10 Best Drought Tolerant Plants for Dry Climates

If you live in a dry region or in a region with high Drought riskAs in the Southwestern United States, choosing the right plants for your yard or garden can be difficult. Fortunately, there are plenty of drought tolerant plants of varying heights, textures, and shapes that can add a touch of color and dimension to your landscape with minimal watering.

What are drought tolerant plants?

Drought tolerant plants, also known as drought resistant plants, are plants that can withstand long periods of drought. They are usually found in areas in the United States with drier climates, such as Phoenix, AZ, or in the Prairie Provinces of Canada in cities like Edmonton, AB. Drought-resistant plants can usually survive weeks, if not an entire season, without water help to save water consumption outdoors. So if you live in an arid area, check out this list of 10 drought tolerant plants for arid climates.

1) cactus

Cactus in front of a house

Botanical name: Cactus plants
USDA hardship zones *: 9-11
Plant type: Succulents (with a few exceptions)
Home area: Rainforests and deserts around the world
Soil pH: 5.5-7.0

One of the most versatile and long-lived drought tolerant plants, the cactus is a reliable plant with thousands of different species. Cacti fall into two broad categories: desert and forest. Desert cacti are more traditional, have thick spikes, and can grow paddles, balls, or obelisks. They produce beautiful flowers in spring and summer. Forest cacti are not that hardy and come from forests and jungles.

Cacti usually survive all four seasons. Do not water too much when caring for it, as cacti store water in their stems. Provide a good soil mix or organic and inorganic materials of sand, pumice stone, and perlite to create holes, as well as coconut, bark, and peat moss. Approximately 8 hours of light is essential for desert cacti, while forest cacti require bright, indirect sunlight.

2) aloe vera

An aloe plant

Botanical name: Aloe Barbadensis Müller
USDA hardship zone *: 10-12
Plant type: Juicy
Home area: Africa, Madagascar and the Arabian Peninsula
Soil pH: 7.0-8.5

Aloe Vera, derived from the genus aloe, is a cactus-like succulent that typically grows in hot and arid climates. Originally native to Africa, these short-stemmed, drought-tolerant plants fan out from a central stem and have thick green leaves that contain a watery gel. It is a fast growing, drought resistant plant that takes around 3 to 4 years to mature.

Aloe vera can grow in barren soil, but it requires bright, indirect sunlight 6-8 hours a day, as direct light can potentially burn the skin. These succulents are best planted alone in a pot or a well-drained bed. Although they require minimal watering, they prefer to be watered regularly to prevent their leaves from drying out and shrinking. If you also want to plant aloe, you can propagate this plant by cutting off a few leaves and planting the cuttings.

3) agave

The agave plant

Botanical name: agave
USDA hardship zone *: 5-11
Plant type: Perennial, juicy
Home area: South America, Central America and North America
Soil pH: 6.6-6.8

Agaves have large leathery leaves, spiky tips, and are considered rosette succulents. This plant can grow up to 10 feet tall and wide, but is slow growing. Be sure to avoid the sap of this plant as it is poisonous and keep the plant away from pedestrians as it has spiky tips. Aloe and agave are usually confused, but agave is usually larger, has thinner, more fibrous leaves, and only flowers once in a lifetime.

Agave needs extra care. Provide sufficient sun and light for about 6 hours and a well-drained neutral to slightly acidic soil. As the agave ripens, it will need less water, but start watering it every four to five days for the first month.

4) fountain grass

Fountain grass

Botanical name: Pennisetum setaceum
USDA hardship zone *: 4-9
Plant type: Perennial ornamental grass
Home area: South Asia and Africa
Soil pH: 5.5-7.0

Well grass is known for its thin leaves and flowery spines that fade to gold in the fall. Fountain grass comes in many different colors, but the most common is purple and red fountain grass. It's a great plant to use as a privacy border.

When caring for fountain grass, it is important to trim the foliage to prevent overgrowth. For best results, the plant must be grown in fertile soil that is well drained. Well grass prefers direct sunlight for at least 6 to 8 hours a day. Although the grass is considered drought resistant, watering the grass at least once or twice a week, especially during the first planting, helps to adapt to your landscape.

5) kangaroo paw

A kangaroo paw plant

Botanical name: Anigozanthos flavidus
USDA hardship zone *: 9-11
Plant type: shrub
Home area: Australia
Soil pH: 5.8

Kangaroo Paw is known for its beautiful blooms and visual variety with colors blooming in red, yellow, orange, or purple. This drought tolerant plant has long, slender leaves that grow in fan-like rows on stems and are covered with white, velvety fluff.

