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Living in an area where drought is a constant problem can make gardening difficult. Like all living things, flowers need water to grow and thrive. That being said, there are some types of perennial flowers that need much less water than others and still attract major pollinators, such as butterflies and hummingbirds. These 31 drought tolerant perennial flowers can be just as beautiful and pleasing to grow, but won’t strain your water use.
Drought-tolerant flowering perennials make landscaping (and xeriscaping) much easier and enjoyable if you live in an arid, dry climate where water comes at a premium. They’re also low-maintenance in comparison to their thirsty counterparts!
In this guide, we’ll take a look at a wide variety of drought-tolerant perennial flowers you can use in your landscaping. These low-maintenance perennials come back every year for a gorgeous floral display. For each, we’ll include a short description of the flower and the reason it’s well-suited to handle life with less H2O. Enjoy!
Anise Hyssop (Agastache), also called giant hyssop or hummingbird mint, is a drought-tolerant flowering perennial that attracts bees, birds, and butterflies. Anise hyssop grows best in the lean, dry soil of arid climates. Their 24-inch tall foliage and violet-blue flowers are very attractive and, if kept deadheaded, will bloom throughout the summer.
There are over 250 species of beardtongue, the largest genus of flowering plants in North America. They can be tall and spiky or short and shrubby, and come in colors from light blue-ish to bright green. Most importantly, they like it dry and are highly drought tolerant. Even better, they’re highly resistant to pests. They also don’t need to be heavily fertilized or have their soil amended. The common name is a bit odd…but the flowers are lovely!
With large, pink flowers that are very attractive to bees and butterflies, the Blazing Star is large and showy. It also thrives in less-than-ideal soil conditions, including a lack of water. One thing to keep in mind is that it spreads through underground roots, so one plant is usually enough in a single garden.
Blue Wild Indigo (Baptisia) is a flowering perennial in the legume family. The flowers are reminiscent of lupins, while the leafy foliage has a matte-grey texture, almost like eucalyptus. This plant grows a deep tap root which allows it to reach groundwater when the surface soil becomes dried out by warm temperatures.
There are many different types of bottlebrushes and they’re all gorgeous. All are also quite hardy and prefer the heat of the southwest desert. Once established they’re very tolerant of drought and their colorful flowers attract both nectar-feeding birds and bees. They’re also very easy to propagate with simple cuttings. These plants are a great pick to include in your garden bed of drought-tolerant perennial flowers.
It’s said that every dry garden needs a California Fuchsia. They can tolerate high heat extremely well although they should be cut back to ground level as soon as their flowers die. They are unique in that they flower in summer and, as their nickname ‘Hummingbird Trumpet’ suggests, hummingbirds love them. They’re also self-seeding and will spread all around your garden if given the chance.
Growing best in full sun, the California Lilac is very tolerant of poor, dry soil. They also tend to thrive in conditions that are similar to a wild habitat and are popular in the Sonoran desert area. California Lilacs also grow incredibly fast and have prolific flowers as well as having exceptional cold hardiness.
A low-growing plant, Creeping Phlox makes an excellent ground cover. They love full sunshine and do very well in dry environments. They’re also resistant to deer and have a high tolerance for salty soil. They grow relatively slowly but, once established, are incredibly hardy and stay green year-round. They also grow well in colder climates and require very little care or maintenance.
Adding a vertical accent is easy with Crossvine and just as beautiful. Even better, they present their color right at eye level and can add eye candy to any xeriscape garden. One thing to keep in mind is that they spread quite far, up to 50 feet high and 9 feet wide! They flower very heavily and, adding to their allure, their flowers are very fragrant with a distinctive mocha scent. Drought tolerant once established, Crossvine is very hardy.
While it can tolerate full sun, Cushion Spurge also does well under trees and shrubs. Dry, clay, rocky, or sandy soils are well tolerated also for this mounding or ‘clump-forming’ perennial. One thing to keep in mind is that the milky sap from this plant has been known to cause rashes. While not particularly gorgeous, its light greenish flowers are still attractive.
The nice thing about Daylilies is that, once they’re established, they will flower for many years with little to no care. These are well-known (and well-loved drought-tolerant perennial flowers). Do keep in mind that they’re not true lilies and don’t have bulbs. Daylilies do have long stalks, however, and although they can survive with little water they do love it when available. Many call them the perfect perennial for a summer garden. They thrive in most soil conditions and are highly resistant to pests and disease.
If vibrant colors are needed in your xeriscape garden, there’s nothing better than Desert Honeysuckle. Hummingbirds and butterflies love them! This showy shrub loves the heat and takes well to shearing. It can be used to create a low, dense hedge if so desired. They’re also virtually disease-free and required almost no pruning.
You’ll find Dwarf Iris all over the Middle East in rock and gravel gardens where water drains quickly. They bloom very early in the spring and their flowers are a simply gorgeous cobalt blue color. This won’t happen for several years, however, as these perennials take time to mature before flowering.
