is somewhat sweet and sour.

Growing Tips:

Frost is the death of this plant. It’s very drought tolerant and doesn’t mind poor soil. Check out every information you need on Growing Mamoncillo in our article.

21. Bael Fruit

Botanical Name: Aegle marmelos

USDA Zones: 10-12

Other Names: Arbre de Bael, Bael Tree, Bel, Bel Indien, Bengal Quince, Bilva, Bilwa, Cognassier du Bengale, Coing du Bengale, Indian Bael, Manzana de Piedra, Membrillo de Bengala, Pomme du Bengale, Shivaphala, Stone Apple

It gets this unique name “Wood Apple” because of the hard woody outer shell of the fruit. It is native to the Indian subcontinent and extremely drought tolerant. The fruits are a rich source of fiber and vitamin C. *It holds a religious value in Hinduism.

Growing Tips:

Stake the plant when it is young to help it grow straight. Hot summers and mild winters are what it needs. Avoid the location with water stagnation.

22. Black Plum

Botanical Name: Syzygium cumini

USDA Zones: 8-11

Other Names: Black Plum, Duhat, Eugenia cumini, Eugenia jambolana, Indian Blackberry, Jambolan Plum, Jambolao, Jambose, Jambosier, Jambu, Jambul, Jamum, Java Plum, Jumbul, Prune de Java, Rose Apple, Syzygium cumini, Syzygium jambolanum, Syzygium jambos

It can live for more than 100 years, quite a long life! Also, it can grow up to 30 meters (100 feet) tall. The purple-colored ripe fruits are juicy and posses sweet flavor with a hint of sourness. These rare fruits are extremely nutritious and beneficial for people who have diabetes. Find out its medicinal benefits here.

Growing Tips:

Keep the soil moist for seedlings and young plants, reduce the watering once it is established. It can grow in a wide range of soils and requires moderate shade to full sun.

23. Ice Cream Bean

Botanical Name: Inga edulis

USDA Zones: 9-11

Other Names: Ice-cream-bean, Joaquiniquil, Cuaniquil, Guama, Guaba

The beans in the foot long pod are surrounded by white and smooth cotton-ish pulp that resembles the taste of vanilla ice cream. Yummy isn’t it! The beans are used in traditional medicines for treating dysentery, diarrhea, and reliving arthritic joints pains.

Growing Tips:

A warm location and a spot that receives sunlight throughout the day is where it’ll do best. It’s drought tolerant after establishment but will produce bountiful harvest if you water it once in a while.

24. Loquat

Botanical Name: Eriobotrya japonica

USDA Zones: 8-11

Other Names: Japanese medlar, nispero, Maltese plum, Japanese plum, 盧橘, pipa

If you are looking for something new to plant go for Loquat. It adds ornamental beauty to any landscape with the large glossy leaves and bright fruits. Jams, jellies, preserves, cobblers, and pies can be prepared by the fruit.

Growing Tips:

This large shrub or small tree can be grown in containers as well, the height will be reduced to 6-8 feet. It can live well in mild temperate zones as well and tolerate temperature down to 20 F (-6 C). It’s drought tolerant but for quality fruits, water regularly and deeply, especially in summer.

25. Elephant Apple

Botanical Name: Limonia acidissima

USDA Zones: 9-12

Other Names: Wood Apple, kavat, kabith, kavath, velakkaya, divul, kvet, kawis, kawes, kaitha, mokey fruit, curd fruit, ma-khwit

This fruit tree is native to India and Sri Lanka and found naturally in other South East Asian countries. It’s one of the best drought tolerant fruit trees, which can grow quite tall. The taste of its fruit is rare–very acidic and sweet. It resembles the bael fruit in shape and size.

Growing Tips:

It requires a warm, arid climate to grow and thrive. It requires regular watering when it’s young, once established, it thrives on neglect.

10 Drought-Tolerant Shrubs

A few years back, we were hit with the worst drought Alabama had seen in 100 years. It turned out to be the best opportunity we had to see how the plants in our non-irrigated test gardens held up during and after the trauma of extreme heat and drought. With our notebooks and pencils in hand, we watched and recorded as the thermometer soared above 100°F 14 times that season. We continued to observe our display gardens throughout the following season to see if the heat and lack of water altered their show compared to the previous years. The results of the 2007 drought proved to us what shrubs are the sturdiest and still stunning.

