Gardeners across the West are experiencing the hottest, driest growing conditions they’ve seen in decades. More than 55% of the West is currently under extreme or exceptionaldrought conditions.To help gardeners through these dry times, wecurated a list of our favorite drought-tolerant plants for gardens in the dry West and Southwest.
As you deal with dry conditions, keep in mind that even drought-tolerant plants may require additional irrigation in extreme conditions. Test soil moisture and keep an eye on the weather to determine when plants need water to get through your driest, hottest stretches. In the meantime, like good Western gardeners, we’ll keep hoping for rain.
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This small garden tree has it all: attractive bark, rosy pink flowers, strawberry-like edible fruit, habitat for birds, and a low canopy of deep green leaves. It’s tough, too, tolerating poor or acidic soil and needing very little water (only occasionally, once established). Marina Strawberry Tree is a winner in a border, for mass planting, or as a specimen in a woodland or wildlife garden (your local birds will love this tree). Full sun. Up to 20’ tall and 30’ wide. Zones 7–9.
A profusion of large, pure-white flower clusters cover White Cape Plumbago most of the year. This unfussy, shrubby climber is a workhorse in the back of mixed borders, particularly along fence lines where it may be trained up and over. This is also one of the best warm-climate white flowers to reflect moonlight in night gardens. Full sun. Up to 4’ tall and 6’ wide. Zones 9–11.
Count onthe blood-red, bottlebrush-like flowers to cover this small, moundingshrub from spring into summer.In the warmest regions, it will bloom intermittently all year—great news for hummingbirds, whichfind the flowers irresistible. With blue-green leaves and dense branching, Little John can find a home in any garden. Full sun. Up to 3’ tall and 5’ wide. Zones 8–11.
It’s hard to choose a favorite season for this Southwestern native. From late winter to early spring, it explodes in a profusion of rich, dark flowers. Thick, blue-green leaves persist all summer until fall when they turn a glowing yellow, accented by maroon seedpods that persist through winter. Partial to full sun. Up to 15’ tall and 20’ wide. Zones 6–9.
This stunning agave forms dense, symmetrical rosettes from dramatic, blue-gray leaves that form large clumps. Each leaf tip bears a short—but sharp—midnight-blue spine. Absolutely brilliant as a specimen, in a container or rock garden, and especially captivating as an unexpected groundcover in mass plantings. Full sun. Rosettes up to 4’wide on 5’ wide clumps; flower spikes up to 20’ tall. Blooms at full maturity. Zones 6-9.
This low-growing, branching succulent creates a carpet of foliage consisting of upright, powdery blue-green leaves. Rooting itself as it grows, Blue Chalksticks is perfect for preventing erosion on sunny, dry hillsides. It takes very little care, tolerating poor soil and coastal conditions. Full sun. Up to 1’ tall and 3‘ wide. Zones 10–11.
This uniquely compact Lily of the Nile blooms weeks earlier than other cultivars. Masses of blue, firework-like flower clusters on upright stems rise just above clumps of short, wide, strap-like, green leaves. Baby Pete rarely sets seed pods, resulting in a longer bloom period. Full to partial sun. Foliage up to 15” tall and 24” wide; blooms to 24” tall. Zones 8–11.
In a planter box, along a fence or arbor, or even rambling as a blooming groundcover, it doesn’t get better than a bougainvillea in the landscape. Easy-care Purple Queen covers itself in deep purple, petal-like bracts against deep-green foliage. Full sun. Up to 15’ with support; 1½’ tall and 8’ wide as a groundcover. Zones 10–11.
With a 3- to 5-foot crown of burgundy-red, sword-like leaves perched atop a slender trunk, Bauer’s Dracaena Palm is a ready-made focal point for any garden. The rich, dark foliage of this palm-like dracaena pops against any light-colored surface such as stucco or concrete. It also looks magical under night lighting or beside a pool. With a tight, erect habit, it fits nicely into narrow spaces, though it’s bold enough to deserve center stage. It does great in containers, too. Easy care and great in coastal climates.Full to partial sun. Up to 5’ trunk with a 3–5’ wide crown of foliage. Zones 9–11.
Grow Responsibly with Low-Water Gardening
The horticulturists and plant lovers at Monrovia are devoted to not only growing beautiful drought-tolerant plants, but growing them in a responsible manner, as well. We recycle 95% of our irrigation run-off at each of our four growing locations, which saves 2.5 billion gallons of water per year.
Our "Low-Water, High Beauty" waterwise garden guide offers water conservation ideas for you on a smaller scale. Plus, make sure you test your knowledge with the "True or False" trivia to get even more info about how to be a waterwise gardener. Sign up for the Grow Beautifully newsletter to get your "Low-Water, High Beauty" guide.
Explore more low-water gardening tips and drought-tolerant plants here: