This article has been checked for horticultural accuracy by Oliver Parsons.


Drought-tolerant plants, usually native to dry regions such as the Mediterranean, have evolved to thrive in dry soils with little rainfall. With climate change and extreme weather events such as drought increasingly likely in the UK, growing drought-resistant plants means you can still have an attractive garden during a hosepipe ban.

Drought-resistant plants are also useful for growing in a sunny border with free-draining soil and work well in low-maintenance planting schemes such as gravel gardens. They can save you time, too – for example, you can avoid a lot of back-breaking watering by using drought-resistant plants in container displays.

More on growing drought-tolerant plants:

14 drought-tolerant plants for your garden

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Agapanthus 'Silver Baby'

Agapanthus Silver Baby
Agapanthus 'Silver Baby'

Agapanthus is a fantastic genus of plants, hailing from South Africa, and is fairly drought-tolerant. There's a variety of types to choose from, with both deciduous and evergreen agapanthus, and flower colours ranging from darkest purple-blue to white. 'Silver Baby' is a compact agapanthus, reaching just 60cm in height, so is ideal for the front of the border or a pot. It has white flowers that have just a hint of blue and combines well with ornamental grasses such as Nassella tenuissima. It's fairly hardy once established, but will need protection in colder gardens.

Height x Spread: 60cm x 50cm

Anchusa azurea

Anchusa azurea Loddon's Royalist
Anchusa azurea flowers

Anchusa azurea has bright, true-blue flowers from late spring to early summer, and deals quite well with dry conditions. Cut back after flowering for a second flush of smaller blooms. Although it's a short-lived perennial, Anchusa azurea will self-seed readily in the parts of the garden best suited to its needs.

H x S: 1m x 50cm

Cotyledon orbiculata

Cotyledon orbiculata
Cotyledon orbiculata flowers

A stunning, unusual succulent, Cotyledon orbiculata has large, fleshy leaves and spikes of bell-shaped flowers. It's best grown in a pot as it will usually need to be overwintered indoors away from the cold and wet. Take care not to touch the leaves as they will lose their powdery bloom.

H x S: 1.3m x 60cm


Geum 'Mrs J Bradshaw'
Geum 'Mrs J Bradshaw'

Geums are hardy perennials that flower from May to August – cut them back after flowering and they should reward you with another flush later in the season. Geums look especially good when growing with contrasting colours such as blue flowers and lime- green leaves. Grow in sun or part shade.

H x S: 60cm x 60cm

Hardy geraniums

Geranium 'Rozanne'
Geranium 'Rozanne'

Hardy geraniums (cranesbills) are low-maintenance, long-flowering perennials that can flower for months from spring, and need very little care. They thrive in sun or partial shade, can deal with some drought, and are good for the front of the border. Cut back after flowering to encourage a second flush.

H x S: 60cm x 80cm

Bearded irises

Iris Carnival Time
Iris 'Carnival Time'

Give bearded irises a sunny spot and when planting, point the rhizome south so that the fan of leaves doesn't shade it. Split the plant every three to four years after flowering, as it will bulk up quickly.

H x S: 50cm x 40cm

Stipa tenuissima

Stipa tenuissima
Stipa tenuissima

Stipa tenuissima (or Mexican feathergrass, now often sold as Nassella tenuissima) is a compact, evergreen grass. It's ideal for a gravel garden or a spot towards the front of a border. It also combines well with perennials and other grasses, and moves beautifully in a breeze.

H x S: 60cm x 30cm


How to grow catmint
Catmint flowers

The violet-blue flowers of catmint (Nepeta) are much loved by bees. When crushed, the grey-green, velvety foliage produces a delicious scent. Plant in the centre of a border or in a gravel garden. Cut back after flowering for more blooms.

H x S: 90cm x 90cm


Pittosporum tenuifolium Tom Thumb
Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Tom Thumb'

Pittosporums are evergreen shrubs that will give structure and interest all year round in a border, and are fairly drought-tolerant once established. Position pittosporums away from cold, drying winds. Prune lightly in spring if needed. Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Tom Thumb', shown here, has attractive, dark foliage.

H x S: 1.2m x 1.2m

Trachelospermum jasminoides

Trachelospermum jasminoides
Trachelospermum jasminoides flowers

This beautiful, waxy-leafed evergreen climber has white, jasmine-like flowers with a beautiful scent. Give star jasmine a sheltered, sunny spot. It's quite drought-tolerant, but be sure to water well initially to help the plant establish.

H x S: 9m x 5m

Sea hollies

Sea hollies
Sea holly flowers

Beautiful and long-lasting, sea hollies such as Erygnium x zabelii have tough, silvery leaves that seem never to suffer in drought. Many species come from mountainous regions, where their long tap roots venture deep into the soil in search of water.

H x S: 100cm x 60cm


Verbascum bombyciferum
Mullein flowers

Statuesque mulleins such as Verbascum bombyciferum and Verbascum olympicum send up tall, branching spires of flowers, enclosed in woolly down. Rosettes of large, furry leaves resist water loss and are soft to the touch. They are usually short lived, but as with many truly drought-tolerant plants, they will self-seed readily, germinating and growing in parts of the garden that best suit their needs.

H x S: 1.8m x 60cm


Artemsia Silver Queen
Artemisia foliage

Artemisias such as 'Powis Castle' and 'Silver Queen' use a clever strategy against water loss – the leaves are both silvery and very finely cut for a reduced surface area. It forms a resilient, aromatic sub-shrub that adds a feathery dash of silver to borders.

H x S: 75cm x 60cm


Sedum 'Matrona'
Hylotelephium 'Matrona'

Sedums (many of which now are in the Hylotelephium genus) are drought-resistant succulents that produce domes of starry pink, ruby or white flowers in late summer and autumn. Taller sedums may flop, but 'Matrona', shown here, stands well, with the glaucous foliage turning a rich purple when water is scarce.

H x S: 60cm x 60cm

Other drought-resistant plants to grow


Advice on buying drought-resistant plants

  • Always check plants for signs of damage or disease before planting. Healthy plants are more able to withstand drought and will establish faster.
  • Research your plant before buying to check whether it is a plant that thrives in dry conditions or is drought-tolerant once established. Most plants will need regular watering until they are settled and will be drought-tolerant once they have put down a good root system.
  • If necessary, improve your soil's water-holding abilities by adding organic matter such as homemade compost - this will act like a sponge, holding water in the soil and vastly expanding the number of plants that can be treated as drought-tolerant in your garden. 

Where to buy drought-tolerant plants

Many thanks to Todd's Botanics for their help with this feature.