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Drought-tolerant pollinator plants that will survive any climate

These drought-tolerant blooms can live through the toughest conditions

Border garden planted with drought-tolerant flowers
Kathryn Roach / Shutterstock

You don’t need to live in the desert to think about conserving water. Gardening is challenging enough without worrying whether your plants will survive a dry spell. Drought-hardy flowers make life a bit easier, coming with special features that help them survive when rain doesn’t come. Plus, as drought-tolerant pollinator plants, they attract bees and birds that benefit the rest of your garden.

Some of the most reliable drought-hardy flowers are perennials that’ll grow back year after year. They may develop deep roots that can reach water more easily or grow low to the ground with less surface area exposed to drying winds. Some have thick leaves with a reduced surface area. With so many ways of adapting to dry conditions, there’s no shortage of plants to choose from. The following are some of the easiest drought-tolerant flowers you can grow.

Echinacea

A close-up of pink coneflower blooms
LapaiIrKrapai / Shutterstock

Purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea, is one of the most popular drought-tolerant plants for numerous reasons. This native North American flower is well adapted to hot summers and cold winters across the continent. The long-lasting flowers attract wildlife from early summer through fall, from the butterflies and bees that sip its nectar, to the birds that devour its seed heads.

Although echinacea appreciates consistent soil moisture, it only needs irrigation during extended, extreme drought once established. Purple coneflower is just one of seven native Echinacea species, along with dozens of popular hybrids.

Lavender

A field of lavender
Hans / Pixabay

Like other members of the mint family, lavender, Lavandula spp., is a rugged plant that thrives where other plants struggle. This native of the Mediterranean region grows best in full sun and well-drained soil. Aesthetically, it looks striking in rock gardens and perennial borders.

Whether you plant lavender plants in containers or in your garden, they thrive with low moisture while they look and smell wonderful. Another favorite of pollinators, lavender’s purple or blue flowers add a hint of coolness to the hot summer landscape. And, you can cut and dry the foliage or flowers for tea sachets or to add a delicious flavor to homemade ice cream.

Penstemon

Penstemon flower
Meatle / Pixabay

Rugged and reliable beardtongue, or Penstemon spp., thrives in hot, dry locations, including soils that are mostly gravel and sand. In fact, they suffer in wet or poorly drained soil. Simply put: You’ll likely never need to water it once it’s established.

These North American natives offer great variability in size, bloom color, foliage, and form. Due to their reputation for deer and rabbit resistance, they’re an excellent choice for perennial borders, container plantings, and natural areas. Some varieties have foliage that remains year round in regions with mild winter weather. Pollinators adore them, and you will, too.

Rudbeckia

A black-eyed Susan vine, also called a clockvine
saragnib / Pixabay

Black-eyed Susans, Rudbeckia spp., are iconic North American wildflowers and perennial garden staples. Their sunny yellow-ray petals and dark centers bring a punch of color to the landscape throughout the summer, while the mature seed heads add structure to the fall and winter garden. Rudbeckia are beloved by birds and bees, and they’re easy to grow in difficult locations.

There’s a Rudbeckia species for virtually every need. The ubiquitous Rudbeckia fulgida remains about knee high and thrives in poor soil. R. hirta cultivars feature soft, fuzzy leaves and large flowers, often with a blush of maroon, orange, or red. The mammoth R. maxima may even reach heights well over seven feet.

Salvia

Purple salvia
Amber Wolfe / Unsplash

Salvias, commonly called sages, are some of the most useful flowers around. The foliage is typically lightly fragrant and resistant to browsing by deer and rabbits. The blue, purple, red, or white flower spikes are colorful, long lasting, and attractive to pollinators. Use them in wild areas, pollinator gardens, perennial borders, or containers.

There are about 50 species of salvia that are native to North America, many of which are drought-tolerant plants. Choose from popular annual or perennial herbaceous species like blue salvia (S. azurea), autumn sage (S. greggii), black and blue salvia (S. guaranitica), mealycup sage (S. farinacea), Texas sage (S. coccinea), and more.

Hylotelephium

Autumn joy sedum with flowers
Mark Herreid / Shutterstock

What list of drought-hardy flowers would be complete without succulents? Formerly categorized within the Sedum genus, Hylotelephium encompasses several species of showy-flowered succulents. These plants are thick, fleshy, thornless, and heat tolerant. In addition to their showy flowers, many of these succulents display colorful, attractive foliage for an extended season of interest. Plus, they attract pollinators.

Plant upright selections like ‘Autumn Fire’ or ‘Purple Emperor’ (H. telephium) among perennials and low shrubs. Trailing types such as ‘Japanese Stonecrop’ (H. sieboldii) or ‘Pink Mongolian Stonecrop’ (H. ewersii) in mixed container plantings, among stepping stones, or as a rock garden groundcover.

California poppies

Orange poppies
Mason Field / Unsplash

California poppies, or Eschscholzia californica, are extremely tough and thrive in drought conditions without the need for fertilizer. They are great for attracting bees and come in beautiful hues such as yellow, orange, red, white, and pink, making them perfect for adding a pop of color to your garden.

They do well in beds, containers, borders, and walkways — just give them sandy or rocky soil and an area with full sun, and they’re good to go. Although they’re drought tolerant, very hot weather will cause these poppies to go dormant. Also, if you have pets around, we’d keep in mind that they’re toxic.

For easy maintenance, wise water usage, and season-long garden interest, plant a diverse selection of drought-tolerant flowers. Once they’ve become established, just keep them mulched and divide them every three to five years for a beautiful, healthy, eco-friendly landscape.

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Mark Wolfe
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Mark Wolfe is a freelance writer who specializes in garden, landscaping, and home improvement. After two decades in the…
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