Drought Tolerant Plants For Hot, Dry Summers

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I don’t know about you, but I realized two things about my region last year. I first realized that I needed a better watering system; I spent too much time trying to get enough water on my plants during our hot, dry summer. The second thing is I desperately need more drought-tolerant plants, so I don’t have to water as much!

Over the years, we have had the opportunity to grow our gardens in three zones and have tried various plants. As a result, many recommendations on this page are from our own gardening experience.

We hope you find this list helpful as you plan your gardens for the upcoming growing season.

A field of drought tolerant coneflower and lavender in a valley with blue sky.
Table of Contents

    What does drought tolerant mean? 

    Drought-tolerant plants can withstand a few weeks to a whole month of drought without supplemental water. In addition, drought-tolerant plants won’t wither and die as soon as the water dries up. 

    While drought-tolerant plants can survive for a short period without water, drought-resistant plants can go much longer. Some can persist for years without water, while drought-tolerant plants need a good soaking if a dry spell extends for more than a month. These plants do best with water and bloom and grow best with water but will not die back if water is unavailable.

    • Learn More: Some shady seed sellers promise the impossible – varieties of plants that are totally immune to drought, disease, or pests. Sadly, there is no such thing as an invincible plant, and those sellers are just trying to get you to pay top dollar for bottom-quality seeds. Check out our article on avoiding online gardening scams for information and tips on how to avoid them.
    A drought resistant garden with coneflowers and black eyed susan's and butterflies.
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    sun loving Drought Tolerant plants ( some are drought resistant)

    There are so many wonderful drought-tolerant and drought-resistant plants you can add to your garden:

    Aster (Symphyotrichum spp.)

    Asters have incredible showy flowers in a dizzying array of forms and colors. Colors are predominately white, red, blue, pink, and purple, and they come in single, double, pom pom, frilled and plumed!

    Asters are heat and drought-tolerant perennials that burst with color from mid-summer until mid-fall.

    Plant asters in full sun in rich, well-drained soil.

    Hardiness Zones: USDA zones 3-8

    Bright aster flowers, isolated on white.

    Beardtongue (Penstemon spp.)

    Penstemon has beautiful flower spikes in soft pink, blue, lavender, or white pastels. The glossy dark foliage makes the lovely colors pop.

    Plant beardtongue in full sun to partial shade in well-drained soil. It repeatedly blooms from spring to fall.

    Beard-tongue is drought tolerant, well suited to rocky, dry soils, and looks excellent in rocky, craggy gardens.

    Hardiness Zones: USDA zones 4-9

    Penstemon also has all the traits that make an ideal hummingbird food source: long, tubular blooms, sweet nectar, and a flower spike filled with lots of tiny blossoms.

    Learn More: See our guide on the best flowers for hummingbirds.

    Penstemon mexicali cultivar red rocks flowers, purple ornamental bell flowering small plant in a drought tolerant garden.

    Black eyed Susan (Rudbeckia spp.)

    Black-eyed Susans are one of the hardest working perennials you can add to your garden. They are incredibly drought tolerant, grow in poor soil conditions, and will readily self-sow and keep coming back year after year.

    Rudbeckia produces masses of golden yellow daisy-like flowers with dark black centers that bloom from mid-summer until fall.

    For best blooms, plant Black-eyed Susans in full sun in well-draining soil. No need to add fertilizer; the plants get along better without it.

    Hardiness Zones: USDA zones 3-9

    Bright yellow black eyed susan's against a field of purple flowers.

    Blue Fescue (Festuca glauca)

    Blue fescues are colorful ornamental grasses with silver-blue foliage and pale green blooms that turn light brownish yellow-colored as they mature—gardeners like the ease of care and the fast-growing nature of blue fescue.

    The plant’s fine foliage texture makes it an excellent backdrop for heavier dramatic plantings.

    Plant blue fescue in light shade to shady areas with good drainage soils. Fescues work as accent plants in mass plantings, containers, rock gardens, and crevices.

    Hardiness Zones: USDA zones 4-8

    Blue fescue or festuca glauca ornamental grass in the garden.

    Blanket Flower (Gaillardia spp.)

    These pretty, drought-tolerant plants with two-tone flowers are also deer-resistant. A win-win for gardeners. The flowers bloom in warm colors of yellow, gold, orange, and red, and they look right at home in the middle of a garden bed.

    For best blooms, plant blanket flowers in full sun with well-draining soil and deadhead through the season to encourage new buds.

    Hardiness Zones: USDA zones 3-9

    Gaillardia flower on a white background

    Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii)

    Buddleia (also called summer lilac) is a fast-growing perennial flowering shrub with masses of long spiked trusses exploding with fragrant pink and purple blooms. These shrubs bloom from early summer until the first frost in autumn.

