Drought Tolerant Plants

Plants, Plan Your Garden

As I sit in my office writing this blog, the sun is shining gloriously outside, and it is very warm but there is a gentle breeze to make life tolerable, unless, of course, you are having to work outside like most of the ALDA team. However, my new lawn is looking very parched (but will recover), and I am contemplating yet another evening of watering my new front garden plants, pots and veggie bed. And now there is talk of a hosepipe ban, or at least perhaps a sprinkler ban.  Sigh.

But at least most of the established garden plants are looking fairly perky, and that is because they were chosen to be able to cope with prolonged spells of hot dry weather. And this current spell of hot dry weather is a timely reminder that drought tolerant plants are now the order of the day in most gardens. So, what plants are star performers in drought conditions?

Be guided by nature

A good rule of thumb when looking for drought resistant plants is to be guided by nature, and / or to think about all those plants that were seen to be thriving on holidays to hot places. Mediterranean plants with their silver and grey (and sometimes hairy) leaves are all good candidates, as are plants that grow well on the edge of deserts. So think about Lavenders, Cistus, Halimium, Perovskia, Artemisia, Santolina, Phlomis, Eryngium, Teucrium, Nepeta, Verbascum, Stachys, Anthemis, Verbena, and herbs like Rosemary, Thyme, Origanum and Sage. In fact, many members of the Sage (Salvia) family are true superstars in drought conditions – sub shrubs like Salvia ‘Royal Bumble’ and ‘Hot Lips’, as well as perennials like Salvia ‘Caradonne and Amethyst’ will flower for many months, even in the hottest of summers.

More choices…

Plants that cope with very free draining soils, or ones which grow in crevices in rock, can also be good plants to grow in dry conditions e.g. Scabious, Centranthus (Valerian). Or plants with fleshy moisture conserving leaves like Sisyrinchium, Sempervivum, Sedum, Arbutus, Olearia, and to some extent, Hebe. Other useful plants include Pittosporums, Pines, Abelia, Knautia, Agapanthus, Achillea, Gaura, Echinops, and grasses like Stipa.

Climbers are not normally great in hot dry conditions as they need plenty of water to keep their stems rigid and upright, but Jasminum officinale normally copes pretty well, and the evergreen star jasmine, Trachelospermum jasminoides positively thrives in hot dry climates.

Finally, it is worth pointing out that roses are much more drought tolerant than most people think due to their deep roots, and whilst a prolonged spell of hot weather may shorten their flowering season, the plants survive perfectly well – often producing lots of new flower buds once some wetter weather arrives.

Some practicalities

There are some practicalities to consider when planting drought resistant plants:

  1. Firstly, and most importantly, all plants – however drought resistant – will need watering until they become established.
  2. Secondly, there are ways to help all plants survive dry weather e.g. by adding organic matter to the soil to improve its structure – this will improve moisture retention whilst also maintaining good drainage.  Mulching plants will also help to retain moisture in the soil.
  3. The timing of planting can also be important – I try and avoid planting grey leaved plants like Lavender too late in the year – they want to get their roots established while the weather is still mild.

Finally, it has to be borne in mind that the plants that survive in hot dry conditions, also need to be able to cope with potentially the very wet and sometimes very cold weather that we often get here in the UK. So plants like Osteospermum, Cordyline, and Convolvulus cneorum, which are all very drought tolerant, but which will perish or struggle in cold, wet weather, are best planted in the warmest parts of the country or a very sheltered spot.

Time to go and water my veggies……


Image credits: Lavendar, Halimium, Santolina, Phlomis, Eryngium, Nepeta, Stachys, Anthemis, Verbena, RosemaryThyme, Salvia ‘Hot Lips’ScabiousCentranthusSisyrinchiumSempervivum, Sedum, Knautia, Achillea, Gaura, Echinops, Stipa, Jasminum officinaleTrachelospermum jasminoides

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