Drought Tolerant Plants

With increasing temperatures and water prices, drought tolerant plants are becoming more popular. The following lists provide some suggestions for hot, dry, and sunny areas.

Please refer to tags, books, or employees for growth info. Also keep in mind that plants are subject to seasonal availability.

These lists are by no means complete, but include suggestions to get you started. Many natives are drought tolerant as well. Some are included in this brochure, but there is also an entire section of natives located in the yard.

Establishing Drought Tolerance

Drought tolerant plants can survive hot and dry situations due to various adaptations of the plant form or growth habit.

Many drought tolerant plants have small, leathery or hairy leaves, which help reduce the loss of water. Almost all drought tolerant plants send out an extensive taproot in search of water deep below the soil surface. This taproot is the key to the survival of your drought tolerant plants.

Most tap rooted plants need good drainage so the root does not rot in our wet winters. This means adding compost or pumice to the planting area because our soil is often heavy clay.

It is even important to amend on a sloped site to ensure some water will get to the plant roots.

Even Drought Tolerant Plants Need Water

This is especially important in the first year while the plants are sending out that deep taproot. We recommend watering new trees and shrubs for one hour per week.

Administer water slowly so it does not run off. Drought tolerant plants may need infrequent watering in the hottest parts of the summer for the second and third years as well. If the plants are starting to wilt, give them a good long drink.

Mulching beds that are in hot and dry situations helps maintain soil moisture, and promotes healthy soil microbes. We recommend mulching with compost at least once a year in the fall.

Drought Tolerant Plants

Drought Tolerant Plants

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Trees, shrubs, and perennials for hot, dry, and sunny areas

Plants with an * are evergreen.

Drought Tolerant Plants


  • Albizia julibrissin - Silk Tree. Fast to 20-35’ tall/wide. Pink, puffy flowers.
  • *Arbutus menziesii - Madrone. Slow growing to 35-45’ tall. Red bark, white bell-shaped flowers.
  • *Calocedrus decurrens - Incense Cedar. Dense conifer to 75-90’ tall 50’ wide.
  • *Cedrus deodora - Deodar Cedar. Clusters of bluish needles. Fast growing to 40-80’ tall and 40’ wide.
  • Cercis occidentalis - Western Redbud. Native. Pink flowers in spring. Green, heart-shaped leaves. 10-18’ tall/wide.
  • *Cupressus glabra - Arizona Cypress. Steel blue thread-like foliage. Fast growing to 40’ tall and 20’ wide.

Ground Covers

  • *Arcostaphylos uva-ursi - Kinnikinnick
  • *Cotoneaster dameri
  • *Epimedium spp - Barrenwort, Bearberry cotoneaster
  • Galium odoratum - Sweet Woodruff
  • Hypericum calycinum - St. Johnswort
  • *Juniperus spp - Juniper
  • *Pachysandra terminalis - Japanese Spurge
  • *Rhubus calycinoides
  • *Thymus spp - Thyme
  • *Vinca major - Periwinkle
  • *Vinca minor - Dwarf Periwinkle


  • *Arbutus unedo ‘Compacta’ - Strawberry bush. Reddish peeling bark. White/pink-red fruits. Slow to 8-10’ tall/wide. Zones 7 -9.
  • *Callistemon citrinus - Bottlebrush. Thin leaves, bright red, bristle-like flowers. Grows 10-15’ tall/wide. Zones 9-10.
  • Caryopteris x clandonensis - Bluebeard. Deep blue flowers, grayish leaves. Fast to 2-4’ tall/wide. Zones 6-9.
  • Cassia corymbosa - Slender leaves, yellow flowers. Fast to 8-12’ tall/wide. Zone 7.
  • Ceratositgma plumbaganoides - Plumbago- Blue flowers, red fall color. Fast, 6-12”tall.
  • *Cistus spp - Rockrose. Simple rose-like flowers in shades of pink and white. Size ranges from 2’-5’ tall/wide. Zones vary.
  • *Convolvulus cneorum - Bush Morning glory. Small silver foliage, white flowers. 2-4’tall/ wide. Zones 6-9.
  • Cotinus coggygria - Smoketree. Maroon or blue green foliage. Airy flowers. Fall color. To 15’ tall/wide. Zones 4-9.
  • *Elaeagnus spp. - Most have silvery leaves. Fast to 5-6’ tall/wide. Zones 6-9.
  • *Escallonia spp. - Pink flowers spring- summer. 5-8’ tall/wide.
  • *Fremontodendron californica - Flannel bush. Large yellow flowers, lobed leaves. Fast to 6’+ tall/wide. Zones 6-10.
  • *Garrya elliptcia - Silk Tassel- Long, drooping flowers in winter. Slow to 4-8’ tall/wide. Zones 6-9.
  • *Genista tinctora or G. pilosa - Yellow flowers. Ranges from 1-3’ tall and 3’ wide.
  • Grevillea victoriae - Silvery leaves, winter bloom. Slow 5-6’ tall/wide. Zone 7.
  • Lagerstroemia indica - Crape Myrtle- Peeling bark, late flowers in white and pinks. Fall color. Size ranges from 4-18’ tall/wide.
  • *Mahonia spp. - Oregon grape. Holly-like leaves, yellow flowers. Size ranges from 1½-8’ tall/wide. Sun - part shade. Zones 4-8.
  • *Myrica californica - California wax myrtle- Fragrant dark green leaves. 6-15’ tall/wide.
  • *Photinia x fraseri - Red new growth. Fast 10’+ tall/wide. Zones 7-9.
  • Potentilla fruticosa - Profuse small flowers in a wide range of colors. 2-3’ tall/wide.
  • Punica granatum - Flowering pomegranate. Orange or apricot flowers. Fall color. 8-10’ tall/wide. Zones 8-10.
  • Pyracantha coccinea - Firethorn- Sharp thorns, red berries. From 3-10’ tall/wide. Zones 6-9.
  • Rhamnus frangula angustifolia - Buckthorn. Thin leaves, yellow in fall. Fast 10-12’ tall 6-10’ wide. Zones 2-8.
  • *Taxus spp. - Yew. Dark green needles. Slow growing. Many types and sizes. Zones 5-8.
  • Vitex angus-castus - Chaste Tree- Finger-like leaves, spikes of blue or white flowers. Fast, 8-10’ tall/wide. Zones 7-9.


