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Drought Tolerant Shrubs and Perennials

This is the last in a series of articles about drought resistant plants and xeriscaping from the Mecklenburg County Master Gardeners. 

The final two lists of drought tolerant plants include Shrubs and Perennials.  A tip when purchasing plants is to always read the label.  It contains a wealth of information:  mature size, sun/shade/water needs, and garden zone (Mecklenburg County is Zone 7b/8a).  Smart planning and planting now will keep your property looking beautiful.  Happy gardening!

Good Drought-tolerant North Carolina Shrubs

  • New Jersey-Tea (Ceanothus americanus)—small shrub with panicles of small white flowers; deep-purple fruit in fall
  • Shrubby St. John’s-Wort (Hypericum prolificum)—compact deciduous shrub with bright yellow flowers
  • Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica)—fragrant clusters of creamy white flowers; late-season red foliage
  • Fragrant Sumac (Rhus aromatica)—tall deciduous shrub with glossy green foliage in summer and spectacular color in fall
  • Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum)—white, bell-like flowers, edible fruit

The Best Drought-Tolerant Perennials

  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) – 3 feet tall.  Tough as nails; blue, lavender, purple, or white flowers in summer.  Wonderful fragrance – can be dried and used in crafts and flower arrangements.
  • Yarrow (Achillea varieties) – To 4 feet tall. Easy-growing, heat, and drought tolerant.  Deer, rabbits and many pests won’t touch it.  Varieties bloom in shades of yellow, orange, red, pink, and white.
  • Agastache (Agastache ‘Desert Sunrise’) – 4 feet tall. Blooms throughout the summer and autumn.  Desert Sunrise has orange blooms with pink and lavender tints.  Attracts hummingbirds.
  • Sundrops (Oenothera macrocarpa) – 6 inches tall. Cheery yellow blooms spring to early fall.  Vigorous perennial takes heat and drought well.  Can become aggressive in rich garden soil.
  • Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) – To 6 feet tall. One of the toughest plants.  Fragrant silvery foliage and plumes of violet-purple blooms.
  • Bush Sage (Salvia ‘Raspberry delight’) – To 3 feet tall. Gorgeous raspberry-red flowers from spring to early fall.  Very tough, grows well in a range of conditions and attracts hummingbirds.
  • Meadow Sage (Salvia ‘May Night’) – To 28 inches tall. Clusters of violet-blue flowers from midsummer to early fall.  Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.
  • Mojave Sage (Salvia pachyphylla) – To 3 feet tall. Beautiful pink blooms with gray-green foliage.  Blooms from summer through fall.
  • Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe involucrate) – To 1 foot tall. Blooms like crazy from spring to midsummer.  Cup-shaped flowers in eye-popping bright shades of pink.
  • Lamb’s Ears (Stachys byzantina) – To 18 inches tall. Easy-to-grow ground cover with soft, fuzzy leaves.  They can spread aggressively in rich soil.
  • Globe Thistle (Echinops ‘Blue Globe’) – To 4 feet tall. Round, metallic-blue flowers through the summer.  Easy to grow and are perfect for drying and using in arrangements or crafts.
  • Pine-Leaf Penstemon (Penstemon pinifolius) – To 18 inches tall. Masses of bright scarlet-red flowers on this semi-evergreen penstemon.  A cinch to grow in any sunny spot.
  • Blanket Flower (Gaillardia ‘Kobold’) – To 3 feet tall. A tough prairie plant that blooms all summer into fall.  Flamboyant flowers usually marked with bright shades of red and yellow.
  • Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) – To 5 feet tall. Tons of mauve-purple blooms throughout most of the summer.  Very attractive to butterflies.
  • Sedum (Sedum ‘Frosty Morn’) – To 18 inches tall. Almost all of the hundreds of the sedum varieties available are tough and drought resistant.  ‘Frosty Morn” has variegated leaves and clusters of pure pink flowers in autumn.

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Mecklenburg Extension Master Gardener Volunteers

Horticulture Help Desk:  704-336-4011

Website:   http://www.mastergardenersmecklenburg.org

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