It’s easy to assume that all plants benefit from rich, moist soil, but on the contrary there are lots of plants that thrive in quite the opposite.
To survive in these sun-baked, often shallow soils, plants have to be tough. Seldom bothered by pest or disease, they lend themselves to a more laid-back approach to gardening.
Improving dry soils is simple – digging in plenty of organic matter such as garden compost will help it to hold onto moisture and improve its structure.
So if you’ve hit a dry spot in your garden, why not take a look our top 10 plants for dry soils, below.
Foxtail lilies (Eremurus)
Foxtail lily (Eremurus ‘Romance’)
The graceful flower spikes of foxtail lilies grow to a spectacular height and look elegant when grown among grasses. Look after their spider-like root systems with excellent drainage.
The furry leaves of stachys make it look silvery but they also trap moisture, preventing it from escaping and drying out the plant. Remove any yellowing leaves before they start to rot.
Bearded iris (Iris germanica)
These bearded hybrids store moisture and nutrients in their rhizomes, so prefer a dry garden to damp, lush conditions. Ensure the rhizomes get full sun for best flowering.
Lavandula x intermedia ‘Grosso’
In the Mediterranean, you can spot lavender growing out of pavement cracks, a testament to its tolerance of dry conditions. Trim back plants after flowering to keep them compact.
Sedum in flower
Sedums, many of which are now known as hylotelephiums, greet tough conditions with a flourish of nectar-rich, star-shaped flowers. Great for border edges and among paving.
Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus)
Related to artichokes, cardoons thrive in dry conditions with their silvery foliage, which reflects back strong sunshine. Leave the flowerheads in place for their statuesque winter form.
This tough scabious heralds from Eastern Europe’s grasslands. A magnet for bees, plant among other low-growing plants to allow the flowerheads to ‘float’ in the breeze.
Once thought only suitable for sub-tropical gardens, Melianthus major are African natives that will tolerate low temperatures in free-draining soil. Cover the roots with straw in winter if you’re unsure.
Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii
Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii ‘Lambrook Gold’
The flowering stems of Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii are biennial, so only cut back those that have already flowered. Otherwise, this is perfect for low-maintenance areas. Take care when handling as the sap is toxic.
Teasels (Dipsacus fullonum)
A British native beloved by goldfinches, teasels both support wildlife and provide winter structure in a dry garden. Thin out seedlings to avoid overcrowding.
Passiflora ‘Constance Elliot’
Tropical-looking passionflowers thrive in sunny spots, so are ideal if you have a pergola or trellis to cover. The flowers are fabulously scented and attract pollinating insects including bees and beetles.
Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’
Switch grass, Panicum virgatum, is one of many ornamental grasses that will thrive in dry soils. This particular grass is deciduous, producing lovely hazy panicles and turning beautiful shades of gold and red in autumn.