Xeriscape Flowers: Drought Tolerant Flowers For The Garden
By: Heather Rhoades
Just because you garden is in an area that has little rainfall does not mean that you are restricted to growing only foliage or green succulent plants. You can use xeriscape flowers in your garden. There are many drought resistant flowers that you can plant that will add some bright and lively color to the landscape. Let’s look at some drought tolerant flowers you can grow.
Drought Resistant Flowers
Drought hardy flowers are flowers that will thrive in areas that receive little rainfall or areas with sandy soil where the water may drain away quickly. Of course, like all flowers, drought tolerant flowers are broken into two groups. There are annual dry area flowers and perennial dry area flowers.
Annual Xeriscape Flowers
Annual drought resistant flowers will die away each year. Some may reseed themselves, but for the most part, you will need to plant them every year. The advantage of annual drought tolerant flowers is that they will have many, many flowers all season long. Some annual drought hardy flowers include:
- California poppy
- Creeping zinnia
- Dusty miller
- Globe amaranth
- Moss rose
- Spider flower
- Sweet alyssum
Perennial Xeriscape Flowers
Perennial drought resistant flowers will come back year after year. While drought tolerant flowers are much longer lived than annuals, they normally have a shorter blooming time and may not bloom as much as the annuals would. Perennial drought hardy flowers include:
- Baby’s breath
- Black-eyed Susan
- Blanket flower
- Butterfly weed
- Carpet bugle
- Evergreen Candytuft
- Gerbera daisy
- Hardy ice plant
- Lamb’s ears
- Lily of the Nile
- Mexican sunflower
- Purple Coneflower
- Red hot poker
- Shasta Daisy
By using xeriscape flowers you can enjoy lovely blooms without much water. Drought resistant flowers can add beauty to your water efficient, xeriscape garden.
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Drought Tolerant Plants List
Drought tolerant plants, xeriscape, water wise gardens are the gardening vocabulary that we are likely to see for some time to come, particularly in Southern California.В Since there is a limited amount of water that can be extracted from our watersheds before significant environmental consequences are obvious to us all.В It seems prudent to use plants that are native to our region or from one that is very similar.В And to choose plants that are both beautiful and come from the dryer sections of these landscapes.В В At first glance it might be thought that a drought tolerant garden limits the garden to a "desert" look.В But there are so many plants well adapted to our climate that almost any garden style can be created, maybe with the exceptions of tropical rain forest but even that look can be had with plants that only take a gentle sip.
To merely ask the question "is it a native California plant?" when choosing plants for your garden, this allows the use of a wide range of aquatic and near aquatic plants as well as desert plants but does not address the water requirements of those plants.В To widen the view but to narrow the horticultural focus to plants that can withstand our seasons with minimal irrigation seems to be the critical issue.В The American Southwest, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Chile, and the Mediterranean all are sources for beautiful plants that come from climates that are similar to ours and are regular survivors of severe drought.
Sprinkler EffeciencyIn this world of increasing automation it is easy to program the timer to provide enough water so that even the thirsty plants have their appetites quenched.В One of the most surprising lessons in my gardening career was when the local municipality told us to turn off all sprinkler systems.В Predictably the lawns turned brown and crunched while you walked on them.В The surprising part to me was how many plants actually did better. For years we have had drought tolerant plants produced by our local nurseries that were often over-watered they and rotted in our landscapes.В Look to our review of Smart Sprinkler Timers to find something that matches with how much effort you want to put forth to match attention to effect.
Plant small Go to the nursery looking for pretty flowers and you are likely to be dissappointed if you are trying to find a drought tolerant plant. One of the greatest challenges for the plant buying public is to get well enough educated about drought tolerant plants so we go to a garden center knowing what we want to buy.В Small plants that are not currently flowering are probably the ones we should really want.В In spite of sometimes looking rather awful in their containers there a huge list of drought tolerant plants will flourish in our landscapes, as the list below will attest.В If we wait for them to be big and overflowing their containers they often transition badly into the landscape.В We should be buying a plant because we know what it will do in our garden rather than what impulse we feel when we look at that plant.В Many of the plants on this list have a relatively short life span.В There is little point in having the larger part of their life spent distressed by being strangled by a nursery container.
Plants do not fare well with the chloramines and other water sanitizing chemicals.В No surprise, the point of the chemicals is to kill the microscopic plants and animals that might make us sick drinking the water.В The result so far as the plants are concerned, an inch of irrigated water or an inch of rain on the landscape do not produce the same results.В It is easy to see how happy the plants are when we finally get the natural choice.В I spend a significant part of my time in gardens trying to fix the soil chemistry caused by our water.
Fall is when a plant's roots will grow the most.В This is the easiest time to get a drought tolerant garden established.В Healthy roots lead to robust foliage in the Spring and lots of flowers.В Spring is when the plants main energy is spent on flowers and seeds.В If the roots are not fully established summer survival is a trial,В and a race between dehydration and rot.В Drought tolerant plants are only capable of withstanding a drought if their roots are well established into the surrounding soil.
This drought tolerant plants list is compiled from our observations of the plant survivors from neglected gardens.В So many times we have found some plant fully in its glory thriving in spite of the neglect.В And from plants on the margins of the irrigated zone where in spite of their lean providence they shine anyways.
