The term "drought tolerant plant" has different meanings to different people. Here in our Raleigh, North Carolina garden, what we call drought tolerant plants tolerate our frequent 3-6 week long summer dry-spells or thrive even if we fall short of our normal 43 inches of annual rain.
More Information About Drought Tolerant Plants
The terms drought-resistant, drought-adapted, low-water-use, water-wise, or xeric plants are commonly applied to these plants, too.
A gardener from Texas or Los-Angeles would laugh at our definition of drought tolerant plants as they may receive 10 inches or less of rain per year and can sometimes go for 6 months without a drop. However, some of the plants in our list below can even tolerate these parched conditions.
We have assembled a list of our favorite drought tolerant plants and drought resistant flowers from our enormous on-line catalog that (once established and rooted in) can tolerate long periods of time between rain events and/or can tolerate low annual rain totals. Our list of drought tolerant plants and drought resistant flowers includes plenty of southwest garden plants, desert plants, prairie plants and chaparral plants from around the world as well as some North Carolina native plants.
Drought Tolerant Succulents
Succulents are some of the most notable drought tolerant perennials. Here is a list of our favorite genera of drought tolerant succulents.
- Agapanthus (Lily-of-the-Nile) Agapanthus is well-known for being a great summer-flowering, drought-tolerant, butterfly-attracting perennial in warm climates. Agapanthus flowers can range from dark purple to light blue to white.
- Agave (Century Plant) Agave are exotic, sun-loving, drought-tolerant plants with an amazing garden structure.
- Aloe (Hardy Aloe) This genus of mostly African, exotic, drought tolerant plants also includes varieties that are winter-hardy.
- Delosperma (Ice Plant) These colorful, drought-tolerant succulents make great ground covers and produce colorful flowers in the spring and summer.
- Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker) Traditionally bright orange and yellow, these drought-tolerant flowers are now available in a variety of colors and are also great hummingbird and butterfly attractors.
- Opuntia (Prickly Pear) It's probably not surprise that a cactus would make our list of drought-tolerant perennials but these prickly pears are ubiquitous for a reason. They have great architecture and are hardy provided you have them sited in a well-drained bed.
- Sedum (Stonecrop) This diverse group of drought-tolerant succulents are available in both ground-hugging and taller, clumping varieties.
- Sempervivum (Hen and Chicken) Known for their offsets or "chicks", these drought-tolerant perennials make fantastic rock garden plants.
- Yucca (Soapwort) Yucca plants are drought-tolerant perennials with straight, spiny leaves radiating out from a single point. Many varieties are also hardy but cannot tolerate heavy, wet soils.
Drought Tolerant Flowers
Drought tolerant definitely does not have to mean colorless. There are plenty of colorful flowering perennials that can handle climates that are a little on the dry side.
- Achillea (Yarrow) Achillea produce flat clusters of tiny, colorful flowers that attract butterflies and have a large visual impact when they bloom. In addition to being drought tolerant, Achilleas are and make great cut or dried flowers.
- Alstroemeria (Peruvian Lily) Another hummingbird and butterfly magnet with species that are drought-tolerant.
- Baptisia (False Indigo) One of our favorites, baptisia are easy to grow and maintain and are incredibly drought-tolerant. As with many of the flowers on this list, site in full sun for the best blooms.
- Coreopsis (Tickseed) These floriferous perennials are virtually unknown in gardening circles but many varieties have proven to be incredibly drought tolerant.
- Echinacea (Coneflower) A spectacular summer flowering perennial that pairs well with many of the other drought-tolerant flowers on this list.
- Euphorbia (Spurge) Tough and easy-to-grow, euphorbia can handle a fair amount of neglect but too much water can cause them to rot.
- Gaillardia (Blanket Flower) Short-lived perennials known for their drought tolerance and intense summer color.
- Lantana (Hardy Lantana) Lantana shrubs like hot weather, full sun, and are deer-resistant.
- Penstemon (Beard Tongue) We've selected several cultivars of penstemon that do great in our hot, humid summers. Many rebloom throughout the summer.
- Perovskia (Russian Sage) Very heat and drought tolerant, these perennials are perfect for a xeriscape or rock garden.
- Salvia (Sage) Many perennial salvia are drought tolerant once established.
Drought Tolerant Bulbs
Several perennial bulbs make our list of drought tolerant plants.
- Agapanthus (Lily-of-the-Nile) Beautiful butterfly-attracting, drought tolerant flowers
- Allium (Flowering Onion)
- Anomatheca (False Freesia) This iris relative will often go dormant during a summer drought.
- Crinum (Crinum Lily) Classic Southern pass-alongs that make a bold statement in the garden.
- Crocosmia (Montbretia) These South African iris relatives are available in a variety of red, yellow, and orange hues and they absolutely love the heat.
- Cyclamen Another summer dormant plant that is easy to grow and looks great in rock gardens or near the base of a large conifer.
Drought Tolerant Herbs
Believe it or not, many of your favorite herbs are surprisingly tolerant to drought conditions.
Drought Tolerant Ornamental Grasses
Certain ornamental grasses have great drought resistance.
Drought Tolerant Ferns
Many ferns are drought resistant.
Drought Tolerant Palms
Hardy palms often have amazing resistance to adverse conditions including drought.
Drought Tolerant Conifers
Other Drought Tolerant Perennials
Here are some additional flowering perennials that may surprise you with their ability to withstand dry conditions:
These are just a few of the hundreds of water-wise gems in our on-line plant catalog.