10 drought tolerant perennials you should know

Lavender and Rosemary

These two need only monthly water, bloom twice a year and will grow in any soil. They can be the back bone of your garden adding evergreen color to your garden.

Lavender comes in three different types, Spanish, the shrubby large flowered variety, French with fern like foliage and long slender stems and flowers and English, the compact grey green bushes with extra long stems and the most fragrant flowers.

Lavender and rosemary are the plants to which bees and butterflies flock and by planting them you’ll be surely doing your part to promote these threatened wildlife as well as adding pollinators for your fruit trees or vegetables.

Rosemary, comes in two forms, upright, growing from three to five feet tall and wide and low growing or prostrate that spreads and stays under two feet high.


If you’re familiar with the common ‘Orchid’ Rockrose, with its large crepe-paper pink flowers, you might try the other interesting varieties. Rockrose comes in a tall white variety, ‘Crimson-Spot’ and a low shrubby kind called 'Sunset.' Creeping Sunset rockrose can spread to eight feet wide and that’s a lot of area you no longer have to weed.

These three, lavender, rosemary and rockrose, once established, need no added water.

Iris is so long lasting and hardy that if you come upon an abandoned house, you’re likely to see it, still growing and blooming. Easy care, you plant the roots shallowly in the sun and you’re done! Water deeply and infrequently.

Cleveland sage, like all the sage (Salvia) family, is perfect for foothill gardens due to their deer and drought tolerance. Cleveland sage grows 3-4 feet tall and wide blooming in unusual flower spikes that look as if Dr Seuss drew them.

Columbine, in particular, ‘Mckana's Giant’ looks woodsy, delicate and dainty but in actuality are drought tolerant and hardy as can be! Easily sown from seed or planted from transplants, they grow in part shade, going well with azaleas or rhododendrons because they bloom at the same time.

Three low growers that every foothill garden should have are thyme and marjoram and oregano. Amazingly, these three, usually grown in herb gardens, are so useful in the garden that I grow them throughout my garden along paths, next to sidewalks and in the rock garden. All are evergreen, need little water and are edible, of course! Marjoram, with a similar taste and fragrance as thyme, is little known, but I find that it survives in the hottest parts of my garden. I like survivors. Oregano, coming in dark green ‘Italian,’‘Greek’ and chartreuse ‘Golden,’ dies all the way to the ground in winter and reliably covers the ground in spring.

Sedum, a succulent, is invaluable for containers as well as in planting beds. The most common tall variety is S. ‘Autumn Joy’ growing two feet tall and blooming in summer. The seed heads turn rusty brown, the ‘joy’ after which it’s named. The low growers are reddish Sedum ‘Dragon’s Blood,’ white Sedum ‘Ablum’ and lime green ‘Ogon.’ Sedum of all kinds do well in containers and need only weekly water in the hottest part of the summer, perfect for those who travel often.

All 10 perennials grow well in Zones 6-8 and survive our hot summers and cold winters with ease. By trying a few of these, you’ll enjoy easy-care bloomers all summer long with the least amount of water used.