34 Drought-Tolerant Plants for Dry Gardens

How to grow a drought-tolerant garden

From late spring through to late summer, there’s often little water and a very dry climate to contend with. Even by early summer, you may be struggling to keep your plants from becoming victims to dry soil and severe drought, especially if they are new plants or plants with lots of new growth.

— Tip: How to identify drought tolerant plants

It’s also a good idea to take note in autumn, after a long hot summer, and see what plants in your garden have required little or no water to survive. With water restrictions in some areas, it’s important that we find the plants that thrive in these tougher conditions and dry summers.

To know if a plant will thrive in dry conditions, think about plants that have originated from hot climates. Many have silvery or furry leaves. This helps the plants retain moisture either by reflecting sunlight or trapping dew droplets between the hairs on the foliage, making them more tolerant to drought conditions.

Best Drought-tolerant Plants

Below is a list of drought-resistant plants for the dry spots in your garden…
Liv Worsnop’s drought-resistant garden.



Dietes are a popular choice to give structure and texture to a garden, with their spiky foliage and lovely blooms. They are a hardy member of the Iris family, native to South Africa. Both drought and frost hardy, dietes will adapt to most spots in the garden including partial shade (but do best in full sun). Require very little maintenance. 

Lamb's ears plants are drought tolerant and easy to grow


Lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantina) create a soft-textured mat in the garden with silvery, furry leaves. Often used as a border plant or ground covers. If left to bloom in summer, they will produce spikes of pink / purple flowers. Easy to propagate by dividing plants, and it will spread (non-invasively) to form an effective ground cover.

Coprosma repens Poor Knights | Drought tolerant plants

— COPROSMA REPENS ‘Poor Knights’

This evergreen shrub is a notoriously hardy plant. This type of coprosma has vibrant glossy green leaves – giving a lush look in the garden year round. Tolerant to both dry sites and coastal conditions. Plant in full sun to light shade. Fast growing and one of the easiest perennials to maintain.

ECHINACEA PURPUREA: Drought tolerant plant

Echinacea purpurea in Camilla Jørvad’s wild cottage garden.


An excellent choice for a sunny perennial cottage-style or herbal garden. Sometimes known by its common name: purple coneflower. This leggy plant has striking purple / pink flowers which tend to stick around for a long time. A great cut flower. This tolerant beauty handles a low water garden very well.

GLOBE THISTLE | Drought tolerant plants

— ECHINOPS (Globe Thistle)

Echinops is a super easy-care plant that will thrive almost anywhere. This hardy perennial is known for both its drought tolerance and cold climate / frost tolerance. Also called globe thistle, it’s actually a member of the aster family. And bees love it!

— ERYNGIUM (Sea Holly)

A plant with intriguing leaves and flower spikes in the summer. This adaptive plant doesn’t need fertile soil to thrive and will even grow in sandy soil. Natively inhabits coastal sand dunes, which makes it a very drought-tolerant plant. The perfect plants for sunny, dry spots. It’s beautifully attractive to the bees too.

Phlomis russeliana, Turkish sage. Drought-tolerant plant


Also known as Jerusalem Sage. Yellow flowers with stems standing approximately one metre tall. You can cut back as the flowers die off, or leave the stems to dry and stand tall through winter (pruning back before their next flush in spring). Very drought tolerant once established. Grow in full sun or part shade.

IRIS ENSATA | Drought tolerant plants

— JAPANESE IRIS (Iris Ensata)

The Japanese water iris is a plant that in its natural environment grows in shallow waters along streams and lakes throughout Asia. Contrary to this, they can also be extremely drought-tolerant. Easy to propagate by dividing their rhizomes.

Lavender - drought-tolerant plants


A well known hardy perennial with fragrant flowers. Lavender does well in the heat due to it being native to the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Best planted in full sun. The most common types of lavender are English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and French lavender (Lavandula stoechas). One of our readers suggested the ‘blue mountain’ variety for its beauty and hardiness.

ROSEMARY | Drought tolerant plants


A delicious smelling hardy perennial herb. Looks lovely as a garden border or low hedge, and in pots. Rosemary doesn’t require much water, and loves a warm sunny spot. When in bloom, it’ll produce purple flowers that the bees will thank you for. One of the most fragrant herbs to grow too.

Sage - drought tolerant plant


Sage plants are also known as salvias. They are officially a member of the mint family. There are a huge range of different varieties, including the edible common and purple sage, as well as Russian sage and more. Not just for the vegetable garden – sage looks great and fares well in an ornamental or cottage garden too.

Sedums are drought=tolerant plants

Photo by Liv Worsnop


Sedums are super hardy, easy care and loved by pollinators. This perennial plant has succulent leaves and clusters of pale pink, lilac, red and white flowers. Cut them right back when they go dormant in the winter, and they’ll reemerge again in early spring. Sedums are great for filling dry, hard-to-garden spots.

Smoke bush - drought tolerant plants

— SMOKE BUSH (Cotinus coggygria)

This unique plant is most well known for it’s striking summer blooms that resemble smoky plumes erupting from the plant. A smoke bush does well in full sun, and can tolerate a dry spell through the hotter months. This shrub is deciduous, with rich red leaves during autumn. Not ideal for a small space as it tends to get quite large in its maturity.

drought tolerant sedum garden

Sedums and yarrow in Liv Worsnop’s drought-resistant garden.

BONUS: 22 more drought-tolerant plants:

— Drought-tolerant perennials: An additional list of plants with some of the easiest perennials to grow

  • Agave
  • Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
  • Creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum)
  • Echium
  • Euphorbia
  • Geraniums
  • Liriope muscari
  • Lomandra
  • Mānuka / New Zealand tea tree (Leptospermum scoparium)
  • Orange trumpet vines / flame vine (Pyrostegia venusta)
  • Oregano
  • Red hot poker (Kniphofia)
  • Renga renga lily (Arthropodium cirratum)
  • Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

— Drought-tolerant annuals:

Include (but aren’t limited to) cosmos, marigold, sunflower, Queen Anne’s lace and zinnia.

Jo Wakelin's Central Otago Naturalistic Garden

Jo Wakelin’s drought-tolerant garden in Central Otago, New Zealand (image by Claire Takacs from Wild: The Naturalistic Garden)

Planting for Rock Gardens

Rockeries or rock gardens require plants that do well with less water, good drainage and must tolerate full to partial sun. A rock wall or garden often have poor soil to contend with, as well as erosion control if the garden is on a slope. Additional to the above listed drought-resistant plants, ornamental grasses and succulents are among the best plants for rockery gardens.

Note: Butterfly bush (buddleia) is a commonly suggested drought-hardy plant. However it is deemed as a weed and invasive plant in New Zealand, competing with the native plants. Please check plant restrictions in your local areas before planting.

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