    Plant these drought-tolerant shrubs in full sun with well-draining soil in perennial or shrub borders.

    In warmer zones, the butterfly bush has evergreen foliage.

    Hardiness Zones: USDA zones 5-9

    Spires of bright purple tiny flowers on a Butterfly bush.

    Cranesbill Geranium (Geranium spp.)

    Cranesbill (hardy geranium) blooms profusely with cup-shaped frilly flowers in pinks, blues, white and bright purples on dark green foliage.

    Plant Cranesbill full sun to partial shade locations with well-draining rich soil. Plant with companions like Shasta Daisies, Catmint, or Delphinium for a great-looking display in borders and beds.

    Hardiness Zones: USDA zones 5-8

    Pink geraniums (cranesbill) with a green background.

    Globe Thistle (Echinops ritro)

    Globe thistles are very reliable, back-of-the-garden bedding plants. Metallic blue, round pom-pom-like flowers carried on long stems above a mound of silvery green foliage. The flowers attract bees and are excellent for cutting and drying. Flowers bloom in mid-summer and last until early fall.

    Plant globe thistles in full sun with well-draining soils. No need to worry about rich soils as glove thistles grow well in poor soil. Plants may need to stake to prevent wind damage.

    These plants are very prickly, so be careful where you place them in your gardens.

    Hardiness Zones: USDA zones 3-9

    Blue globe thistles - Echinops, isolated on white background.

    Lantana

    Lanata plants have a vine-like appearance flowing from woody branches. The plants have rounded clusters of tiny colorful flowers in many colors, from yellow, white, red, orange, pink, and even blue and purple.  

    In the north, lantana is grown as an annual – and as a broadleaf evergreen shrub or ground cover in warmer frost-free climates. The bright-colored flowers attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and insect pollinators.

    Hardiness Zones: USDA zones 8-10, in colder regions, Lantana is planted as an annual.

    Lantana flowers in a drought tolerant garden.

    Lavender (Lavandula spp.)

    Lavender is a small evergreen shrub with gray-green hoary linear leaves with spikes of frosty purple flowers at the tips of long stalks. Fragrant lavender is a beautiful flower to grow in masses and dry for home use.  

    Plant lavender in a sunny spot that gets at least 6-8 hours of full sun every day. Lavender is a perfect addition to a pollinator garden, herb garden, or along a path or walkway. 

    Hardiness Zones: USDA zones 5-9

    Learn More:  We have several helpful articles to get you started growing, harvesting, and using lavender in your home.

    Mounds of bright purple lavender plants in a field.

    Pinks (Dianthus spp.)

    Pinks are lovely rounded clumps of candy pink, red and white flowers above grassy gray-green foliage. Some pinks are two-toned, and some are highly fragrant and range in height from 6 to 15 inches.

    Dianthus should be grown in a sunny garden but can tolerate part-shade, especially in dry, hot regions. These plants are less drought-resistant than some of the other recommendations on this list, but they can take short periods of dryness.

    Hardiness Zones: USDA zones 4-9

    Beautiful mount of bright violet diasnthus (Pinks)against a bright white background.

    Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

    I have a love affair with purple coneflowers. I recently winter sowed about 200 for a new perennial border.

    They are hardy plants that tolerate heat and drought, grow in poor soil, self-seed, and are deer resistant. The flowers are also excellent for cutting and drying. Hard to want more from a plant. You can find purple coneflowers in different shades of purple and white and some newer cultivars that produce white and pink flowers.

    Plant Purple Coneflowers in full sun in the middle to back of a flower garden. Plants are drought tolerant but will have more blooms if watered during an extended heat spell.

    Hardiness Zones: USDA zones 3-9

    Beautiful purple conflowers with bees.

    Red Valerian (Centrathus ruber)

    This drought-tolerant plant has fragrant round clusters of flowers that appear from late spring and complements its fleshy blue-green foliage. Red Valerian is an exceptionally prolific bloomer with fragrant star-shaped pink or white flowers that will bloom from summer until late fall. 

    Red Valerian does best in full sun in sandy, well-draining soil. It is perfect as a border plant and is a show-stopper in beds, borders, and coastal gardens. 

    Hardiness Zones: USDA zones 5-8

    Drought tolerant plant, Red Valerian with mounds of deep pink flowers in a field.

    Rosemary (S. rosmarinus)

    Every herb garden is complete with bushes of Rosemary! Native to dry coastal regions of the Mediterranean, Rosemary tolerates drought, poor rocky soils, and salt spray from the ocean. Rosemary makes rounded upright bushes of woody stems covered in aromatic dusty green needle-like leaves. 

