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.


Mecklenburg Extension Master Gardener Volunteers

Horticulture Help Desk:  704-336-4011

Website:   http://www.mastergardenersmecklenburg.org

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