Are you looking for inspiration on drought tolerant plants? This article has 50 great suggestions for low maintenance plants that will tolerate hot, dry weather.
As climate change and scorching summers continue to be an issue, many of us are starting to look at ways to make our gardens more adaptable to heatwave conditions.
Nobody wants to lose their lovely plants due to dry and hot weather, but that has definitely been the case for lots of us over the last year. And if you’ve managed to keep your plants alive, you probably had to spend lots of time looking after them, which isn’t ideal either.
All of this has created a growing interest in, and demand for, drought tolerant planting.
What are drought tolerant plants?
Drought tolerant plants are usually plants that are native to hot climates. This means they are used to growing in dry, warm settings, and are able to survive – and even thrive – in conditions that would kill many plants.
Benefits of heat and drought tolerant plants
Introducing drought resistant plants to your garden will benefit you in a number of ways.
For starters, you will reduce the risk of losing plants in a heatwave. This will save you money, and help to keep your garden looking good all summer long.
Growing drought resistant plants also allows you to cut down on watering. This makes them low maintenance plants, which is ideal if you don’t want to spend ages out with the watering can. Using less water in the garden is a great way to embrace sustainable gardening.
Finally, many drought resistant plants look absolutely beautiful. You can fill your garden with colour, scent and texture, while also taking advantage of all the other benefits they offer.
Which plants are drought tolerant?
Wondering what plants like full sun and heat?? We’ve got 50 varieties for you to explore.
50 low maintenance drought tolerant plants that will survive the driest conditions
As well as drought tolerant perennials and annual plants, there are also drought tolerant shrubs, drought tolerant ornamental grasses, drought tolerant flowering plants and drought tolerant climbing plants. And if you garden in containers, there’s a selection of drought tolerant plants for pots too.
How do you create a drought tolerant garden?
Whether you’re starting a garden from scratch, replacing plants that you lost in a heatwave, or simply adding a few new plants to your garden, you’ll find the perfect low maintenance drought tolerant plants here.
Drought tolerant perennials
You’ve got so much choice when it comes to drought resistant perennial plants. Here are our top picks to get you started.
Hardy geraniums are one of those garden plants that just refuse to give up. Chances are if you’ve got one in your garden, it’s been there for years, flowering away and asking for very little in return.
If you want masses of drought tolerant flowers, a hardy geranium should definitely be on your list. They bloom for months, they’ll tolerate pretty much any soil type, and they cope well with heat and sun. They’re also perfect flowers for bees.
Looking for a drought tolerant plant that delivers on height and is wildlife-friendly? Verbena bonariensis could be the answer.
This popular plant has tall, slender stems with tiny clusters of purple flowers. It retains water very well, and loves to grow in sunny areas. It’s adored by bees and pollinators too.
Eryngium (Sea Holly)
This plant is often found in coastal areas, where it has to cope with extreme weather and high salt levels, so you know it’s going to be tough.
Eryngiums look a bit like thistles, with spiky flowers and silver-blue stems. They’re great for adding some drama and height to a border, and thrive in poor soil. Plant them away from the edges of paths as they’re a bit prickly.
Like the idea of drought tolerant succulents? Sedums love the sun, so they’re a good choice for a drought resistant planting scheme.
The waxy leaves and stems of sedums retain water effectively, so they’re very low maintenance plants. Sedums produce striking pink flowerheads in summer; as an added bonus the flowers are popular with pollinating insects, so adding them is an easy way to make your garden more wildlife friendly.
It’s worth leaving the flower heads on the plant; they will provide interest right through winter.
Verbascums are native to sunny, dry climates, so they will cope well in drought conditions and love to bake in the sun. They’re available in a range of colours, and will attract pollinating insects to the garden.
Also known as coneflower, echinacea is a drought tolerant plant with many other positive features. The large, open flower heads on tall stems look stunning, and attract an abundance of butterflies and pollinators.
Echinacea will thrive in most soils, and is happy in full sun. It also seeds itself around the garden, so you can look forward to new plants for zero effort or cost.
Vinca major (or periwinkle) is brilliant if you want ground cover, and produces dainty purple flowers on glossy green foliage. It’s drought resistant once established, pest-free, and low maintenance.
If you’ve got a hot spot in the garden and like your flowers bright, achillea (or common yarrow) plants are ideal. They will quickly fill a gap, and have feathery leaves topped with flat flower heads. Expect them to be popular with pollinators.
These South African plants are available in white, blue and purple hues, and produce gorgeous, big flower heads on tall stems. Agapanthus works well alongside ornamental grasses.
Geums are a favourite in cottage gardens, but they are also tough little plants that aren’t fazed by hot summers. Plant them in full sun or partial shade; they look lovely at the front of borders.
Salvias are brilliant for adding wow factor to your garden. These tall, elegant plants flower all summer long, and there are lots of varieties with good drought tolerance to choose from. ‘Sierra san Antonio’ has pale pink flowers, ‘Silas Dyson’ is crimson, and ’Javier’ is bright purple.