    Plant Rosemary in a dry location in full sun in herb gardens, rocky areas, and mixed borders with other drought-tolerant plants. 

    Hardiness Zones: USDA zones 6-9

    Spkes of drought tolerant rosemary.

    Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)

    Russian sage has an upright, bushy appearance with dramatic blue flowers with silvery gray fragrant foliage. In addition, the plants have spiked lavender-colored flowers that bloom from late spring until fall.

    Plant Russian sage in dry conditions with full sun and good soil. Russian sage makes a wonderful addition to craggy, rocky gardens, herb gardens, or added to a perennial borders.

    Hardiness Zones: USDA zones 5-10

    Russian sage plants with bright purple/blue spires of flowers against dark green foliage. .

    Stonecrop (Sedum sp.)

    Stonecrop is often used in a rock garden or as a ground cover and edging plant in perennial gardens and borders. Sedum flowers are small but bloom in showy clusters of red, cream, white, pink, yellow, and rust with gray-green leaves, and bees and butterflies LOVE them!

    Sedums are fleshy-leaved and are very heat-tolerant plants. Plant them in full sun to partial shade in well-draining soils.

    Hardiness Zones: USDA zones 4-9

    Mounds of Sedum with tiny pink flowers on glossy green stems and leaves.

    Speedwell (veronica sp)

    Veronica will bloom from June until September, even in hot, dry summers. The veronica genus has several types in a vast array of sizes.

    Most speedwell plants are blue and purple, but you can find pink and white varieties. The plants bloom with long spikes of small petals.

    Plant veronica in a sunny, well-drained location in rock gardens, plant as ground covers, edging, or add to a perennial garden bed. 

    Hardiness Zones: USDA zones 4-9

    Lovely spires of deep violet flowers rest against deep green background. Veronica plant spires.

    Spurge (Euphorbia spp.)

    If you are looking for an incredibly low-maintenance perennial that thrives in dry, hot sunny locations, give spurge a try. These plants are very showy, but not because of their flowers. Instead, the colorful leaf-like bracts surrounding the small flowers make these plants attractive. The bracts come in white, green, or chartreuse!

    Spurge are right at home in a rock garden or used as ground cover and makes exciting additions to any perennial garden. Plant spurge full sun in well-drained soil but no need to worry about amending or adding fertilizer as these plants get along just fine planted in poor soils. 

    Hardiness Zones: USDA zones 5-9

    A large planting of spurge with it's green/yellow flowers and lovely green foliage.

    Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

    Thyme is a beautiful drought-tolerant herb to grow in your gardens. Being a Mediterranean herb, Thyme likes it hot and dry and requires very little water. 

    Plant thyme in full sun with well-draining soil in herb gardens, perennial borders, and rock gardens. Thyme also makes a great companion plant in the vegetable garden. Creeping Thyme is excellent for walkways. When planting Thyme, plant it with other drought-resistant plants.

    Hardiness Zones: USDA zones 4-9

    Fresh green thyme herbs growing in garden.

    Tickseed (coreopsis)

    Tickseed is one of our favorite yellow perennials. A dependable and easy growing perennial known for its long flowering season from late spring until the first frost. The bright golden yellow daisy-like flowers in doubles and singles are excellent in cut flower bouquets.

    Plant tickseed in full sun in well-draining soils in perennial garden beds.

    Hardiness Zones: USDA zones 4-9

    A mound of bright yellow drought tolerant tickseed flowers.

    Verbena

    Verbena is one of the best low-growing annuals. The plants thrive in heat, require very little upkeep, and come in various colors. Flowers show in clusters of 1-2 inch blooms in shades of white, yellow, pink, red, and purple. Many verbena cultivars have contrasting white eyes.

    Plant verbena in full sun in well-draining soil in edgings, beds, rock gardens, window boxes, containers, and hanging baskets. It’s important to note that new plants or seedlings will only be drought tolerant once they establish themselves in the ground.

    Hardy in zones 8-11, planted as an annual in colder zones.

    Raspberry colored verbena flowers against a dark green background.

    Yarrow (achillea sp.)

    Yarrow is known for its fern-like foliage and showy flat-topped flowers. The plants quickly grow and bloom in white, yellow, and pink shades. 

    Yarrow stems have tiny grooved-shaped fuzzy-type hairs. The plants smell like fresh pine needles, and gently crushing the flowers or foliage in your hands will intensify the scent. Yarrow tolerates rugged, harsh conditions and will do well in your drought-tolerant garden.

    Plant yarrow in full sun in well-drained soil. Plants will perform poorly if placed in the shade.

    Hardiness Zones: USDA zones 3-9

    Light pink and crimson red flowers of yarrow plants resting in a drought tolerant garden.

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