Drought Tolerant Plants

DIY considers the art of xeriscaping, your water bill and some creative alternatives to the overly thirsty grass lawn.

Why switch to drought tolerant plants?
Xeriscaping, or landscaping with water conservation in mind, is becoming quite popular. Increasingly people are looking for ways to responsibly conserve water as a resource, save on the water bill and, ultimately, create a lower maintenance landscape in their yard.

What are some good lawn alternatives?
The biggest offenders when it comes to residential water consumption are grass lawns. But not all grasses are water-hogs. So if you're fond of the grass look, try "planting a meadow." Here are a few alternatives to the traditional monochromatic and manicured grass lawn.

Blue fescue

elijah blue fescue is an ornamental grass

elijah blue fescue is an ornamental grass

Xeriscaping is a great way to conserve water and save on the water bill.

Blue fescue, Festuca glauca, 'Elijah Blue'
This is an ornamental grass with an icy-blue color. Once established, it needs only occasional water. This is fast growing and likes full sun.


maiden grass is adaptable to both heat and drought

maiden grass is adaptable to both heat and drought

This is great grass to plant when trying to save water because it actually prefers full sun and dry soil.

Maiden grass Miscanthus sinensis, 'Gracillimus'
This grass is very adaptable to both heat and drought once established. It prefers full sun and occasionally moist to mostly dry soil.

Purple fountain grass

purple fountain grass forms neat clumps

purple fountain grass forms neat clumps

Pennisetum setaceum, 'Rubrum'
This grass forms neat clumps and it's topped with red flower spikes through fall. It's semi-evergreen and prefers full sun.

Drought Tolerant Perennials

Are there drought tolerant perennials that can replace everyone's favorite flowering plants like the popular Alstroemeria or Marguerite daisies?

Yes. Consider these:


plant drought tolerant perennials

plant drought tolerant perennials

You can plant drought tolerant perennials that will produce flowers year after year.

These plants produce yellow, red, pink or purple flowers throughout spring and summer.

Lamb's Ear

moonbeam is a plant that has fernlike foliage

moonbeam is a plant that has fernlike foliage

Lamb's Ear, Stachys byzantine
This plant has moderate drought tolerance. It has soft foliage and grows low and spreading.


lambs ear has moderate drought tolerance

lambs ear has moderate drought tolerance

Coreopsis verticillata
This plant has fernlike foliage and tiny light yellow flowers in the summer. These work well in hanging baskets, containers or in borders.

Flowering Plum or Cherry Trees

Which ornamental trees are drought tolerant and can replace water-loving beauties like Japanese maples?
Look for these at your local nursery or in garden catalogs:

plant drought tolerant ornamental trees

plant drought tolerant ornamental trees

Flowering cherry

Flowering plum or cherry trees
You get the added bonus of flowers with these trees and they'll match the dark maroon color of the Japanese Maples.

Mimosa silk tree, Albizia julibrissin
These have very high drought tolerance. They have delicate, lacy fern-like foliage.

Dawn redwood, Metasequoia glyptostroboides
This tree may go into dormancy with drought, but it won't kill it. The bark is gray to slightly reddish in color and the needles are light green. The needles also turn a copper color in the fall before they drop.

Will these plants tolerate drought right away?
When you buy a plant from the nursery, it's not ready for drought yet. It's been spoiled by its nursery pot, so it's not quite tough enough yet. It needs time to get established in your garden. Give your plants plenty of water in the beginning and make sure to plant them according to their specifications. This way, they'll grow to be strong, healthy plants and they'll be ready for that drought when it comes.

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