When we think of drought-resistant plants, succulents and grasses come immediately to mind – and while these are beautiful, not every gardener wants a sea of greens and browns.
Similarly, if we think of perennials, we envision wildflowers and colourful blossoms – yet these plants usually require regular watering to look their best.
So, is there a solution for gardeners in areas with low rainfall, who like bright and lively colours in their flower beds?
15 Best Options for Long-Blooming & Drought-Tolerant Perennials
This colourful member of the daisy family will grow all summer with little care. It’s drought resistant and self-seeding; though they will grow in a variety of soils, Black-eyed Susans prefer a neutral pH level and a spot with full sun to light shade.
Deadheading the spent blooms will keep the plant flowering longer, but can stop it from spreading as the seeds are contained in the blooms.
Blanket flower “Gaillardia”
These fiery daisy-like flowers love loose, sandy, dry soil and full sun. From early summer to early fall, each clump of gray-green leaves will produce petals of either solid shades of yellow, peach, orange or deep red or banded red or orange and yellow combinations.
They can be planted in containers or directly into the ground and require little care once established. Deadheading will encourage flowering and the clumps should be cut back to 6” after the growing season for overwintering.
Previously only available in shades of purple, the coneflower now comes in a variety of bright colours. They provide long-lasting blooms with little maintenance even in low-water conditions. The coneflower is a great addition to wildflower meadows – and they’re attractive to bees and other pollinators.
These bluish-purple flowers with small, toothed leaves can grow to about 6” high and will spread out over nearly 2’. They are typically used as ground cover, but they will also cascade down a stone wall or climb a short support structure.
The leaves of the Dalmatian bellflower will remain green all winter and only brown in the spring when they’re replaced by new growth and should be removed. Though it is drought-tolerant, these little perennials may need watering during extremely dry spells.
Globe thistle (summer to early fall)
These stunning plants produce blooms up to 2” across with deep indigo and dark blue petals on 3’-4’ stems. Young plants require weekly watering, but once established they are drought tolerant and require little maintenance.
Globe thistles can self-seed but should be started from cultivated seed, as growing them from collected seeds can be difficult.
Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker or Torch Lily)
Usually called the Red Hot Poker or Torch Lily – and with good reason, Kniphofia (pronounced nee-FOF-ee-a) are very easy to grow; they require little upkeep once established in an area with full sun and great drainage. They are drought tolerant once established, but will bloom best if given supplemental water in especially dry periods.
Kniphofia bloom from late spring to early fall and really make a statement with their brilliantly coloured spikes. Clipping stalks for flower arrangements will encourage the growth of more blossoms, and the plant can be cut back to overwinter if the leaves yellow and die.
Though it’s technically an herb, lavender produces beautiful flower spikes and looks lovely in meadows or informal hedges. Bloom times will vary in different locations, but lavender typically is in blossom from June to August; if you want to extend the blooming season – and the colour palette – try planting one of several varieties of lavender hybrids.
This perennial with tall stems and light yellow, daisy-like blooms thrive in full sun and well-drained soil; though they can tolerate clay, they love loamy soil. These plants are popular in boarder plantings and require little care once established other than deadheading.
Moonbeam coreopsis is considered an invasive species in some areas, so be sure to verify whether it’s permitted in your region before planting.
Portulaca (perennial succulent w/ cactus-like blooms)
This beautiful ground cover plant loves full sunlight and sandy, well-drained soil. They seed and spread very well by themselves; if not controlled, the Portulaca plant – with its cylindrical foliage and striking pink, red, yellow, orange, cream, white or deep lavender blossoms – may crop up in unexpected areas.
They will cascade over the edge of their containers for an eye-catching display, and are very attractive to butterflies.
This popular perennial blooms from early summer to fall and produces rounded cluster of star-shaped flowers with blue-green, lance-shaped leaves; the blossoms can be crimson, pink, or white.
Red Valerian, which prefers full sun and can thrive even in poor soil, is an excellent border plant and is attractive to both birds and butterflies.
This ground cover plant can actually be made into soap! These self-seeders typically grow in colonies and get 1’-3’ tall; the lightly-scented, white or pale pink flowers usually appear in mid-summer and will last into the fall.
Deadheading will help to produce more blooms and stop the plant from growing out of control.
These fragrant plants with their silvery gray foliage and spiky clusters of lavender flowers make a bold statement in any garden. They thrive in full sun and dry soil, and are extremely drought-tolerant once established.
These perky little blossoms are an excellent choice for a sunny spot. They are a short-lived perennial, returning for just a few years; staggered yearly plantings will keep your Shasta daisies at their best. They love very fertile soil with excellent drainage – Shastas won’t tolerate soggy roots.
Cut blooms will last quite a while and, along with deadheading, will encourage a heavier and more abundant show of blossoms.
Perennial salvia is a great way to add a splash of colour to your low-water garden; they come in many varieties and produce tall spikes of blue, lavender, red or white blooms. Most varieties grow between 18”-36” tall and will attract both butterflies and hummingbirds.
The yarrow is an aromatic herb with many healing properties. This perennial has clusters of tightly-packed flowers above ferny foliage; the blossoms can be yellow, red, pink or any shade in between.
This low-maintenance, drought-resistant plant is an aggressive grower that is very attractive to butterflies.