Another prime candidate for big impact, Kniphofias (or red hot poker plants) have bottlebrush-shaped flowers on tall stems.
These plants are native to South Africa, and love full sun and dry conditions. The hot colours work well alongside other strong colours in a planting scheme.
Veronica spicata (or spiked speedwell) is another candidate for fans of flower spikes. The blooms are purple, pink, blue or white, and reach up to two feet high.
Veronica is a long-flowering plant and will be perfectly happy in a sunny spot with well-drained soil.
Also known as African daisies, Osteospermum originate from Africa, so they’re very familiar with hot conditions. They produce an abundance of daisy-like flowers all summer long, and are happy to grow in pots or in the ground. You’ve got a wide selection of colours to choose from too.
Need a tall drought tolerant plant? Take a look at Agastache.
This bushy perennial can reach 5 feet tall, and produces masses of purple flower spikes. It works well at the back of a border, and is loved by bees.
Yuccas are native to South America and the Caribbean, which explains why they’re such a great drought resistant plant. The impressive upright leaves are designed to retain water, so it’s a good option for a dry garden.
As well as the striking foliage, yuccas put on a show with clusters of bell-shaped flowers in late summer.
When it comes to drought tolerant foliage plants, it’s hard to beat heucheras.
These tough little plants are available in a range of colours, and their striking leaves have beautiful shape and patterns. Heucheras prefer a bit of shade, but will tolerate hot weather well.
Euphorbia, or spurge, is super-tough. These evergreen perennials have impressive foliage in bright shades of green, plus interesting flowers. They don’t need much in the way of maintenance, and will cope well with heat.
This evergreen shrub originates from Southeast Asia. In our gardens, they make lovely focal points with their large spiky leaves, and can be found in shades of green and deep purple.
As well as being drought resistant, cordylines can also tolerate freezing temperatures – so they’re low maintenance in winter as well.
Drought tolerant annual plants that beat the summer heat
Many of us include annual plants in our summer gardens, to fill gaps or quickly add colour and interest. All of these drought tolerant annual plants need very little maintenance and can cope with heat and limited water.
French marigolds are actually a Mexican native plant, which is why they are used to growing in heat and drought.
The plants will benefit from watering as they are getting established, but after that they will add bright orange flowers to the garden without asking for much in return.
These are actually perennial plants, but they are short-lived so tend to be used as annuals. If you have poor soil in full sun, California poppies are a low maintenance option.
It’s no surprise that sunflowers do well in the sun! Their impressive flowers are easy to grow, and can handle dry conditions. Plant them in groups for a show stopping display; you can also grow sunflowers in pots.
Cosmos ticks all the boxes for a drought tolerant plant. It’s easy to grow, it produces a huge amount of flowers that don’t need deadheading, it’s happy pretty much anywhere in the garden, and it can handle the heat.
Cosmos is also another plant that will seed itself readily, giving you blooms year after year for very little effort. It can grow quite tall, so it works well at the back of borders.
The fluffy flowers of zinnia plants look wonderful in a colourful summer border. They originate from South America, so plant them in a sunny spot to keep them happy. If a heatwave hits, they won’t complain.
Cleome is a fantastic drought tolerant plant if you want to make a statement. It can reach 1.5 metres tall, and the flower heads have a unique shape that’s big on impact.
Drought tolerant ornamental grasses
Ornamental grasses are fantastic for adding a sensory experience to your garden. They bring movement, texture, and even sound to a border, and provide a backdrop to your flowering plants.
Here are some drought tolerant ornamental grasses you should consider adding to your outdoor space.
Stipa tenuissima has been popular with garden designers for many years, and for good reason. It’s a compact ornamental grass with delicate, frondy stems that move beautifully in the breeze. It’s also evergreen, and drought tolerant – plus it seeds itself readily, so you should only need to buy it once.
Pennisetum, or fountain grass, has slim leaves and gorgeous fluffy flower heads. It’s another compact ornamental grass, so it’s well-suited to small gardens.
Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’
This ornamental grass has blue-green leaves and a rounded shape. It enjoys full sun and can cope with dry spells.
Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’
As the name suggests, zebra grass has yellow stripes across its glossy green leaves. It forms a lovely loose shape and will be happy in full sun.
If you’ve got lots of space for an ornamental grass, consider pampas grass. It forms large clumps up to three metres tall, and shoots out feathery flower heads in summer.
Pampas grass likes to grow in full sun and well-draining soil, so it suits a drought tolerant planting scheme.
Drought tolerant climbing plants for a beautiful landscape
Need to make a sunny wall or trellis look more attractive? Check out these drought tolerant climbing plants.
Also known as star jasmine, this is a lovely climber with delicate, scented white flowers. It’s evergreen, low maintenance, and drought resistant.
Passion flowers are native to tropical South America, and as such they are good drought tolerant plants that will add a touch of the unusual to your garden. The scented flowers are very distinctive, and cover the plant in summer and early autumn.
