Drought-Tolerant Perennials for Low-Maintenance Landscapes

by Suzanne DeJohn

Is it my imagination or is the weather making headline news more often than it used to? It seems like the last few years have seen more than the usual share of record snowfalls, extreme temperatures, floods and droughts. We gardeners tend to be particularly tuned into the weather, and although we can't control how much it rains or how cold it gets, we can choose plants that tolerate challenging conditions. And one of the biggest weather challenges is drought.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, right now much of the southern half of the country is experiencing abnormally dry conditions, and in many areas these conditions are expected to persist for at least the next few months. Whether or not your region is currently experiencing drought, chances are good that it will at some point in the not-so-distant future.

Even in "normal" years, most regions receive at least a few prolonged periods of scant rainfall each year, during which we drag out the hoses and water our gardens. In drought years, this task becomes a weekly chore. Vegetable gardens, container plantings, and newly planted trees, shrubs and perennials will always need regular watering. But by choosing drought-tolerant species whenever possible, you can create a landscape that requires less water to maintain.

Xeriscaping (pronounce the X like a Z) describes a landscaping strategy that reduces or eliminates the need for supplemental watering. For example, techniques like mulching strive to minimize water evaporation and runoff. However, the task of creating a water-thrifty landscape starts with plant selection. Species adapted to a climate that experiences regular droughts should need no supplemental water once they're established, unless conditions are extreme.

Following are some easy-to-grow plants that are relatively drought-tolerant. (They'll need water during their first growing season, and may need water during periods of extreme heat and/or drought.)

Black Eyed Susan
Catmint
Coreopsis
Daylilies
Echinacea
Gaillardia
Lavender
Liatris
Penstemon
Russian Sage
Salvia
Sedum
Yarrow

To browse through all our drought-tolerant selections, go to our Perennials page and on the "Narrow Your Results" area of the left sidebar choose "Will Tolerate: Drought/Dry Soil."

For more information on climate and drought, visit the Climate Prediction Center and Drought Monitor.

coreopsis cosmic eyecoreopsis cosmic eye
<a href="/perennials/coreopsis/coreopsis-cosmic-eye">Cosmic Eye Coreopsis</a>
echinacea hot papayaechinacea hot papaya
<a href="/perennials/echinacea/echinacea-hot-papaya-coneflower">Echinacea Hot Papaya</a>
salvia sage blue hillsalvia sage blue hill
<a href="/perennials/sage-blue-hill">Sage Blue Hill</a>
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