  • Achillea millefolium - Yarrow. Various flower colors. Zones 3-9.
  • Agastache rupestris - Rock Anise Hyssop. Orange flowers.
  • Arabis spp - Rock-Cress. Early spring flowers. Zones 5-7.
  • Armeria spp - Sea Thrift. Spring. Pink ball-shaped flowers. Zones 4-8.
  • Artemisia spp - Wormwood, mugwort. Many differences with species. Zones vary.
  • Asclepias tuberosa - Butterfly weed. Orange flowers in late summer.
  • Aurinia saxatilis - Basket-of-Gold. Yellow flowers late spring.
  • Baptisia australis - False Indigo. Purple spikes in summer, seed pods.
  • Centranthus ruber - Jupiter’s Beard. Deep rose flowers spring through summer. Zones 5-8.
  • Coreopsis verticillata - Yellow daisy-like flowers in summer. Zones 5-9.
  • Dianthus spp - Pinks- Many kinds and sizes.
  • Echinops spp - Globe Thistle. Sharp ball-shaped flowers mid to late summer.
  • Echium spp - Viper’s Bugloss. Size varies. Spikes of purple flowers in summer.
  • Eryngium amethystinum - Sea Holly. Metallic blue or white flowers in late summer.
  • Erysimum hieraciifolium - Wallflower. Winter-summer flowers range from yellow to orange to purple. Zones 4-7.
  • Gaillardia grandiflora - Blanket flower. Orange-red daisy flowers summer–fall. Zones 2-9.
  • Gypsophila paniculata - Baby’s breath. Sprays of white flowers in summer.
  • Halimium spp. - Summer rose-like flowers in many colors.
  • *Iberis sempervirens - Candytuft. White flowers in spring. Zones 3-8.
  • Kniphofia uvaria - Red.hot poker. Spikes of orange/yellow flowers late summer. Zones 5-8.
  • Lavatera thuringiaca - Tree Mallow. Funnel shaped pink flowers in summer.
  • Oenothera spp - Evening Primrose. Yellow cup.shaped flowers in summer. Zones 4-8.
  • Perovskia atriplicifolia - Russian Sage. Sprays of violet flowers late summer to fall. Grey foliage. Zones 5-9.
  • *Phlomis fruticosa - Jerusalem Sage. Yellow flowers in summer.
  • Phygelius spp - Cape Fuchsia. Orange or yellow tubular flowers summer to fall.
  • Romneya coulteri - Matillahija poppy. Fried egg flowers in summer.
  • Sisyrinchium spp - Blue/yellow-eye grass. Blue or yellow flowers in spring.
  • Stachys byzantina - Lamb’s ears. Fuzzy grey leaves. Small lavender flowers. Zones 4-7.
  • *Teucrium chamaedrys - Wall Germander. Summer purple or white flowers.
  • Verbascum spp - Mullein. Summer spikes of yellow to apricot to or mauve flowers.
  • Verbena bonariensis - Purple summer flowers. Zones 6-9.
  • Zauschneria californica - California fuchsia. Bright orange flowers in late summer. Grey foliage. Zones 6-9.