Summer Time: 10 Drought Resistant Perennials

In soaring summer temperatures and high humidity, it’s vital to provide plenty of water for your newly installed trees, shrubs, and perennials. All plants need water, but some are better adapted to heat and drought. In recent years, a landscaping style called xeriscaping has gained popularity. Xeriscaping is landscape design with a focus on decreasing of eliminating the need for irrigation. Gardeners achieve this goal by planting drought tolerant plants and efficiently collecting rainwater rather then relying on the water source they use for their home. Conserving water not only benefits the environment, but it’s also more cost effective than maintaining a garden full of thirsty plants. Full xeriscaping is an extensive project, but adding just a few drought tolerant plants to the landscape is an excellent way to conserve water and keep your garden looking healthy through the summer heat. We’ve compiled a list of our ten favorite water wise perennials to plant this summer:

Achillea Yarrow

Achillea, commonly known as Yarrow, is one of the toughest plants around. Unlike more delicate perennials, they thrive in poor soil conditions — even the clay-riddled soil prevalent in central Virginia. Yarrow are happy with moderate, infrequent watering and regular rainfall is often sufficient after they’re established. Common varieties include ‘Moonshine’, with a bright yellow bloom, and ‘New Vintage Rose’, which is a faded pink shade. As an added bonus, they’re resistant to common garden pests like deer and rabbits.

Nepeta Catmint

Nepeta is known for its exceptionally long blooming period and fresh scent, which is said to appeal to cats while simultaneously deterring rabbits and deer. They easily withstand periods of drought and tolerate the blazing heat of summer. Catmint blooms small purple flowers above fine, silvery-green foliage; from a distance, they look like a haze of silver with lilac accents. Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ is a fantastic choice for border plantings and ‘Cat’s Pajamas’ has larger, more eye-catching deep purple blooms.


If you’ve ever planted annual Lantana, you know it’s tough plant. When other annuals droop in the heat, Lantana stands tall. Perennial varieties like ‘Miss Huff’ and ‘Chapel Hill’ share this helpful trait. Bees and butterflies love Lantana and it’s not unusual to see native Swallowtails enjoying their nectar. Over time, perennial Lantana grows to the size of a small shrub in the landscape and their arching branches provide architectural interest.

Stachys Lamb’s Ear

Lamb’s Ear is an excellent choice for dry, sunny spots in the garden and can be planted as a groundcover or standalone plant. Stachys hold up well to periods of drought and intense sun — they’re actually more likely to droop and look tired after a period of abundant rain. Lamb’s ear and other perennials with unique foliage textures offer three season interest in the garden without relying on bloom time. We especially love the look of Stachys planted next to Salvia, Balloon Flower, or Irises.

Agastache Hummingbird Mint

Add height to your xeriscaping with Agastache! Favored by all kinds of pollinators, Agastache is often called Hummingbird Mint. They’ll stand tall in the garden despite persistent heat and infrequent rainfall. Agastache ‘Peachie Keen’ features light apricot blooms with lavender accents while varieties like ‘Blue Boa’ and ‘Little Adder’ have deep purple blooms.

Sedum Stonecrop

Succulents aren’t just for houseplant collections; they’re also great options for those looking to conserve water in the perennial garden. Sedum stores water in its thick, rubbery leaves to sustain itself over periods of drought. Sedum grows in a variety of shapes and sizes ranging low-lying groundcover varieties like tricolor spurium, which features variegated pink and cream foliage, to the classic ‘Autumn Joy’ Sedum, which grows to around two feet tall and blooms clusters of pink flowers in the fall.

Delosperma Ice Plant

Native to sunny, mountainous regions in South Africa, Delosperma is right at home in rock gardens and dry areas of the garden. Its common name, the ice plant, comes from the frosted appearance of the succulent foliage. Delosperma performs particularly well in containers when left to cascade over the sides of the pot. Some of our favorite cultivars include ‘Golden Wonder’, which blooms bright yellow flowers, and ‘Fire Spinner’, which produces multi-colored orange and lavender blooms.

Lavandula Lavender

Native to the Mediterranean, Spanish lavender withstands soaring temperatures and rocky soil conditions with ease. Varieties like ‘Primavera’ bloom stunning flowers larger than most English and French lavender varieties. Other more common varieties include Hidcote lavender, which has a deep purple bloom, and French lavender. Of course, an added benefit of growing lavender is the wonderful scent.

Rudbeckia Black Eyed Susan

Native plants like Rudbeckia are perfectly adapted to the central Virginian climate, so they’re used to surviving through long dry spells. You may see Black Eyed Susans growing along roadways and natural areas, where they receive little to no supplemental water. It’s no wonder gardeners love this cheerful perennial; they produce abundant blooms throughout the summer and make excellent cut flowers. Their function as a host plant to several butterfly species is an added benefit to the environment.

Echinacea Coneflower

Echinacea is another common native plant that’s been cultivated into dozens of unique varieties. Besides the straight native Echinacea purpurea, gardeners can also choose from cultivars like ‘Pow Wow White’, which sports a cream bloom, or ‘Sombrero Salsa Red’, which blooms stunning scarlet blooms. Echinacea coneheads are an important food source for birds in the fall and winter so we recommend against cutting them back for the off season.

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