Skip to main content

6 gorgeous plants that thrive in dry soil

Some landscape areas present challenges that are not easily overcome. If the soil is bad, it can be improved, but water scarcity is a different kind of problem. Sunny slopes and other difficult-to-water areas call for plants that can handle these dry areas. The good news is that there are lots of gorgeous plants that thrive in dry soil. 

Great solutions can come from locally native plant species. Other popular plants for dry gardens come from semi-arid regions all over the world. These are some of the easiest plants to grow because once established they require  little maintenance. They may require supplemental watering for the first season, as they establish deep root systems, but then they can survive all but the most extreme dry weather without irrigation. 

ornamental grass border and landscape bench

Ornamental grasses

Ornamental grasses have a clumping growth habit rather than forming turf. The various species grow upright, arching, or weeping foliage that provides soft structure in the landscape. The gentlest breezes add elements of motion and white noise as the grass blades sway. In mid to late summer, grasses send up their flower stalks, followed by occasionally colorful fall foliage for a nice change in appearance. In winter, many gardeners leave the brown grass clumps standing until just before new growth begins to emerge, and then prune them back just before the onset of spring.


Also known as Beardtongue, Penstemon is the largest genus of flowering plants native to North America. That means there’s plenty of material for plant breeders and growers to work with. Penstemon grows as a rosette of semi-evergreen foliage that produce spikes of snapdragon-like flowers during the growing season in late spring and early summer, mostly in shades of blue, purple, white, and pink. The foliage may be deep green, silvery, or maroon, depending on the cultivar. They are commonly used as ground covers or slope protection plants and blend well into perennial border gardens.


Sedum, also known as stonecrop, is an extensive group of succulent plants that includes both trailing ground cover types and clump forming, upright growers. They are ideal candidates for container plantings, perennial borders, mixed slope plantings, and rock gardens. They make efficient use of limited moisture by storing water in their fleshy tissue and using it slowly over time. Sedums are considered semi-evergreen as foliage rosettes remain at the stem bases through winter. Bloom time is summer to fall, depending on the species. 

group of coneflowers in a garden
Ksenia Lada/Shutterstock


The Echinacea family, known as coneflowers, produce loads of large pink, purple, yellow, or white blooms in the heat of summer, and they don’t mind if the soil is dry. These hardy perennial species are native to a variety of American habitats, including prairies, meadows, and other open spaces. Their early to mid summer flowers, as well as seeds, and foliage support a great diversity of birds, insects, and small mammals, making them popular for pollinator gardening and wildlife habitat plantings. Many herbalists recommend their use, especially the species Echinacea purpurea, for a host of health benefits.

Russian sage

Salvia yangii, formerly Perovskia atriplicifolia and better known as Russian Sage, produces attractive gray-green foliage and lavender-blue flower spikes in late summer and fall. Deep roots allow this perennial or sub-shrub to scavenge water far down in soil that is out of reach to other species. This plant makes an excellent companion for many other drought-tolerant plants in dry gardens. Plant it in drifts across a sloped area, or use it as an accent plant in perennial borders or rock gardens.

bearded iris blooming in garden
Krzysztof Bubel / Shutterstock

Bearded iris

Bearded iris, Iris germanica, offers drought tolerance and oversized spring color. Similar to succulents with their foliage, iris use their fleshy rhizomes to store excess water until they need it during dry weather. These ever popular plants have been the subject of plant breeders for centuries. They offer a huge diversity of bloom forms and colors including red, white, purple, yellow, peach, orange, rose, and black. Many bicolor cultivars are available, as well.  The broad, strap-like foliage is semi-evergreen. 

Even the most drought-tolerant plants need some water, especially newly installed plants. For best results in establishing a dry garden, plan to water as needed during the first growing season. Also, apply a two or three inch layer of mulch to protect roots from temperature extremes and reduce evaporation. After establishing their extensive root systems, and with a well maintained layer of mulch, these plants will be equipped to thrive in all but the most extreme dry spells. 

Drought-prone landscapes don’t have to be covered in dead grass and weeds. If you choose drought-tolerant plants for dry areas and commit to one season of occasional deep watering to help them grow deep root systems, you can enjoy a beautiful garden for many years to come.

Editors' Recommendations

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…
14 incredible morning shade plants that will thrive in your shady garden
These flowers and vegetables will love morning shade and afternoon sun
A black walnut tree in the afternoon sun

When planting a garden, your landscape and ideas may not always line up with what's best for the plants. There are tons of beautiful flowers that need full sun, which can be frustrating if your garden is shady. The good news is that there are just as many stunning flowers that enjoy the shade! Not all plants are alike, and while they all want sunlight, they don't all want the same amount or the same kind. If your garden has morning shade and afternoon sun, then these are the 14 morning shade plants you should know about.

What kind of light is morning shade?
There are five categories of sunlight that gardeners fit all plants into. There's full sun, partial sun, partial shade, dappled sun, and full shade. Each type has a long list of plants that love that kind of environment. Morning shade with afternoon sunlight would qualify as partial shade, but it is a specific type.
Many plants prefer the less harsh light of morning light and then want to be shaded during the hottest part of the day in the afternoon. There are, however, many plants that love being shaded in the morning while soaking up those bright rays in the afternoon heat.

Read more
Turn your pothos plant into a hydroponic oasis
How to propagate a golden pothos from cuttings
Hanging pothos plant

Golden pothos brighten up any home garden and they are one of the easiest plants to propagate in either water or soil. Pothos propagation can be done one of two ways -- either hydroponically or in soil. Try both options out to determine which one works best for your space. There are many different types of pothos plants, also known as pipremnum aureum or Devil's Ivy.

This guide for how to propagate pothos works for pretty much all of them. Golden pothos, one of the most common varieties, is characterized by its yellow undertones. It's important to note that leaves in a propagated golden pothos plant may contain less yellow spots than the parent plant. Though losing some color still leaves you with not one but two beautiful plants.
Why you might want to propagate a golden pothos
Whether it's a golden pothos or any other pothos variety, you'll soon find that these plants grow quickly. So even if you're not interested in creating more baby plants, cutting and pruning your pothos is vital to keeping it healthy and managing the amount of space it takes up. Your pothos might be hanging and reaching the floor, or it might be threatening to take over the wall you've been training it to vine over. Either way, cutting off a bit here and there will allow you to grow baby plants and will also encourage the plant to grow bushier and healthier vines.

Read more
Zone 9b planting guide: Everything you need to know about nourishing a garden in this warm climate
The best plants to grow in zone 9b and when to grow them
A happy gardener with gloves

From show-stopping roses to hardy agave, zone 9b is home to plants of all stripes, thanks to its warm, sunny conditions. It’s also an ideal environment for a wide range of fruits and veggies, whether you’re partial to hot peppers or sweet cherries. Its hot summers can be challenging, but it’s generally a productive and lush area for thriving plant life. Here’s your zone 9b planting guide so you can nourish a fruitful and beautiful garden in one of the country's warmest areas.
What is a climate zone?
With climate zones on the Plant Hardiness Zone Map, the United States Department of Agriculture divides the country into 13 regions based on average annual minimum temperature ranges. The temperature ranges go from coldest to hottest as we move from zone 1 to 13. Zone 9b, as you may have already guessed, falls on the warmer parts of the map.

Whenever you buy a plant from a store, look for the label that indicates the "plant hardiness zone." If your zone is within that range, the plant is a perennial in your area, meaning it’ll last more than one growing season there. If not, you’ll have an annual on your hands, which means it probably won't survive more than one growing season in your region.

Read more