In warmer climates, Lantana can grow up to 10 feet tall, although in most seasons they get to about 3 feet. They’re highly drought-tolerant perennial flowers that require low maintenance and have beautiful flowers that change color as they age. They’re also good for hanging baskets and some varieties will spill over nicely. Like many of the flowers in our guide, they love dry soil and lots of sunshine.
Lavender is a classic drought-resistant flowering woody perennial. Just picture the hot, dry fields of lavender in the Mediterranean! These plants certainly do grow best with some access to water, but they also require long sunny days to put on their best show of flowers. Choose a variety that’s well-suited to your local climate for the best results in terms of drought tolerance.
Beloved for their beautiful scent, lilacs are lovely, easy to grow, and incredibly hardy. Choose a variety well-suited to hot weather. When most varieties of Lilac bloom they completely cover their shrub completely, which is both captivating to see and a delight to smell. If you remove seeds quickly from faded flowers you’ll see even more blooms the following season. This is another woody perennial that flowers best on long, sunny days.
Lupin (Lupinus) is a native flowering perennial that has naturally adapted to thrive in hot and dry drought conditions. The flowers are available in a range of colors, and the plants themselves attract butterflies (a lovely benefit!).
Native to the Mediterranean, Myrtle Spurge grows well in soil that’s dry and drains well. It’s very popular as a ground cover but does have a bad habit of spreading where it’s not wanted (check to see if it’s listed as invasive in your area). The reason is that it creates an extensive root system to absorb what little water is available. Also, its milky latex sap is a powerful skin and eye irritant, which means you should use gloves when handling it.
Red Hot Poker (Kniphofia) is a classic sun-loving, drought-tolerant perennial flower. The blooms are frilly red spires and grass-like foliage. A favorite in xeriscape gardens, red hot poker attracts butterflies and hummingbirds while remaining resistant to deer and rabbits. Kniphofia is a perfect perennial if you’re looking for striking, long-lasting blooms with wonderful wildlife habitat value.
Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) is a flowering desert shrub that almost looks like a flowering cactus. It can sometimes look a bit like a bunch of interesting dead sticks when the weather is dry, but the flowers are worth the wait! Native to the southwestern US and northern Mexico, the ocotillo is a stunning specimen plant for the most drought-prone of gardens.
Pink (Dianthus) is a fragrant flower with several lovely perennial types. Pinks like cottage pink and grass pink return year after year for a lovely pop of color in well-drained areas.
Pink Jasmine (Jasminum polyanthum) is a quick-growing flowering vine that’s perennial in warmer areas (zones 8-11). Delicate pink flower buds open to fragrant rose-white flowers. The glossy green leaves provide a pretty background for this heat-loving vine.
Rose Campion (Silene coronaria) is an old-fashioned cottage perennial flower with dusty green-white foliage. Rose campion flowers are best when grown in full sun as are particularly drought-resistant once established. Use this perennial for a low-growing pop of bright pink color in a rock garden.
Salvia is a naturally drought-tolerant perennial flower that makes a stunning visual impact in the garden, particularly when planted in a mass grouping. Different salvias adapted to different climates, so look locally for a perennial type, especially if you live in a cooler climate.
Skyrocket (Ipomopsis aggregata), also called scarlet gilia, is a drought-tolerant perennial with red flowers similar to native coral honeysuckle. These hardy, trumpet-shaped flowers are found all the way from Rocky Mountain alpine meadows to the hot climate of southern texas. As a wildflower, skyrocket is well-adapted to growing in areas with low rainfall and/or inconsistent access to water.
Speedwell (Veronica) is a well-known and versatile drought-tolerant perennial flower. Many different shades are available, and these plants are consistently a favorite of beneficial bees. The delicate spires can add a touch of an ethereal nature to your dry-season garden.
Spider Flower (Cleome) is such a wonderfully fun flower to add to the garden, especially in drought-prone areas. The bright flower clusters are sure to cheer up any dry and dusty garden. Soon the area will be alive with bees, butterflies, and even hummingbirds! While this plant is technically an annual (not a perennial), it readily self-seeds itself once established so that a lovely patch of white, pink, and purple flowers appears year after year.
Stonecrop (Sedum) is one of the most drought-tolerant perennial flowers. A flowering succulent plant, stonecrop is well-suited to the driest gardens as it can hold extra water in its plump leaves. Look locally for a variety suited to your unique climate conditions.
Vervain (Verbena) plants are available in many different types and forms. Some are true perennials while others are annuals that self-seed a continual patch of flowers. Look for a perennial native variety to attract beneficial pollinators to your garden.
Violets (Viola, Wild Pansy) are dainty little wildflowers that are surprisingly tolerant of dry conditions. They put on a show of beautiful purple mini blooms in the spring, generally before the driest parts of summer arrive. Violets grow well in the dry rain shadow of trees where grass and other water-hungry groundcovers fail to thrive.
Yucca plants are drought-tolerant perennial flowering shrubs. They are known for their large, spiky green leaves and tall spires of cream or white flowers. The thick, waxy leaves of the yucca help to hold in precious reserves of water, helping the plant survive through times of drought. This sculptural plant deserves a place in the spotlight in your garden!