Because we are constantly faced with the challenge of drought, we have committed ourselves for the past 15 years to identifying traits in shrubs like drought tolerance and performance history in addition to their natural attraction. Here are the standout shrubs that still look sexy in the scorching, dry heat.

1. Big blooms in summer heat

Name: Panicle hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata* and cvs.)

USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 8

Size: 12 to 20 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; well-drained soil

The lush panicle hydrangea is a surprising drought-hardy stunner. It peaks at the height of summer with magnificent 6- to 15-inch-long white blooms that cover arching limbs. They change from greenish white to pinkish red. In fall, the leaves drop, leaving bare branches weighted with large dried blooms into winter. Varieties worth examining include ‘Limelight’ (pictured) and ‘Little Lamb’.

Without water: These shrubs bloomed despite the extreme heat we experienced in 2007. We were amazed that they not only retained all their leaves but also held those leaves fresh and turgid. It seems that the only soil these hardy shrubs will not tolerate is one that is soggy.

2. A prespring kiss of color

Name: Flowering quince (Chaenomeles speciosa and cvs.)

Zones: 5 to 9

Size: Up to 8 feet tall and 15 feet wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; well-drained, slightly acidic soil

Who doesn’t want a plant that will heat up the garden in late winter with the promise of spring? The beautiful blossoms of flowering quince are sure to get your heart pumping. Bare branches are covered with cottony blooms on ‘Jet Trail’ or kissed with a vibrant lipstick red on ‘Texas Scarlet’ (pictured). As the flowers fade in spring, the foliage begins to appear (inset). Typically, the bare branches are a stunning gold or red in fall, when they occasionally rebloom again. The likeliness of a second bloom is increased by a dry spell in late summer followed by plenty of fall rain.

Without water: During the drought of 2007, this plant dropped its leaves during the hottest part of summer. New foliage sprouted in fall when cooler temperatures and rain returned. Even with the trauma of drought, it supplied us with as many showy blooms as any other year.

3. A sure show-off, even in dry shade

Name: Mapleleaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium)

Zones: 4 to 8

Size: 3 to 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; fertile, well-drained soil

With mapleleaf viburnum, the show starts in early summer, when it begins to produce puffy white clusters of flowers. The blooms are followed by red berries that darken to purple-black. In fall, the maple-shaped leaves transform from bright green to shades of yellow, orange (inset), rose-red, or purple.

Without water: Our mapleleaf viburnums survived the extreme drought in a shady spot. We did not note a single variation in growth or performance. Who doesn’t want a stellar plant to fill a dry-shade spot? With a little sun, mapleleaf viburnum will produce more flowers and berries.

4. Exceptional in wet or dry soil

Name: Winterberry (Ilex verticillata and cvs.)

Zones: 5 to 8

Size: Up to 15 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; well-drained, acidic soil

We’re not sure who the bigger fan of winterberry is: us or the fat mockingbird that spends the winter trying to eat every vibrant berry from the leafless stems. The fruit begin to ripen in late summer when the leaves are still lush. They hold onto the branches through the fall—even after the foliage changes color and drops. The straight species of this plant (pictured) is spectacular, but if you’re short on space, ‘Red Sprite’ is a snazzy smaller option at 3 to 5 feet tall and wide.

Without water: It is well known that winterberry tolerates wet soils, so we were amazed at its ability to perform also in exceptionally hot and dry conditions. In 2007, we noted earlier fall color and leaf drop. We also noted fruit came into full color sooner, but there was no change in the amount or show of the berries.

5. Flaunt fall-like foliage all year

Name: Heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica* and cvs.)

Zones: 6 to 11

Size: Up to 6 feet tall and 5 feet wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; well-drained soil

There isn’t a time that heavenly bamboo doesn’t strut its stuff. Tall, well-behaved, straight stems sport fall-like foliage all year. In spring, white sprays of flowers appear, followed by clusters of berries that turn a vibrant red in winter. ‘Gulf Stream’ (pictured) doesn’t produce many, if any, berries, but it is still our favorite because it’s compact and flaunts a flush of flashy bronze growth in spring.

Without water: There is nothing common about how well heavenly bamboo handles extreme temperatures without water. In the terrible summer of 2007, it maintained the same vigor and intensity of color as any other year.

