Drought Tolerant List

Drought Tolerant List

Drought Tolerant Plants

Plants on this list have survived the two month heat wave and severe drought of the summer of 2022. In most cases, they did so without any supplemental watering. In a few cases, one or two deep soakings made them revive quickly. Some of the reasons these plants are drought resistant are that they have swollen storage roots such as tubers or corms or that they have an extremely deep and large root systems.

  • Plants (especially shrubs) that have been planted in the past 1-3 years should be monitored during a drought. It is not until they are well established that drought tolerance kicks in. Check the plants often. If they are wilted AFTER the sun sets, deep soak them.
  • Heat zones are a factor. Plants transpire water much faster in a south or west facing exposure, if surrounded by pavement or stones or any material that holds heat such as foundations, driveways, patios.
  • If plants are installed into the root system of large, established trees, the trees will take the water first. Even notoriously drought tolerant plants will have to be watered for the first season until their root system is established.
  • Soil type matters. Sandy soils drain away any water quickly. Clay soils hold water, but, once completely dry, turn as hard as a rock.
  • Some plants live through a drought to grow and bloom another year, but look really unsightly. They are not included on this list. One example is Hemerocallis (daylilies). They have swollen storage roots but, in a drought, the leaves turn yellow and brown. If you cut off all the bad leaves, they will grow new ones when it rains again. Another example are New England asters (Aster novae-angliae). They survive and eventually flower but the leaves turn brown and yellow.
  • Some plants are quite drought tolerant but need to be watered when they are in flower in order to set fruit. Callicarpa (beautyberry) is an example and should be deep soaked at least once or twice in late July and August when it is in bloom.
  • If a plant is described as “moisture tolerant”, that means it can grow in water-saturated soils and still survive. BUT, some moisture tolerant plants can also survive a long dry spell. Examples are Vernonia (ironweeds) and Iris ensata (Japanese irises).

We welcome your comments on this list as we work together to create more resilient gardens.




Aconitum- monkshood

Agastache- licorice mint

Allium- ‘Millenium’, ‘All Summer Beauty’, thunbergii ‘Ozowa’

Amsonia-blue star

Anaphalis-pearly everlasting

Anemone nemerosa- wood anemone

Anthemis tinctoria- perennial Marguerite

Arabis- rock cress

Armeria-sea thrift

Asclepia tuberosa-butterfly weed and Asclepias verticillata-whorled milkweed

Aster ericioides, laevis, oblongifolia, umbellatus- asters

Aurinia-basket of gold

Baptisia-false indigo

Belamcanda-blackberry lily                                                                                                                                                

Boltonia asteroides


Callihroe involucrate-poppy mallow

Campanula poscharskyana- bell flower

Caryopteris divaricata ‘Snow Fairy’- herbaceous blue mist shrub

Cerastium-snow in summer


Corydalis- rock harlequin

Crambe maritima-sea kale

Dalea purpurea-purple prairie clover

Delosperma-ice plant

Dendranthema-perennial chrysanthemum


Dicentra- bleeding heart


Disporum flavens-yellow fairy bells



Erigeron- including Erigeron pulchellus ‘Lynnhaven Carpet’- fleabane

Eryngium-sea holly, rattlesnakemaster


Gaillardia-blanket flower

Gaultheria procumbens-wintergreen


Geranium- especially G. macrorrhizum

Gypsophila-baby’s breath

Helianthemum-sun rose

Helianthus tuberosus- Jerusalem artichoke (other perennial sunflowers may survive a drought but look                                unsightly if not watered at least once or twice)

Heliopsis-false sunflower

Helleborus (may need one or two deep soakings but will revive)

Heuchera- coral bells, alum root



Inusla helenium- elcampagne

Iris germanica, Iris pallida ‘Variegata’, Iris sibirica, Iris pumila

Kalimeris integrifolia-Japanese aster

Kniphofia-red hot poker

Lathyrus vernus-spring vetchling

Leucanthemum ‘Becky’-Shasta daisy


Lychnis coronaria-rose campion and L. chalcedonica-Maltese cross

Maclaeya cordata-plume poppy

Mertensia virginica- Virginia bluebells  (summer dormant)

Mitchella repens- partridge berry


Nipponanthemum nipponicum-Montauk daisy

Oenothera- evening primrose

Opuntia-prickly pear

Pachysandra procumbens-native deciduous pachysandra

Paeonia-peony (both herbaceous and tree)

Papaver orientalis- Oriental poppy (summer dormant)

Penstemon-beard tongue

Parthenium integrifolium-wild quinine

Perovskia-Russian sage

Persicaria polymorpha-Giant fleeceflower

Phlox subulata-creeping phlox, May pinks

Physostegia virginica-obedient plant

Platycodon-balloon flower

Podophyllum peltatum-mayapple

Polygonatum-Solomon’s seal

Potentilla-herbaceous cinquefoils such as P. tridentata, P. x tonguei

Prunella vulgaris-heal all

Rudbeckia-black eyed Susan

Salvia-ornamental sage

Sanguinaria canadensis-bloodroot (summer dormant)

Sedum- stonecrop

Sempervivum- hens and chicks


Stachys byzantina -lamb’s ears

Stokesia-Stoke’s aster

Symphytum-ornamental comfrey such as S. grandiflorum, S. ‘Hidecote Blue’

Tanacetum parthenium-feverfew



Veronica peduncularis ‘Georgia Blue’

Waldsteinea-barren strawberry

Yucca filamentosa

Zizia- Golden Alexanders (may need one good soaking, will revive)







Origanum- oreganos both culinary and ornamental

Pycnanthemums- Mountain mints

Ruta gravaeolens- rue

Salvia-culinary sage



Tanacetum- tansy, feverfew





Most evergreen shrubs are quite drought tolerant as they have a waxy coating that helps them retain water. Broadleaf evergreens have more leaf surface to transpire water than needle evergreens.


Abelia grandiflora-glossy abelia

Abeliophyllum distichum- white forsythia

Amorpha canescens-lead plant

Arctostophyllos uva-ursi- bearberry

Azalea mucronulatum- Korean azalea

Aesculus parviflora-bottlebrush buckeye

Baccharis halimifolia-salt bush

Buddleia-butterfly bush


Chaenomeles- quince

Comptonia peregrina-sweet fern

Calycanthus -Carolina allspice

Caryopteris-blue mist shrub


Cytisus-Scotch broom


Erica-spring heath

Hibiscus syriacus- Rose of Sharon

Hypericum-St. Johnswort

Indigofera-indigo bush

Kolkwitzia amabalis- beauty bush

Lagerstroemia- crape myrtle

Leptodermis oblonga

Lespedeza- bush clover

Lonicera fragrantissima-winter honeysuckle

Myrica pensylvanica- bayberry

Rhus-sumac  Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-Low’, Rhus copallinum, Rhus glabra, Rhus typhina ‘Tiger Eyes’

Spirea-both spring and summer blooming type

Syringa- lilac

Vitex-chaste berry

Xanthorhiza simplicissima-yellowroot


Ornamental Grasses


Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’-blue gramma grass

Calamagrostis-feather reed grass

Carex ‘Ice Dance’

Eragrostis-love grass

Festuca glauca-fescue

Helichtotrichon-blue oat grass


Molinia-moor grass

Muhlenbergia-muhly grass


Schizachyrium-little bluestem

Sorghastrum nutans- Indian grass

Sporobolis heterolepsis-prairie dropseed

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