its dry!   PLANTS FOR DRY SITES & DROUGHT CONDITIONS

Barbara J. Bromley, Mercer Co. Horticulturist 04

There are several situations when it would be desirable to plant dry site tolerant plants. These situations include: shallow soil, sandy soil, rocky or gravelly soil, irrigation restrictions, unreliable wells, areas of expected low rainfall, large properties too far from a water source, and the simple desire not to have to water plants.

Some plants are adapted to low water conditions. Cacti and sedums are able to store water in succulent stems. Plants like butterfly weed and some oaks have deep root systems. Small leaves (thyme, juniper), waxy leaves (American holly, yucca), and hairy leaves (lamb’s ear, artemesia) are all adaptations that reduce water loss. Summer dormancy in spring flowering bulbs enable those plants to sit out hot dry summer weather as long as rains return eventually.

Very few plants must have dry conditions. Many plants that tolerate dry conditions prefer a moist well-drained location, but will tolerate drought for a short or moderate period. Very few plants will tolerate extended drought over several months during the growing season without some supplementary watering. The plants listed on adjacent pages for New Jersey gardens will tolerate dry soils once they have become established after transplanting and have developed a healthy root system. Selecting plants based on their soil, sun, and water, and other cultural requirements will help alleviate major headaches later in the season.

Cultural practices can increase the drought tolerance of any plant.

It is possible to reduce drought tolerance in an otherwise tolerant plant by overfertilizing or by fertilizing at normal rates in a dry year and creating a lush vegetative plant. Deep root systems develop if a plant has to seek water. Watering too heavily or too often diminishes this drought tolerance.

Almost all of the plants that are dry soil tolerant prefer full sun growing conditions. Some will tolerate light or partial shade. Those that tolerate light shade (the brightest shade category) are designated LS in the attached table. Plants in the shade tolerant listing marked with XX prefer shade and/or are sun intolerant.

The plants in the deer resistant list with a single X are known to be somewhat resistant to browsing in some situations, but not under heavy herd pressure. No X entry indicates deer tolerance is unknown. The # symbol designates plants generally fed on by deer.

Where both a genus and species are listed for a plant, there may be other members of the genus that don’t tolerate dry conditions. If spp. follows the genus, generally most or all members are dry site tolerant. Check a reliable reference to determine the growing requirements of both wild and garden plants.

 

HERBACEOUS (non-woody) PERENNIALS

Botanical Name

Common Name

Drought tolerance

Shade tolerant

Shore or sandy soil

Deer resistant*

Achillea filipendulina

yarrow

X

   

X

Achillea tomentosa

woolly yarrow

XX

   

X

Achillea ptarmica ‘The Pearl’

Pearl sneezewort

X

   

X

Aegopodium podagraria

bishop’s weed

X

     

Alyssum saxatile

gold dust

X

   

X

Amsonia tabernaemontana

blue-star

X

   

X

Antennaria rosea

pink pussytoes

X

     

Anthemis tinctoria

golden marguerite

X

 

XX

X

Armeria caespitosa

thrift

X

 

X

X

Armeria maritima

sea pink

X

 

X

X

Artemesia spp.

wormwood, silver mound

X

   

X

Asclepias tuberosa

butterfly weed

X

 

X

X

Aubretia deltoides

purple rock cress

X

LS

 

X

Aurinia saxatile

basket of gold

X

     

Baptisia australis

blue false indigo

X

X

 

X

Baptisia tinctoria

wild yellow indigo

X

   

X

Belamcanda chinensis

blackberry lily

X

   

X

Bergenia spp.

leatherleaf bergenia

X

X

 

X

Boltonia asteroides

boltonia

X

LS

 

X

Callirhoe involucrata

low poppy mallow

X

     

Cassia marilandica

wild senna

X

     

Catananche cerulea

Cupid's dart

X

     

Centranthus ruber

Jupiter's beard

X

   

X

Cerastium tomentosum

snow-in-summer

X

     