This list is by no means complete, but as you can see there are plenty of drought tolerant plants to fill your yard, school, or park without bothering to repeat.
10 Drought-Tolerant Native Plants for Houston
Here is our list of ten drought-tolerant native plants for Houston. While most do well in full sun, we’ve included a few that do well in shade too.
Native plants. The term has different meanings for different gardeners. There are Texas natives, US natives and those plants that act like natives. All in all, what most of us want in our garden are low maintenance plants that are attractive and functional. Plants that are not invasive and are beneficial to wildlife. When you plant a garden, it is not just for you – it is a habitat for all living things around you.
1 Texas Lantana (Lantana horrida also referred to as Lantana urticoides)
A native to Texas, this variety of Lantana has yellow to orange flowers and attracts butterflies. It is very drought-tolerant as well as salt tolerant. Deer resistant. Hardy in our zone 9, but may need some protection in severe winters. Prefers well-draining soil. Full to part sun. Spreading shrub 3-6 ft. Blooms all summer long. NATIVE.
2 Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’)
This perennial coneflower has bright golden yellow flowers with black centers. A drought-tolerant perennial with large blooms up to 5 inches across that makes great cut flowers. Full to part sun. A favorite in native gardens in Houston. NATIVE.
3 Eastern Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Drought tolerant native that is a favorite of butterflies. Prolific bloomer from spring through summer. Tall stems with soft lavender petals attached to an iridescent cone. It prefers full sun to partial shade in well-draining fertile soils. 2-5 feet tall. Makes long-lasting cut flowers. An outstanding performer throughout our hot summer. NATIVE.
4 Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii)
A drought-tolerant perennial that flowers continuously from late spring until hard frost. Prefers full to part sun. Grows about 3 ft tall and as wide. Red flowers with pale green small leaves. Attracts hummingbirds! NATIVE.
5 Gulf Coast Muhly aka Pink Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris)
This tough native perennial grass with a large, airy seed head grows is stunning when planted in masse. The spikelets are purple and in fall the plant takes on a feathery, deep pink hue. Drought-tolerant. Full to part sun. Clumping habit 2-3 ft. tall. NATIVE.
Incorporating some plants with a spiky feathery texture adds visual interest in your garden. It also adds gentle motion in the garden as the spikes sway in the breeze.
6 Chaste Tree, Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus)
This small deciduous tree (or large multi-trunked shrub) blooms profuse spikes of lavender flowers. It blooms heavily in the early summer, and then sporadically throughout the summer and fall. Vitex is heat, drought, and pest tolerant — which makes it an excellent choice for low maintenance gardens. ACTS LIKE NATIVE.
There are several color variations available, such as ‘Shoal Creek’, a lovely lilac color and ‘Montrose Purple’, deep color with longer spikes. Read more about Vitex.
7 Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra elatior)
Aspidistra elatior (aka “cast-iron plant”), is a tough, drought-tolerant shade plant, once established. Thrives in dense shade and adds texture and vertical interest with its broad dense green leaves. Prune any cold damaged foliage in late winter. New growth will emerge from the base of the plant in spring. Grows in clumps. It also makes a nice low light houseplant. ACTS LIKE NATIVE.
8 Firebush, Hummingbird Bush (Hamelia patens)
This tropical produces long tubular flowers in shades of red, orange and yellow, perfect for attracting hummingbirds. Plants perennialize in Houston gardens, but top growth may freeze to the ground in especially cold winters. Blooms from late-spring through late-fall. Full sun. NATIVE.
9 Blue Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata)
Plumbago is basically maintenance-free. No need to fertilize or worry about insects. Once established, it’s fairly drought tolerant, but may need supplemental water when things stay really dry.
It grows in sun, but it also grows really well in partial shade, as long as it gets adequate light. At maturity, it will be 3-4 feet high and 4-6 feet wide. ACTS LIKE NATIVE.
10 Esperanza, Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans)
This deciduous shrub produces clusters of large tubular flowers in shades of bright yellow, to apricot, orange, and red. A hummingbird favorite in full sun. You can find this plant growing wild in the rocky slopes near San Antonio, northern Mexico, and Arizona. Blooms from spring through fall. At maturity, it grows 3 to 6 ft in height and 3 to 4 feet in width. Stands up to our Texas heat and is drought-tolerant. Read more about Esperanza. NATIVE.
This list is some of our favorite drought-tolerant native plants. There are lots more that are suitable for Houston area gardens. Want to learn more about native plants? Come to Buchanan’s.
If you want a low maintenance, beautiful garden – start with natives. It’s not too late to plant. Visit Buchanan’s Native Plants today and our native plant experts will help you pick out the right plants for your garden.
Here are a few helpful links about native plants for Texas:
About Jackie D'Elia
Jackie D'Elia loves gardening and photography. Her day job is building amazing things in WordPress at Jackie D'Elia Design. She earned a BS in Horticulture from Texas A&M. Follow her on Twitter @jdelia.
13 Drought Resistant Plants in Summary
- Lavender - Lavandula Spp
- Jade plant
- Aloe – Aloe spp
- Rock rose - Cistus spp
- Crown of thorns - Euphorbia milii
- Cone flower - Echinacea purpurea
- Mescal Agave
- Jerusalem sage - Phlomis fruticosa
- African lily