5 Attractive Drought Tolerant Shrubs for Your Garden

Here are five of our favorite drought-tolerant shrubs you should consider adding to your yard, to conserve water and add beauty.

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One way to help the environment is by creating a garden filled with drought tolerant shrubs and plants. Even if drought is not affecting your area, using water-wise makes sense, because they are generally lower maintenance and better able to weather occasional dry conditions. Take a look at five drought-tolerant shrubs that will add beauty to your yard.

lilac shrubCourtesy Sherrell Koski
Lilac bush


The fragrance of lilacs perfumes the air in late spring.  Even when not in flower, lilac shrubs are attractive. Lilacs like fertile soil that drains well. They don’t do well in soggy soil. For maximum flowering, plant lilacs in an area that receives at least 6 hours of sun a day.

Most lilacs grow in zones 4 to 7, however, there are some varieties that will grow in zones 8 and 9. Because lilac shrubs can grow quite large, they make great informal hedges along a property line or as a foundation plant. Be sure to note how large the variety you select will grow to at maturity, and allow enough room for them to spread out.  Lilacs don’t do well in the deep south or desert. Discover the top 10 purple flowers for your garden.

catbird on beautyberry shrubCourtesy Peter Brannon
Catbird on beautyberry shrub


Lovely flowers in spring followed by colorful berries in fall make beautyberry bush a favorite of many gardeners. I bet you didn’t know that this is also a drought tolerant shrub. The species Callicarpa americana is hardy in zones 7 to 11, while several species native to Asia are hardy to zone 5 gardens. Beautyberry is a great choice for those who want to add an attractive shrub to the landscape that is pest and disease resistant. In addition, it doesn’t require supplemental fertilizer.

A large shrub, beautyberry grows to 4 to 6 feet high and wide, which makes it a great choice to use for screening out an undesirable view, covering a wall or fence. Check out flowering shrubs that butterflies love.

rosemaryDiana Taliun/Shutterstock
Rosemary in a basket


A culinary favorite, rosemary is well known in the garden as a small drought tolerant shrub or ground cover in the landscape in zones 7 to 10. Fragrant leaves cover stiff stems. Small, light blue flowers burst forth in late winter in zones 9 and above—appearing a bit later in cooler zones. The less you fuss with rosemary, the better it grows. Rosemary does well in most soils, except for heavy clay, thrives in full sun and usually doesn’t need supplemental fertilizer. An added benefit is that rosemary attracts butterflies and is deer resistant.

For those who live in zone 6 and above, there is a new variety of rosemary that can survive subzero winters called ‘Alcalde Cold Hardy’. Even if you cannot grow rosemary outdoors all year, it does make an easy container plant. Bring it indoors as houseplant before frost. Psst—here’s how to grow a windowsill herb garden.

Close-Up Of Boxwood Bushes In Amstelpark During SunlightRonald Leunis / EyeEm/Getty Images
Boxwood shrubs


Many people will be surprised to find boxwood on a drought tolerant list of shrubs. But in the more temperate regions of the country, boxwood are considered drought tolerant, once they get established in the garden. Boxwood shrubs have long been used in the American landscape. They were brought here in the 1600s, and since then boxwood shrubs have been used for edging, borders and screening.

American, English and Japanese species of boxwood are most commonly grown in the United States. All can be used in zones 5 and above.  They do best in well-drained, fertile soil and although they will grow in full sun, a location with partial shade is best. Here’s our favorite tiny evergreens to grow year-round.

russian sageCourtesy Carmel Rugel
Eastern tailed-blue butterfly on a Russian sage plant

Russian Sage

The distinctive spiky shape of Russian sage, with its lavender blue flowers, stands alone in the garden. Native to Afghanistan (not Russia), this small shrub is often treated as a perennial in the garden. The silvery stems and leaves are fragrant. Flowers can appear as early as late spring and continue all the way into early fall, depending on your zone. Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds are all attracted to this small shrub, but deer and rabbits are not. Check out more long-blooming flowers for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds.

Russian sage can grow in a wide variety of climates, all the way from zone 3 up to zone 10. In colder climates, it will die back to the ground only to reappear in spring. Those who live in the warmer zones of 8 and above will be able to enjoy this shrub all year long. Extremely drought tolerant shrubs, Russian sage needs well-drained, neutral to slightly alkaline soil, full sun and hot summers to look its best.

Noelle Johnson
Noelle Johnson is a horticulturist and certified arborist who lives and gardens in the desert Southwest. When she is not writing or helping other people with their gardens, you can find her growing fruits and vegetables, and planting flowering shrubs and maybe a cactus or two.