Drought-Tolerant Plants to Grow – BBC Gardeners World Magazine

Drought-Tolerant Plants to Grow - BBC Gardeners World Magazine

Drought tolerant plants, usually native to dry regions such as the Mediterranean, have evolved to thrive in dry soils with little rainfall. They’re useful for growing in a sunny border with free-draining soil and work well in low-maintenance planting schemes such as gravel gardens. They can save you time, too – for example, you can avoid a lot of back-breaking watering by using drought-tolerant plants in container displays.

With climate change and extreme weather events such as drought more likely in summer, growing drought-tolerant plants means you can still have an attractive garden during a hosepipe ban.

More on growing drought-tolerant plants:


Agapanthus ‘Silver Baby’

Drought-tolerant plants to grow – Agapanthus ‘Silver Baby’

This compact agapanthus reaches about 60cm tall, so is ideal for the front of the border or a pot. It has white flowers that have just a hint of blue and combines well with ornamental grasses such as Nassella tenuissima. It’s a hardy, deciduous variety.

Height x Spread: 60cm x 50cm


Anchusa azurea

Drought-tolerant plants to grow – Anchusa azurea

A short-lived perennial, Anchusa azurea has bright, true blue flowers from late spring to early summer. Cut back after flowering for a second flush of smaller blooms.

H x S: 1.2m x 60cm


Cotyledon orbiculata

Drought-tolerant plants to grow – Cotyledon orbiculata

A stunning, unusual succulent, Cotyledon orbiculata has large, fleshy leaves and spikes of bell-shaped flowers. It’s best grown in a pot as it will need winter protection in colder parts of the UK. Take care not to touch the leaves as they will lose their powdery bloom.

H x S: 1.3m x 60cm



Drought-tolerant plants to grow – Geum ‘Prinses Juliana’

Geums are hardy perennials that flower from May to August – cut them back after flowering and they should reward you with another flush later in the season. Geums look especially good when growing with contrasting colours such as blue flowers and lime green leaves. Grow in sun or part shade.

H x S: 45cm x 40cm


Hardy geraniums

Drought-tolerant plants to grow – Geranium ‘Stephanie’

Hardy geraniums (cranesbills) are low-maintenance, long-flowering perennials that can flower for months from spring, and need very little care. They thrive in sun or partial shade and are good for the front of the border. Cut back after flowering to encourage a second flush.

H x S: 45cm x 45cm


Bearded irises

Drought-tolerant plants to grow – Iris ‘Carnival Time’

Give bearded irises a sunny spot and when planting, point the rhizome south so that the fan of leaves don’t shade it. Split the plant every three to four years after flowering, as it will bulk up quickly.

H x S: 50cm x 40cm


Stipa tenuissima

Drought-tolerant plants to grow – Stipa tenuissima

Stipa tenuissima (or Mexican feathergrass, now often sold as Nassella tenuissima) is a compact, evergreen grass is ideal for a gravel garden or a spot towards the front of a border. It combines well with perennials and other grasses, and moves beautifully in a breeze.

H x S: 60cm x 30cm



Drought-tolerant plants to grow – Catmint flowers

The violet blue flowers of catmint (Nepeta) are much loved by bees. When crushed, the grey-green, velvety foliage produces an aromatic scent. Plant in the centre of a border or in a gravel garden. Cut back after flowering for more blooms.

H x S: 90cm x 90cm



Drought-tolerant plants to grow – Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Tom Thumb’

Pittosporums are evergreen shrubs that will give structure and interest all year round in a border. Position pittosporums away from cold, drying winds. Prune lightly in spring if needed. Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Tom Thumb’, shown here, has attractive dark foliage.

H x S: 1.2m x 1.2m


Trachelospermum jasminoides

Drought-tolerant plants to grow – Trachelospermum jasminoides

This beautiful, waxy-leafed, evergreen climber has white, jasmine-like flowers that are beautifully scented. Give star jasmine a sheltered, sunny spot. It’s drought tolerant, but be sure to water well initially to help the plant establish.

H x S: 9m x 5m


Sea hollies

Drought-tolerant plants to grow – sea holly flowers

Beautiful and long-lasting, sea hollies such as Erygnium x zabelii have tough, silvery leaves that never suffer in drought. Many species come from mountainous regions, where their long tap roots venture deep into the soil in search of water.

H x S: 100cm x 60cm



Drought-tolerant plants to grow – mullein flowers

This statuesque mullein, Verbascum bombyciferum, sends up tall branching spires of yellow flowers, enclosed in woolly down. Rosettes of large furry leaves resist water loss and are soft to the touch.

H x S: 1.8m x 60cm



Drought-tolerant plants to grow – artemisia foliage

Artemisias such as ‘Powis Castle’ and ‘Silver Queen’ use two strategies against water loss – its leaves are both silvery and very finely cut. It forms a resilient, aromatic woody sub-shrub that adds a feathery dash of silver to borders.

H x S: 75cm x 60cm



Drought-tolerant plants to grow – Sedum ‘Matrona’

Sedums are drought-resistant succulents that produce domes of starry pink, ruby or white flowers in late summer and autumn. Taller sedums may flop, but ‘Matrona’, shown here, stands well, with the glaucous foliage turning a rich purple when water is scarce.

H x S: 60cm x 60cm

Many thanks to Todd’s Botanics for their help with this feature.