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:
Agapanthus 'Silver Baby'
Agapanthus is a fantastic drought-tolerant genus of plants, hailing from South Africa. 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. Agapanthus '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 a hardy, deciduous variety.
Height x Spread: 60cm x 50cm
A short-lived perennial, Anchusa azurea has bright, true blue flowers from late spring to early summer. Cut back after flowering for a second flush of smaller blooms.
H x S: 1.2m x 60cm
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 need winter protection in colder parts of the UK. Take care not to touch the leaves as they will lose their powdery bloom.
H x S: 1.3m x 60cm
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 (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 and are good for the front of the border. Cut back after flowering to encourage a second flush.
H x S: 60cm x 80cm
Give bearded irises a sunny spot and when planting, point the rhizome south so that the fan of leaves don'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 (or Mexican feathergrass, now often sold as Nassella tenuissima) is a compact, evergreen grass is ideal for a gravel garden or a spot towards the front of a border. It combines well with perennials and other grasses, and moves beautifully in a breeze.
H x S: 60cm x 30cm
The violet blue flowers of catmint (Nepeta) are much loved by bees. When crushed, the grey-green, velvety foliage produces an aromatic 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
Pittosporums are evergreen shrubs that will give structure and interest all year round in a border. 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
This beautiful, waxy-leafed, evergreen climber has white, jasmine-like flowers that are beautifully scented. Give star jasmine a sheltered, sunny spot. It's drought tolerant, but be sure to water well initially to help the plant establish.
H x S: 9m x 5m
Beautiful and long-lasting, sea hollies such as Erygnium x zabelii have tough, silvery leaves that never 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
This statuesque mullein, Verbascum bombyciferum, sends up tall branching spires of yellow flowers, enclosed in woolly down. Rosettes of large furry leaves resist water loss and are soft to the touch.
H x S: 1.8m x 60cm
Artemisias such as 'Powis Castle' and 'Silver Queen' use two strategies against water loss – its leaves are both silvery and very finely cut. It forms a resilient, aromatic woody sub-shrub that adds a feathery dash of silver to borders.
H x S: 75cm x 60cm
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
- Abelia x grandiflora
- Perovskia atriplicifolia
- Jasminum officinale
- Briza media
- Pennisetum rubra
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. Some plants will need regular watering until they are settled and will be drought tolerant once they have put down a good root system.
Where to buy drought-tolerant plants
Many thanks to Todd's Botanics for their help with this feature.