6. A shrub that always looks good

Name: ‘Anthony Waterer’ spirea (Spiraea × bumalda ‘Anthony Waterer’, syn. Spiraea japonica* ‘Anthony Waterer’)

Zones: 4 to 9

Size: Up to 5 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Full sun; fertile, well-drained soil

‘Anthony Waterer’ is attractive en masse and shines when peppered in a border. No wonder it’s popular. New growth is bronze to red but matures to green. Pink blooms cover the shrub late spring to early summer. Remove spent blooms before they turn brown to increase the chance of a second show of flowers.

Without water: In a typical year, the blooms fade midsummer and new growth follows immediately. During the drought of 2007, new growth did not appear right after the blossoms faded; the shrub went into a short semidormant period. As soon as fall brought cooler temperatures and rainfall, however, the shrub was refreshed with new growth and showed no visible damage.

7. Versatile wands of color

Name: Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus* and cvs.)

Zones: 6 to 9

Size: 8 to 15 feet tall and 12 to 20 feet wide

Conditions: Full sun; well-drained soil

There is a reason this perky heirloom is still around. Showstopping, fragrant, cone-shaped blooms shoot out from the ends of upright branches in midsummer. Purple, pink, and white forms are available, but if you want to make an impact, plant ‘Shoal Creek’ (pictured), which has dark blue flowers. They attract butterflies and hummingbirds and actually look like butterfly-bush blooms, but they can reach up to 18 inches long. The plant’s multitrunk habit adds to the character and versatility of chaste tree. It makes a great small specimen tree or large shrub in warm climates; in cooler regions, it can also be grown as a dieback shrub.

Without water: Chaste tree delivered a typical performance during the summer drought of 2007. What surprised us is that it performed with no difference in the recent extremely wet season we just experienced in 2009. Another plus is that the deer leave it alone.

8. The most attractive berries you could ever ask for

Name: American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana and cvs.)

Zones: 5 to 9

Size: Up to 6 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Prefers partial shade; fertile, well-drained soil

This gem-studded shrub is native to North America. It is found in woodlands from southwest Maryland to Arkansas and on south to Mexico. The small berries are attached in dramatic clusters up and down the stems. The fruit turn an exotic lavender-purple (or bright white in the case of ‘Lactea’) and persist through fall—or until the birds eat them. Arching branches are bare in winter but come alive in spring with bright green leaves. In late spring to summer, delicate pink blooms appear, followed by the showy fruit.

Without water: To deal with drought, the shrub wilts and, in extreme cases, drops its foliage and goes dormant. Once it receives water, it quickly recovers its vitality. In addition to having survived the 100-year drought, the shrub showed a resistance to insects and diseases.

9. Blooms with style and endurance

Name: Glossy abelia (Abelia × grandiflora and cvs.)

Zones: 6 to 9

Size: 3 to 12 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; fertile, well-drained soil

It is no surprise that the old-fashioned favorite, glossy abelia, is on this list. Year after year, it consistently produces an abundance of small, fragrant, pale pink blooms (inset), which attract butterflies and hummingbirds from spring until frost in our gardens. It has a free form but is well behaved and semievergreen. New, smaller hybrids have been introduced and are gaining even more popularity than the taller, more traditional varieties. The strongest performers for us have been those from the University of Georgia’s breeding program, including ‘Canyon Creek’ and ‘Rose Creek’.

Without water: Do not overwater abelia. It not only survived the extremes of 2007 but also thrived in the dry heat. In addition, it has few problems with insects or diseases. Our conclusion is that it prefers neglect.

10. A shower of sunshine

Name: Winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum)

Zones: 6 to 9

Size: 10 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; fertile, well-drained soil

If you crave cheerful warmth during the cold season, then plant winter jasmine. Yellow blooms cover long, leafless stems from midwinter to early spring. Attractive foliage fills in when the flowers fade. The graceful arching branches will also occasionally welcome a second splash of blooms among the leaves in late summer.

Without water: Unirrigated, even in extreme drought, it performs with consistent beauty and no obvious stress. It can also brag that the deer leave it alone.

The Powell family owns and operates Petals from the Past nursery in Jemison, Alabama.


