Six drought-tolerant perennials to bring some color to an ailing landscape

Updated Apr 21, 2022
Photo: Karen Roe/FlickrPhoto: Karen Roe/Flickr

As drought becomes an ever more common phenomenon for landscapes, sometimes upgrading or repairing your client’s irrigation system isn’t the only method to consider when it comes to saving water.

While some homeowners may assume when a drought hits their entire yard is done for and they might as well start ripping out their grass and flower beds, you can assure them that not all is lost when it comes to these extremes.

If your customer is living in a drought prone area, or they’re just looking to cut back on thirsty plants, you can suggest these drought-tolerant perennials that they can count on returning year after year.

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Photo: MonroviaPhoto: Monrovia

Crazy Blue Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Crazy Blue’ Plant Patent #25,639)

A perennial that can be used as an accent, in borders or mass plantings, this plant is an eye-catcher with its bright violet-blue flowers that rise above gray-green foliage. They have an airy feel of ornamental grasses and can be used well in cottage or Mediterranean style landscapes. Once established it will only need occasional watering. Grows 16 to 18 inches tall and 14 to 16 inches wide.

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-9
  • Full sun

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Photo: MonroviaPhoto: Monrovia

Coronado Red hyssop (Agastache aurantiaca ‘Pstessene’)

Another perennial that can add some height to the garden, this cultivar of hyssop produces rich red blooms from mid-summer to fall. These flowers attract butterflies, hummingbirds and songbirds. It is suitable for cutting gardens or a rustic style landscape. Grows 15 to 18 inches tall and 12 to 15 inches wide.

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 6-10
  • Full sun

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Photo: Andrey Zharkikh/FlickrPhoto: Andrey Zharkikh/Flickr

Bishop’s hat (Epimedium x rubrum)

Also known as barrenwort, this plant has a dense, ground-hugging habit making it an ideal ground cover, and it works well for border edging with its attractive heart-shaped leaves with edges that turn red in the summer. In the fall, the leaves become completely burgundy. Delicate star shaped flowers appear from mid to late spring. Grows 6 to 12 inches tall and 12 to 18 inches wide.

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-9
  • Part shade to full shade

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Photo: MonroviaPhoto: Monrovia

Little Grapette dwarf daylily (Hemerocallis x ‘Little Grapette’)

Perfect for mass plantings, these gorgeous purple blooms can put on a show in the early summer. This quick-growing perennial can be used in borders, containers and firewise landscaping. Bred for pest-resistance and easy care, this dwarf variety can fit into the smallest of pocket gardens. Grows 12 to 16 inches tall.

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-11
  • Full sun

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Photo: WikipediaPhoto: Wikipedia

Blue Glitter sea holly (Erynigum planum ‘Blue Glitter’)

This plant thrives in hot, dry situations and has tall, spiny blue flowers that are thistle-like in appearance. The Blue Glitter cultivar is known for its profuse summer blooms and the flower heads are another good option for cut flower gardens. It attracts both bees and butterflies and can endure less than ideal landscape conditions. Grows 24 to 36 inches tall and 12 to 18 inches wide.

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-9
  • Full sun

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Photo: MonroviaPhoto: Monrovia

Shimmer evening primrose (Oenothera fremontii ‘Shimmer’ Plant Patent #19,663)

This plant blooms first in the spring and then again in the summer and fall, displaying its fragile butter yellow petals against silvery foliage. At night, it gives off a fragrant aroma. It thrives in sandy soils, or rocky landscapes like xeriscapes. It attracts butterflies and hummingbirds and has a moderate growth rate. Grows 6 to 10 inches tall and 18 to 24 inches wide.

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-7
  • Full sun
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