The kangaroo paw plant can grow both in the ground and in pots. However, it must be in full sun for at least 6 to 8 hours for full bloom to occur. The plant thrives in slightly acidic soil conditions and requires moderate watering as too much water can kill the plant. If you want to propagate, you can take a seed off the plant, soak it in hot water for 1 to 2 hours, then plant it in warm soil and let it germinate for about six weeks.

6) lavender

A house with lavender

Botanical name: Lavandula
USDA hardship zones *: 5-9
Plant type: shrub
Home area: Europe
Soil pH: 6.5-7.5

Best grown as an annual or in containers, lavender belongs to the mint family and is known for its sweet floral scent. This drought-resistant plant has green foliage and upright panicles that are compact and make great companions. Although lavender is native to the Mediterranean, there are several different types of lavender around the world, including English, French, and Spanish lavender.

The lavender plant does not like high humidity, but can last for several years in hot sun and dry, poor soil. You should plant it in full sun as shade can affect growth. Lavender is an extremely resilient plant and can do without water for a long time, but if watered during the first growing season it can thrive.

7) Madeira pride

Botanical name: Echium candicans
USDA hardship zones *: 9-11
Plant type: Evergreen flowering shrub
Home area: Canarian island
Soil pH: 6.6-7.5

This plant is named after its origin, Madeira Island in the Canary Islands. Madeira is a biennial plant that flowers every two years. Madeira's pride has sturdy wooden trunks, green-gray spiky leaves, and a cone-shaped flower that is usually purple. The plant can grow up to 8 meters high and 10 meters wide.

Like many drought tolerant plants, Madeira's pride requires copious amounts of direct sunlight for at least 6 hours. It is also forgiving of various types of soil such as clay, sand, or loam. The plant doesn't need a lot of water. However, if you notice the flowers are starting to droop, watering at the base of the plant will help revive them.

8) Trumpet vine

The trumpet vine plant

Botanical name: Campsis radicans
USDA hardship zones *: 4-9
Plant type: Tendril
Home area: North America
Soil Ph: 6.8-7.2

Based on their name, trumpet vines are a beautiful trumpet-shaped flower that blooms a lot of yellow, red, or orange flowers and attracts many animals such as hummingbirds. Its thick, woody vines can usually survive winter and grow up to 30 to 40 feet tall. This drought tolerant plant can be invasive, but with a little care and pruning it can be kept under control.

The trumpet vine thrives both in the sun and in partial shade, but prefers well-drained soil. Water as needed, as this drought-resistant plant likes a moderate amount of moisture. Do not fertilize the plant as it can grow quickly. Make sure you plant it in a convenient location, not too close to the foundation of your home as this can cause damage.

9) yarrow

A yarrow plant

Botanical name: Achillea millefolium
USDA hardship zones *: 3-9
Plant type: Herbaceous flowering perennial
Home area: North Asia, North America and Europe
Soil pH: 4.0-8.0

Native to North America, yarrow is a great drought-resistant plant that provides a rich food source for pollinator insects. The plant comes in a variety of shades such as yellow, pink, red, or purple, but can be an invasive grower.

When planting the yarrow, choose a location with plenty of sun to encourage flower growth. Place the plant 1-2 feet apart as it can get 2-4 feet tall. Yarrow isn't particularly fussy about soil type and can grow in clay, loam, or sand. Yarrow is drought resistant, but if your area gets less than an inch of rain per week, give it some water.

10) bougainvillea

A bougainvillea plant

Botanical name: Bougainvillea glabra
USDA hardship zones *: 9-11
Plant type: Perennial shrub
Home area: South America
Soil pH: 5.5-6.0

Bougainvillea is native to South America and was named after Louis Antoine de Bougainville, a French admiral. It can grow to 35 inches per year and is fast growing and climbing. Bougainvillea has bright purple, pink, and orange petals that hide its white and yellow flowers.

The bougainvillea plant needs a lot of care but needs to be pruned to keep it from overgrowing. This is best done during the fall season. When choosing the planting site, choose a location with lots of sun. More light gives the plant lighter shades. Bougainvillea also prefers a well drained location and slightly acidic soil. Irrigation varies according to the season. In autumn, spring and summer, make sure the soil is slightly moist and in winter it is dry. Too much water can lead to root rot and too much greenery.

*The USDA hardiness zone is a map based on the annual minimum water temperature, which is divided into 10-degree F zones. It is the standard by which gardeners determine which plants can grow and thrive in particular locations in the United States.

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