Drought Tolerant Flowers and Grasses

This is the third in our series of guest articles from the Mecklenburg County Master Gardeners. 

How do you decide which plants to choose that will survive during drought conditions?  There are several plant lists that we have compiled for your convenience.  The first two lists are of N.C. Wildflowers and Grasses.  The final two lists with N.C. Shrubs and Perennials will follow shortly.

Sylvia Hindman, Master Gardener Emeritus

Good Drought-Tolerant North Carolina Wildflowers

  • Climbing Aster (Ampelaster carolinianus)—a climbing aster with lilac-colored flowers from mid-October through November
  • Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)—orange flowers; nectar and food plant for the monarch butterfly
  • Carolina Wild Indigo (Baptisia cinerea)—yellow flowers
  • Baptisia hybrids—various colors, from blue to white
  • Maryland Golden-Aster (Chrysopsis mariana)—many cheerful yellow flowers
  • American-Dittany (Cunila origanoides)—blue flowers
  • Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)—as the name says, purple flowers; butterflies love this long-blooming perennial
  • Northern Rattlesnake-Master (Eryngium yuccifolium)—stiff foliage and white flowers in spherical, thistle-like heads
  • Heart’s-a-Bustin’ (Euonymous americanus)—inconspicuous flowers but the unusual pink fruit capsule, resembling a strawberry, opens up in fall to reveal large orange seeds
  • Purple-Disk Sunflower (Helianthus atrorubens)—yellow flower heads with purple center
  • Woodland Sunflower (Helianthus divaricatus)—single, terminal, yellow flower head
  • Stiff-Leaf Aster (Ionactis linariifolius)—small composite flowers; pale blue-purple “petals” around a yellow-orange disk
  • Scaly Blazing-Star (Liatris spicata)—magenta-purple flowers clustered along a slender stem
  • Carolina Lily (Lilium michauxii)—showy orange flowers
  • Eastern False-Aloe (Manfreda virginica)—succulent with pale yellow-green flowers; sometimes sold as Agave virginica
  • Southern Sundrops (Oenothera fruticosa)—clear yellow flowers; attractive evergreen rosette
  • Eastern Prickly-Pear (Opuntia humifusa)—a native cactus with yellow flowers
  • Wild Quinine (Parthenium integrifolium)—white flowers
  • Downy Phlox (Phlox pilosa)—pink flowers
  • Narrowleaf Silkgrass (Pityopsis graminifolia)—not a grass but a member of the aster family; has a tendency to spread on well-drained soils
  • Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)—large yellow flower (actually a flower head) with dark-brown central disk; short-lived perennial that reseeds
  • Starry Rosinweed (Silphium asteriscus laevicaule)—tall plant with bright yellow flowers
  • Anise-Scented Goldenrod (Solidago odora)— anise-scented leaves when crushed; yellow flowers
  • Eastern Silvery American-Aster (Symphyotrichum concolor) —pinkish-purple composite flowers
  • Large-Flower American-Aster (Symphyotrichum grandiflorum)—light to reddish-purple composite flowers with yellow to reddish yellow disk
  • Hairy-Stem Spiderwort (Tradescantia hirsuticaulis)—bluish-purple flowers
  • Adam’s Needle (Yucca filamentosa)—margins of the clumped, evergreen, straplike leaves; waxy white flowers on a tall stem emerging from the center of the clumpmilkweedbutterflyCCLicense

Good Drought-tolerant North Carolina Grasses

  • Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii)—a grass with foliage that changes from blue-green to green, to red, to bronze with lavender tones through the seasons
  • Hairgrass (Muhlenbergia capillaris)—a clump-forming grass with flower/seed heads that turn pink to purplish-red later in the season – (Pink muhley grass)
  • Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum and its cultivars)—ornamental, clump-forming grass
  • Indian-Grass (Sorghastrum nutans)—light-brown flower panicles with yellow stamens rise well above the foliage in late summer; blue-green leaves turn golden yellow in fall

Mecklenburg Extension Master Gardener Volunteers

Horticulture Help Desk:  704-336-4011

Website:   http://www.mastergardenersmecklenburg.org

Facebook:  Mecklenburg Extension Master Gardener Volunteers


3 thoughts on “Drought Tolerant Flowers and Grasses”

  1. Be sure to add some Bird-Friendly native plants. Go to Audubon NC website for a list of plants that are bird-friendly and take care of our birds that are facing challenges in a changing world due to climate change and loss of habitat.

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