Ceratostigma plumbaginoides

blue plumbago, leadwort

X

     

Chrysanthemum x superbum

Shasta daisy

X

 

X

 

Chrysopsis mariana

golden aster

X

     

Cimicifuga racemosa

bugbane

XX

X

 

X

Convallaria majalis

lily-of-the-valley

X

XX

 

X

Coreopsis spp.

tickseed

XX

   

X

Dianthus spp.

pinks

XX

 

X

X

Echinacea purpurea

purple coneflower

XX

   

X

Echinops ritro

globe thistle

XX

   

X

Epimedium spp.

barrenwort, Bishop’s hat

X

XX

 

X

Eryngium spp.

sea holly

X

 

XX

X

Euphorbia spp.

cushion spurge

XX

X

 

X

Gaillardia x grandiflora

blanketflower

XX

 

XX

X

Gaura lindheimeri

white gaura

X

     

Gillenia trifoliata

Bowman’s root

XX

XX

   

Gypsophila paniculata

baby’s breath

X

 

X

X

Gypsophila repens

creeping baby’s breath

X

 

X

X

Hedera helix

English ivy

X

XX

 

#

Helianthemum nummularium

sunrose

XX

     

Helianthus spp.

sunflowers

X

   

#

Hemerocallis fulva

tawny daylily

XX

X

 

#

Hypericum perforatum

common St. John’s wort

X

   

X

Iberis spp.

candytuft

X

   

#

Iris germanica

German bearded iris

X

     

Kniphofia uvaria

red hot poker, torch lily

X

   

X

Lamium galeobdolon

yellow archangel

X

XX

 

X

Lamium maculatum ‘Beacon Silver"

spotted dead nettle

X

XX

 

X

Lathyrus japonicus

beach pea

X

 

XX

 

Lavandula angustifolia

lavender

XX

 

XX

XX

Limonium latifolium

sea lavender, statice

X

LS

XX

X

Liriope muscari

lilyturf

XX

X

   

Lychnis coronaria

rose campion

X

X

 

X

Nepeta x faassenii

catmint

X

LS

 

X

Oenothera spp.

sundrops, evening primrose

XX

X

 

X

Opuntia humifusa

prickly pear

XX

 

XX

XX

Origanum vulgare

wild marjoram

X

   

XX

Papaver orientale

Oriental poppy

X

 

X

X

Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Virginia creeper

XX

 

X

#

Parthenocissus trifoliata

Boston ivy

XX

 

X

#

Penstemon spp.

beard tongue

X

X

   

Perovskia atriplicifolia

Russian sage

X

   

X

Phlox paniculata

garden phlox

X

X

X

 

Polygonatum spp.

Solomon’s seal

X

XX

   

Potentilla spp.

cinquefoil

XX

LS

 

X

Pulmonaria spp.

lungwort

X

XX

 

X

Rudbeckia spp.

black eyed Susan

X

LS

 

X

Ruta graveolens

rue

X

   

X

Salvia spp.

salvia, sage

XX

LS

X

X

Santolina chamaecyparissus

lavender cotton

XX

 

X

X

Sedum spp.

stonecrop

X

LS

X

X

Solidago spp.

goldenrod

X

LS

XX

XX

Stachys byzantina

lamb's ears

X

LS

 

X

Tanacetum vulgare

tansy

X

   

XX

Teucrium chamaedrys

germander

X

 

X

XX

Thymus spp.

thyme

X

   

X

Verbascum spp.

mullein

XX

   

X

Verbena spp.

verbena

XX

LS

X

X

Veronica spicata

spike speedwell

X

   

X

Vinca spp.

periwinkle

X

XX

 

X

Yucca filamentosa

Adam's needle

XX

LS

X

X

ANNUALS

Botanical Name

Common Name

Dry or drought tolerant

Shade tolerant

Shore or sandy soils

Deer resistant

Abronia umbellata

sand verbena

XX

 

XX

 

Ageratum houstonianum

ageratum,

X

 

X

 