Another drought tolerant climbing plant, Jasminum Officinale likes full sun and produces highly scented white flowers on a backdrop of green foliage. Grow it near a door or path to make the most of the fragrance.
Campsis is a vigorous climber, so it needs to be kept under control. It will reward you with trumpet-shaped flowers in strong colours from late summer onwards. Campsis is native to America and tolerates drought well.
Drought tolerant shrubs
If you need to replace a shrub, it’s worth considering a drought tolerant variety.
Good old lavender; hardy, long-flowering, highly scented, and adored by bees and pollinating insects. Plus, this mediterranean shrub is used to dealing with heat, and the plants can tolerate dry soil, so they’re extremely drought resistant flowers. There are loads of great lavender companion plants too.
Grown for their foliage, artemisia plants have grey-green leaves with a strong scent. They work really well in cottage gardens, and are good for providing drought tolerant ground cover.
This is a great option for filling a gap in the garden.
Perovskia, or Russian sage, grows to around 1 metre wide and 1 metre tall, and produces delicate purple flowers on tall, fragrant stems in late summer and early autumn. It loves full sun and doesn’t really mind what soil type you grow it in, as long as the drainage is good.
This is an evergreen shrub, so it will earn its space all year round and provide the garden with structure in winter.
Pittosporums don’t really like cold wind, so ideally you should plant them in a sheltered spot.
The best drought tolerant plants for pots
If you’re gardening in containers, there are plenty of options when it comes to drought resistant plants for pots. Here are some suggestions for small drought tolerant plants.
Nepeta (also known as Catmint) blooms from early summer into autumn, with tiny purple flowers on delicate stems. It’s drought tolerant, and doesn’t need to be deadheaded. You can cut it back to encourage a second set of blooms and extend the flowering season.
We’ve already covered lavender, but it deserves a mention for pots too. Dwarf varieties such as ‘Little Lady’ work brilliantly in containers. This guide shows you how to plant lavender in pots.
Sempervivums, or hens and chicks, are really low-maintenance plants. They’re also compact, so they work well in pots and hanging baskets. Sempervivums are low water plants, and will be very happy in a gravel-style arrangement.
Loved by so many gardeners for their long flowering habit and assortment of colours, petunias perform best in full sun and warm temperatures. Take your pick from trailing or bush varieties to suit your container arrangement.
Scented leaf pelargoniums
Pelargoniums are compact plants and look great in pots and hanging baskets.
The source of the scent in these popular container plants is oil in the leaves, and as well as providing fragrance, this oil also helps with moisture retention.
A foliage plant is always a welcome addition to a container display, and Helichrysum petiolare (also known as Liquorice plant) is a good drought tolerant option.
The foliage is silvery-green with a tactile surface. The plant has a trailing habit, so it will spill over the sides of a pot. It’s a great trailing plant for hanging baskets too.
Mexican flea bane is native to – you guessed it – the hot climate of Mexico. It has small daisy-like blooms and a compact, spilling habit, so it’s perfect for pots.
You may know this plant as lamb’s ears, and it gets its common name from the texture of the leaves. They have a soft, hairy surface which cuts down on water evaporation, making this a good drought tolerant foliage plant for containers.
Don’t rule out drought tolerant herbs for pots. Rosemary is a woody mediterranean herb, and as such it can cope easily with hot, dry pots. It enjoys full sun too.
Miscanthus sinensis ‘Little Zebra’
The standard version of zebra grass can reach over a metre tall, but there’s a small variety called ‘Little Zebra’ that’s ideal for pots. Like its big brother, it’s also drought resistant.
Coreopsis plants can be annual or perennial; annual varieties have a wider range of colours. The flowers are daisy-like and the plant is compact, so it works well in pots. Combine them with taller plants to create a bigger, more balanced display.
Drought resistant grass
Not all lawns are grown from the same seed. Some varieties of grass seed produce deeper roots, which gives them a better chance of reaching moisture in the soil. As a result, these varieties tend to be more drought tolerant than shallow rooted grass varieties.
If you’re replacing your lawn, or adding one to the garden, consider these drought resistant grass varieties:
- Slender creeping red fescue
- Tall fescue
- Smooth stalked meadow grass (also known as Kentucky blue grass)
How to water drought tolerant plants
When temperatures soar, even the most drought-tolerant plants will need watering regularly. The trick is to make your watering during drought as effective as possible.
Our post on effective summer garden watering has lots of tips and tricks to help you cut down on the amount of water you use, and the amount of time you spend watering.
Think about drought differently
Hopefully this guide to the best plants that are drought tolerant helps you to deal with the challenges we are facing in our gardens, and make the move towards a more sustainable way of gardening. If you’ve got any tips for gardening in drought please do share them in the comments.
More gardening resources
For more gardening advice, take a look at these useful resources.
Gardening jobs for each month – what to tackle in the garden for each month of the year.
Planting calendar – a guide to the flowers, fruit and vegetables you can grow every month.
Easy flowers to grow from seed – 12 easy options for stunning blooms.
10 easy vegetables to grow – perfect for gardeners who are getting to grips with grow your own.
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