Best Drought Tolerant Perennials

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When the heat rises and the rain showers are few, depend on drought-tolerant plants to hold their own and keep your garden looking beautiful. Here is a short list of the best drought-tolerant perennials to consider adding to your garden.
by Bella James · Zone 3B · -35° to -30° F to Zone 11 · Above 40° F · Perennial Plants · 0 Comments · August 06, 2015 · 3,829 views

When the temperature's rising in summer and the rain showers are few, depend on drought-tolerant plants to hold their own and keep your garden looking beautiful. There is a long list of plants to choose from that are very drought-tolerant so that making your garden drought-tolerant or xeric doesn't mean you can't use plants you already love.

What causes a plant to be drought-tolerant? Plants have clever ways of adapting to dry conditions and even extended periods of drought and they are fairly easy to look for.

Plants such as stonecrop (Sedum) and hens and chicks (Sempervivum) have fleshy leaves (same as cacti) to help them retain water during periods of drought. These are considered the camels of the perennial plant world. Some plants have a waxy, whitish coating (glaucous) on the leaves, or hairy, wooly surfaces such as lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantine) to help conserve moisture by reflecting light and heat. And others have leaves that are leathery or finely cut (yarrow) to help prevent water loss. Still others have fleshy rhizomes (modified stems) such as the bearded iris that store water.

Many plants that grow wild in the prairie have deep tap roots. These tap roots are designed to help the plant rejuvenate when eaten by grazing animals and to help them survive dry spells. Plants with deep root systems dry out less quickly than those with shallow roots. A grassland species that is notable for a large tap root is false blue indigo (Baptisia).

The list of drought tolerant perennials can be extensive for gardeners in Zone 8 and above, but we have chosen to highlight a few of the diehards. If we did not include some of your favorites, consider sharing them on our Facebook page.

Here is a short list of my top-ten favorite drought-tolerant perennials to consider adding to your garden.

Achillea varieties, commonly known as yarrow. Not only does yarrow tolerate heat and drought like a champion, but deer, rabbits, and most other pests won't touch it. It comes in a number of varieties with blooms in shades of yellow, orange, red, pink, and white. It grows to 4 feet tall in zones 3 -9.

Agastache, commonly known as Anise Hyssop or Hummingbird Mint, can be relied on to produce lots of blooms throughout the summer and autumn. There are several varieties; ‘Desert Sunrise’ offers orange blooms that feature pink and lavender tints. It attracts tons of hummingbirds and is a great cut flower. Grows to 5 feet in zones 5 – 10.

Baptisia Australis, commonly known as blue false indigo, is a native American prairie plant that is tough and drought tolerant, requiring little maintenance. These members of the Pea family with flowers that resemble lupines are very hardy in zones 3 -10. They grow 3-4 feet tall with interesting blue-green foliage that looks great all summer long, providing a perfect backdrop for later blooming perennials.

Echinacea purpurea, commonly known as coneflower, is a plant that is hard not to love. This resilient perennial blooms much of the summer producing tons of mauve-purple blooms that look fresh for a long time when cut. Or leave them in your garden to attract scores of butterflies. They grow best in zones 3-9 and can reach 5 feet tall.

Gaillardia, commonly known as Blanket flower, is a tough prairie plant that blooms all summer and into fall. Its flamboyant flowers are usually marked with bright shades of red and yellow. Bees and butterflies love this plant, but deer don’t. These summer beauties grow to 3 feet tall in zones 3–8.

Iris varieties - Iris plants produce showy, delicate blooms in a rainbow of colors on top of tall flower spikes, starting in the spring. The bearded iris is the one that is grown most frequently and is easy to care for. Plants range from 3 inches for the shortest of dwarf to 4 feet for the tallest of the tall bearded iris. They attract hummingbirds. Try reblooming irises for a second flush of blooms in early fall. Zones 3-9

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) - This plant and its many varieties have it all: they look great, smell wonderful, and they are as tough as nails (as long as they are not too wet). Enjoy the blue, lavender, purple, or white flowers in summer. They're great for cooking with, drying and using in crafts. Most varieties grow to 3 feet tall in zones 5-8.

Salvia varieties, also known as sages, are all-around great plants. These include bog sage, bush sage, meadow sage and Russian sage. They are very tough, grow well in a range of conditions, produce beautiful flowers, and attract hummingbirds, bees and butterflies. They flower over a long season and are great cut flowers. They grow from about 20 inches to 5 feet tall in zones 5-10.

Sedums and Sempervivum (hens and chicks) - Hundreds of sedum varieties are available and almost all of them are tough and drought resistant. While most are grown for their flowers, a few varieties such as 'Frosty Morn' have wonderfully variegated leaves that look great from spring to fall. These small wonders grow to 18 inches in zones 3-9.

Stachys, commonly known as Lamb's Ears, with its soft fuzzy leaves is easy-to-grow as a ground cover or border. Their silvery tone makes them stand out against just about any plant in the garden. Keep in mind that lamb's ear can spread aggressively in rich soil. They grow about 18 inches in zones 4-8.


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