Amaranthus tricolor

amaranth, Joseph’s coat

XX

     

Arctotis grandis

arctotis, African daisy

XX

 

X

X

Begonia semperflorens

begonia, wax

X

X

 

X

Calandrinia umbellata

rock purslane

XX

     

Calendula officinalis

calendula, pot marigold

XX

 

X

XX

Catharanthus rosea

Madagascar periwinkle, annual Vinca

XX

   

X

Celosia argentea cristata

crested cockscomb

X

     

Celosia argentea plumosa

feather cockscomb,

X

     

Centaurea cyanus

cornflower

XX

 

XX

X

Centaurea moschata

sweet sultan

X

     

Cleome hasslerana

spider flower

X

   

X

Convolvulus tricolor

morning glory, dwarf

XX

 

X

X

Coreopsis tinctoria

calliopsis, annual coreopsis

XX

 

X

 

Cosmos bipinnatus

cosmos

XX

   

X

Cosmos sulphureus

cosmos

X

     

Cynoglossum amabile

Chinese forget-me-not

X

     

Dimorphotheca sinuata

Cape marigold

XX

     

Eschscholzia californica

California poppy

XX

 

X

X

Euphorbia marginata

snow-on-the-mountain

XX

   

X

Gaillardia hyb.

blanketflower

XX

 

XX

X

Gazania longiscapa

gazania

XX

     

Gomphrena globosa

globe amaranth

XX

     

Gypsophila elegans

annual babysbreath

X

 

X

X

Helianthus annuus

sunflower, common

X

 

XX

X

Heliotropum spp.

heliotrope

X

 

XX

X

Iberis spp.

candytuft, annual

X

   

#

Ipomoea spp.

morning glory (vine)

X

   

X

Kochia scoparia triphylla

summer cypress, burning bush

XX

     

Lobularia maritima

sweet alyssum

XX

X

X

XX

Mirabilis jalapa

four-o’clocks

XX

X

 

X

Phlox drummondii

annual phlox

X

 

XX

 

Portulaca grandiflora

portulaca, moss rose

XX

 

X

X

Salvia spp.

sage; salvia

X

X

XX

XX

Sanvitalia procumbens

creeping zinnia

XX

     

Senecio cineraria

dusty miller

X

 

X

X

Tagetes spp.

marigold

X

 

X

X

Tithonia rotundifolia

tithonia, Mexican sunflower

XX

 

X

#

Tropaeolium majus

nasturtium

X

 

X

 

Zaushneria californica

California fuchsia

X

     

Zinnia elegans

zinnia

X

 

X

#

GRASSES

Botanical Name

Common Name

Dry or drought tolerant

Shade tolerant

Shore or

sandy soils

Deer resistant

Ammophila breviligulata

American beach grass

X

 

XX

 

Andropogon gerardii

big blue stem

XX

     

Bouteloua spp.

grama grasses

XX

     

Buchloe dactyloides

buffalo reed grass

XX

     

Elymus arenaria ‘glaucus’

blue lyme grass

XX

LS

XX

 

Elymus canadensis

Canada wild rye

XX

 

XX

 

Eragrostis trichoides ‘Bend’

sand love grass

X

LS

XX

 

Erianthus ravennae

hardy pampas grass

X

     

Festuca elatior

tall fescue

XX

X

 

X

Festuca glauca

blue fescue

X

   

X

Festuca rubra

red fescue

XX

X

   

Koeleria macrantha

crested hair grass

XX

     

Miscanthus sinensis (some varieties)

Eulalia grass

X

   

X

Poa pratensis (common types only, such as S. Dakota certified, Park, or Kenblue )

common Kentucky bluegrass

X

     

Schizachyrium scoparius

little blue stem

X

 

XX

 

Sorghastrum nutans

Indian grass

X

LS

 

XX


KEY:   X = tolerant; XX = very tolerant or thrives; LS = light shade only; * resistance unknown on those left blank; # eaten by deer

Return to Barbara Bromley's Fact Sheet Page


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