The following mail-order plant sellers offer the widest selection of the drought-tolerant shrubs featured:

Gardens North, PO Box 370, Annapolis Royal NS B0S 1A0; www.gardensnorth.com

Joy Creek Nursery, Scappoose, Ore.; 503-543-7474; www.joycreek.com

Woodlanders, Aiken, S.C.; 803-648-7522; www.woodlanders.net

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Creating a garden filled with plants that are drought tolerant is more environmentally friendly than one that contains thirsty plants – particularly if you live in an area that is experiencing drought. You would probably be surprised to hear that in addition to California and the Southwest, some areas in the Northwest and Southeast are also experiencing drought conditions.

Even if drought is not affecting your area, using plants that can survive on less water makes sense, because they are generally lower maintenance and better able to weather dry conditions as they may occur in your area.

In previous posts, we have shown you some beautiful, drought tolerant choices for ground covers and perennials. Today, let’s look at some attractive shrubs – some of which you may surprised to find are drought resistant.

Lilac Shrubs

The fragrance of lilacs perfume the air in late spring. Even when not in flower, lilac shrubs are attractive. Lilacs like fertile soil that is well-drained – they don’t do well in soggy soil. For maximum flowering, plant in an area that receives at least 6 hours of sun a day.

Most lilacs grow in zones 4 to 7, however, there are some varieties that will grow in zones 8 and 9. Because lilac shrubs can grow quite large, they make great informal hedges along a property line or as a foundation plant. Be sure to note how large the variety you select will grow to at maturity and allow enough room for them to spread out. Lilacs don’t do well in the deep South or desert.

Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)

Lovely flowers in spring followed by colorful berries in fall make beautyberry a favorite of many gardeners. I bet you didn’t know that this perennial shrub is also drought tolerant. The species Callicarpa americana, is hardy in zones 7 to 11 while several species native to Asia are hardy to zone 5 gardens. Beautyberry is a great choice for those who want to add an attractive shrub to the landscape that is pest and disease resistant. In addition, it doesn’t require supplemental fertilizer.

A large shrub, beautyberry grows to 4 – 6 feet high and wide, which makes it a great choice to use for screening out an undesirable view, covering a wall or fence.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

A culinary favorite, rosemary is well known in the garden as a small shrub or ground cover in the landscape in zones 7 – 10. Fragrant leaves cover stiff stems and small, light blue flowers burst forth in late winter in zones 9 and above while appearing a bit later in cooler zones. The less you fuss with rosemary, the better it does. It does best in most soils, except for heavy clay, thrives in full sun and usually doesn’t need supplemental fertilizer. An added benefit is that rosemary attracts butterflies and is deer resistant.

For those who live in zone 6 on up, there is a new variety of rosemary that can survive subzero winters called ‘Alcade Cold Hardy’. Even if you cannot grow rosemary outdoors all year, it does make a great container plant that you can bring indoors during the winter. Both bush and ground cover varieties will be certain to add beauty to your garden and great tasting food to your table.

Boxwood (Buxus sp.)

Many people are surprised to find boxwood shrubs on a drought tolerant list of plants. But in the more temperate regions of the country, boxwood are considered drought tolerant, once established in the garden. Boxwood shrubs have long been used in the American landscape since they were brought over in the 1600’s and since then have been used for edging, creating borders and for screening.

American, English and Japanese species of boxwood are most commonly grown in the United States and all can be used in zones 5 and above. They do best in well-drained, fertile soil and although they will grow in full sun, a location with partial shade is best.

Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)

The distinctive spiky shape of Russian sage with its lavender blue flowers stands alone in the garden. Native to Afghanistan (not Russia), this small shrub is often treated as a perennial in the garden. Its silvery stems and leaves are fragrant and its flowers can appear as early as late spring and all the way into early fall, depending on your zone. Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds are all attracted to this small shrub, but deer and rabbits are not.

Russian sage can be grown in a wide variety of climates all the way from zone 3 up to zone 10. In colder climates, it will die back to the ground only to reappear in spring. Those who live in the warmer zones of 8 and above will be able to enjoy the presence of this shrub all year long. Extremely drought tolerant, Russian sage needs well-drained soil neutral to slightly alkaline soil, full sun and hot summers to look its best.

As you can see, some plants that you were already familiar with are also drought tolerant and deserve a place in your garden. You can also select drought resistant plants that also will attract birds to your garden. Check out our article “Drought Resistant Plants for Birds” for a list of plants that will add beauty to your garden while attracting feathered friends.

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