10 Flowering Plants for Dry Gardens

Choose Drought-Resistant Perennials

False sunflowers on thin stems and radiating petals

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

When you think of plants for dry areas, the first ideas that come to mind are desert plants like cactus, agave, aloe, and yucca. There are many other flowering perennial options, such as thistles Echinops (globe thistle) and eryngium (sea holly) and Mediterranean plants—lavender and Perovskia (Russian sage). Any plant with a tap root can dig down deep and find water, so do not forget about beauties like asclepias (butterfly weed) and baptisia.

Designing your garden to withstand dry periods does not mean you cannot have a great deal of color and variety. Take a look at 10 perennials that may surprise you with their drought-tolerant constitution.


Even if you do not live in an area commonly thought of as having dry growing conditions, it is a smart idea to study which plants can adapt to dry areas. Sooner or later, every garden will experience a period of drought. Knowing what plants will thrive in dry areas will save you and your garden much grief when the rains refuse to come.

  • 01 of 10

    African Lily (Agapanthus africanus)

    African lily perennial flower with bright purple trumpet-shaped blossoms

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Agapanthus, the African Lily, is thought of as a moist-soil plant, but once established, they are tough enough to withstand dry spells without stressing. Agapanthus foliage grows in thick clumps of long, strappy leaves. The flowers are born atop leafless stalks about one to two feet high. They are round clusters of trumpet-shaped blossoms that can last for up to eight weeks in ideal conditions. Agapanthus can be overwintered as houseplants or stored in a cold basement either in their pots or as a tender bulb.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 8a to 11a
    • Color Varieties: White, purple, or blue
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun in summer, indirect sun in winter
    • Soil Needs: Prefer moist soil but can tolerate drought
  • 02 of 10

    Blanket Flower (Gaillardia)

    Blanket flower with bicolored red and yellow petals

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Gaillardia is a flashy daisy, too flashy for some gardeners, but also one of the most cheerful flowers you can plant. These flowers love well-drained soil, so drought means little to them. Keep them in full sun or they become floppy from being top-heavy. The traditional Gaillardia is rust-colored; Gaillardia Burgundy will appeal to gardeners who do not allow yellow or orange into their flower beds. Butterflies love it too.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3a to 9a
    • Color Varieties: Rust-colored, rimmed with yellow, red and burgundy varieties
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-draining soil; avoid clay
  • 03 of 10

    Dead Nettle (Lamium)

    Lamium (Dead Nettle) Flowers

    The Spruce / Marie Iannotti

    The partial shade under a tree helps keep dead nettle performing in dry heat. It makes a pretty little groundcover. The silvery-white streak down the center of its leaves brings some light to the shade. Just be sure to plant it where you won't mind it spreading out, which this plant is wont to do. It blooms in late spring to early summer in U.S. hardiness zones 4a through 9a.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4a to 9a
    • Color Varieties: Mauve, pink, purple, or white, depending on the cultivar
    • Sun Exposure: Full shade to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, with average moisture and fertility needs
  • 04 of 10

    False Sunflowers (Heliopsis helianthoides)

    False sunflower perennial plant with radiating daisy-like petals

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Heliopsis is one of those flowers that is so self-sufficient, that it gets no respect. Even the common name, false sunflower, implies it is a poor relative of a more prized plant. This native of the dry prairie holds its golden flowers on stiff stems that can climb three to four feet. You can cut them back in the spring to create a bushier plant or just cut back the plant in the front of a large clump to extend the long blooming period even longer. There are single types that look rather like yellow daisies and fluffy doubles.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3a to 9a
    • Color Varieties: Gold
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Average, dry to medium, well-drained soil
    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Jerusalem sage (Phlomis fruticosa)

    Jerusalem sage perennial plant with sage-like leaves and yellow flowers

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Phlomis fruticosa may sound like a disease, but it is an engaging plant with square stems, sage-like leaves, and little balls of flowers all along the stalk atop each pair of leaves. The flowers eventually turn into attractive seed capsules, prolonging this odd plant's interest. Jerusalem sage makes its biggest impact when massed. It blooms repeatedly throughout the summer.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 7b to 10a
    • Color Varieties: Yellow, pink, or lavender
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to light shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, dry to medium, well-drained soil
  • 06 of 10

    Pinks (Dianthus spp.)

    Pinks perennial plant with fringed pink flowers

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    The old-fashioned fringed flowers of Dianthus are also known as "pinks." It belongs to a huge genus and new varieties and colors are introduced every year. Although Dianthus cultivars often have pink-colored flowers, the name "Pinks" is descriptive of the fringed or pinked edges of the flowers. Although often thought of as a spring bloomer, do not think of Dianthus as delicate. Dianthus is so tough, that it is hard to kill. It blooms in the spring with repeat-flowering, if it is cut back after blooming.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4a to 9a
    • Color Varieties: Whites, reds, peach
    • Sun Exposure: Full Sun
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-draining soil
  • 07 of 10

    Balloon Flower (Platycodon grandiflorus)

    Balloon Flowers

    The Spruce / Marie Iannotti

    Platycodon gets upstaged by the somewhat similar-looking bellflowers (Campanula). Campanulas do not burst open or tolerant dry spells as well as Platycodon. Platycodon has the bonus of being very low maintenance. Kids love the way they puff up and pop open, but use caution showing a child how to press on the sides of flower buds to get them to pop open, or you will have a lot of squashed flowers.​

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3a to 8a
    • Color Varieties: Blue, white, pink
    • Sun Exposure: Full to partial
    • Soil Needs: Loamy, well-drained
  • 08 of 10

    Speedwell (Veronica)

    Speedwell perennial plant with long and thin stems and purple flower spikes

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    The Veronicas are a large and varied group. Choose your plants right, and there will always be a Veronica in bloom. They are also problem-free and tolerant of almost any type of weather. The flowers are long and spiky, like salvia but more refined and with less course foliage. There are low-growing Veronicas that make great edgers, Veronicas that clump and grow two to four feet tall and make excellent border plants, and some that will take over. Thankfully, it is the better-behaved Veronicas that are being sold these days.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3b to 9a
    • Color Varieties: White, blue, pink, and purple
    • Sun Exposure: Partial to full sun
    • Soil Needs: Fertile and well-drained soil
    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Thyme (Thymus sp.)

    Thyme herb plant closeup of leaves

    The Spruce / Almar Creative

    Thyme is such a versatile plant, that you should not confine it to the herb garden. Thyme is a Mediterranean herb that simply thrives on dry heat. That is why it is so popular for growing between pavers. Thyme is rarely thought of like a flower, but most varieties do flower profusely and are quite lovely. A happy planting of thyme will quickly spread and form a carpet. You can even walk on it. Just be careful of the bees it attracts while in bloom. It is in bloom from late spring to early summer and thrives in zones 5a through 9a.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5a to 9a
    • Color Varieties: Lavender, white, pink, and even red
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Average well-drained soil
  • 10 of 10

    Wand Flower (Oenothera gaura)

    Wand flower with thin stems and dainty white and pink flowers

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Gaura flowers float on air and have names like Whirling Butterflies and Sparkle White. This is another dainty plant that can handle heat better than cold temperatures, although it does bloom more profusely with some watering. Even so, drought and poor soil will not deter it. The flowers are held high above the minimal foliage and keep forming and blooming all summer. Deadheading the entire spent flower stalk will revive it during prolonged dry spells.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5a to 9a
    • Color Varieties: White, pink
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs:  Light sandy soil
Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Phlomis fruticosa. North Carolina State University Extension

  2. Oenothera lindheimeri. North Carolina State University Extension