Drought Tolerant Perennials for a Thirsty Garden

With drought affecting almost half of the U.S., let's transform our thirsty gardens for one filled with beautiful, drought tolerant perennials.

Are you experiencing a drought in your area?  You may be surprised to hear that drought has affected not just California and the Southwest, but also areas in the Pacific Northwest, the Central Plains and even some areas in the Southeast.

U.S. Drought Monitor Map

Many cities have issued watering restrictions of outdoor plants and as a result, many gardens are suffering.  Because of the worsening drought in many areas, the interest in drought tolerant gardening has increased dramatically.

The good news is that whether you live in an area experiencing drought or if you are wanting to add plants that need less water – there are many beautiful plants that are drought tolerant.  Why put up with a garden filled with plants that are struggling from lack of water when you can replace them with drought tolerant ones that are equally as attractive?

It’s important to note that just because a plant is drought tolerant, does not mean that it doesn’t need water – they do.  The difference is that they can survive on less water than most other plants.

Beginning today, we will look at a variety of plants that will add beauty to your landscape while also being drought tolerant.  You may be surprised to find out that some of your favorite plants are actually drought tolerant.  Over my next few posts, we will look at perennials, ground covers, shrubs, grasses and succulents for a drought resistant garden.


Drought Tolerant Jupiter's Beard

Jupiter’s Beard (Centranthus ruber)

Jupiter’s beard is a long-blooming perennial that produces magenta/red flowers in spring, summer and fall.  It has fragrant flowers that attracts bees, birds and butterflies.  Other desirable attributes include the fact that it is deer resistant and is equally at home when planted in the ground or in containers.  Deadhead flowers to promote additional blooms.  This lovely perennial is also available in a white variety and can be grown in zone 4 – 8 gardens.

'Moonshine' Yarrow (Achillea Moonshine)

‘Moonshine’ Yarrow (Achillea Moonshine)

‘Moonshine’ yarrow has striking silver/gray foliage that is topped with flat, bright yellow flowers.  When planted in full sun, this deer resistant perennial produces flowers in summer and fall that attract both bees and butterflies to the garden.  Moonshine yarrow can be grown in much of the United States in zone 3 to 9 gardens.  While some species of yarrow can self seed and spread, ‘Moonshine’ does not.

Wild Indigo (Baptisia minor)

False or Wild Indigo (Baptisia minor)

False or Wild Indigo is a purple flowering beauty in the garden, which can be grown throughout the United States in zones 3 – 10.  There is little not to love about this drought tolerant perennial – it is deer resistant, attracts bumblebees and butterflies and thrives in full sun.  There is a yellow-flowering variety available as well.  Flowering spikes appear in late spring into summer.

Drought Tolerant Coneflower

Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Purple coneflower can be found in many gardens in zones 3 through 10 where their daisy-shaped flowers and prominent centers are a favorite of butterflies and hummingbirds.  Although purple coneflower does best in full sun, it can also grow well in partial shade.  Flowers appear summer into early fall and can be left on the plant after flowering is finished to feed resident birds.  In addition to purple flowers, there are orange and yellow varieties available.

White Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri)

Whirling Butterflies (Gaura lindheimeri)

Whirling butterflies is not as widely known as many other perennials, but as more people learn about this perennial with its pretty, butterfly-shaped flowers, it is becoming more sought after.  This lovely perennial has a special place in my own garden where its delicate white flowers bloom from early summer into fall until frost arrives.  Because of its long bloom period, it is one of the last flowers available for bees in fall.  Whirling butterflies can be grown in zones 6 – 10 gardens.

Each of these drought tolerant perennials deserve a place in the garden where they will provide beauty and drought resistance in the garden.  On Friday, we will look at some drought tolerant ground covers that will look great in any landscape.

Want more ideas for colorful drought tolerant plants to add to your landscape?  Check out this Birds & Blooms article, “Colorful Drought Resistant Plants”.

    • Noelle says

      Hello Betty,

      Whirling butterflies is listed as being moderately deer resistant, which means that if they are hungry enough, they may eat them.

      I hope you decide to try growing them – I love my white ones!


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