12 Drought-Resistant Plants That Will Help You Conserve Water in Your Yard

These varieties will thrive even when water is scarce.

As climate change continues to impact our choices in our gardens, more and more homeowners are considering drought-resistant plants in their landscaping plans. As you can guess from the name, these varieties of plants are able to fend off high heat without needing excess water.

"Water-resistant plants send roots deep into the soil so that they can catch or gather as much water as possible, and they catch or absorb any type of humidity or dew that comes their way," says Kody Ketterling, a gardening expert and the CEO of KJ Ketterling Enterprises. If you're rethinking the design of your yard, consider investing in these drought-resistant plants that will reduce your water bill and withstand scorching temperatures.

drought-resistant echinacea flowers

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Little Bluestem

Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium Scoparium)

Kevin Lenhart, the designer director at Yardzen, describes this upright grass plant as a powerhouse—and for a good reason. Not only is it native to half of the United States, but it has a complex root system that buries deep into the ground to access moisture that other plants cannot reach. "Little Bluestem begins blue-green, but transforms to a bold bronze by fall that endures through the winter," he says. "It is commonly found in prairies, meadows, and open woodlands across the country."

Lenhart says Little Bluestem prefers full sun and well-drained soils. It can tolerate a wide range of soil types, from sandy to clay soils, and is also adapted to a range of soil pH levels.

  • Zone: 3-10
  • Size: Grows to a mature height of 3 feet
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English Thyme

english thyme in the garden

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Thyme is an easy, practical, and drought-resistant herb to grow that has an inviting scent and is delicious in recipes. English thyme grows well in southern climates and does best in full sun to partial shade conditions.

For outdoor growing, English thyme should be planted in the spring or fall, 12 to 15 inches apart, either in the ground, a raised bed, or in containers, says Amy Enfield, Ph.D., a senior scientist for Live Goods at Scotts Miracle Grow. Because it is low-growing, has thin stems, and a wiry habit, avoid crowding because vigorous neighboring plants might choke it out.

  • Zones: 5-9
  • Size: Grows to a mature height of 1 foot
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Hesperaloe Parviflora (Red Yucca)

Hesperaloe parviflora (red yucca)

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If you're a tequila fan, you probably already know about agave plants. This drought-resistant beauty is a relative of agaves, native to Texas and Mexico. Lenhard describes it as a grass-like plant that's low maintenance and tolerant of drought and heat, thanks to thick, waxy leaves that allow it to store water during dry periods. It also happens to have gorgeous coral blooms that make both humans and hummingbirds happy.

Lenhart says this plant prefers full sun. "It can tolerate a range of soil types, including sandy and rocky soils, as long as they are well-drained," he adds. Because red yucca can thrive in heat or cold, it's ideal for various climates, too.

  • Zone: 5-11
  • Size: Grows to a mature height of 3 to 4 feet
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sage plant


This sturdy perennial flowering plant with silvery-gray foliage and spikes of lavender-blue flowers is one of the best drought-resistant plant options. "It is well-suited for regions with hot, dry climates, and of course, well-draining soil," says Chris Young, an author and plant expert. "Russian sage has also developed deep root systems to search for water stored in lower soil layers." Young suggests placing sage in full sun in the back of a flower bed, for optimal growth.

  • Zones: 4-9
  • Size: Grows to a mature height of 3.5 feet
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manzanita blooms

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Need a ground cover to save on the expense of maintaining green grass? Or looking for a sustainable, hearty shrub for your driveway? If so, Lenhart recommends this upright, stiff, bright green, drought-resistant plant. Featuring ruddy bark and available in many sizes, it's worth investing in your landscaping strategy. "As an evergreen shrub, manzanita's deep root system allows it to access water from deeper in the soil where it is less likely to evaporate," he says. "Additionally, the plant has a waxy cuticle on its leaves which helps to reduce water loss through transpiration."

  • Zone: The zones vary, but one Lenhart often recommends is the medium-sized 'Howard McMinn' (Arctostaphylos densiflora), native to California, which grows in zones 6-10
  • Size: 'Howard McMinn' grows 6-10 feet (6-12 feet wide), but can be pruned to desired size
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echinacea flowers

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When you have the sniffles or a pesky cold, brewing a cup of Echinacea can do wonders for helping you feel better. It can also thrive in your garden with very little water. Also known as coneflower, Echinacea is a type of flower that is as tough as it is beautiful, says Nancy Trautz Awot, a horticulture specialist at Burpee Gardening. "They can easily withstand drought, heat, high humidity, partial shade, and almost any soil, making them a great option," she says. 

This perennial plant will return each year, surprising you with its ability to revive in the spring. If you dream of a bountiful garden, Echinacea can help since they are also a favorite of pollinators like bees, butterflies, and small songbirds, Awot says. 

  • Zones: 4-9
  • Size: Grows to a mature height of 2 to 2.5 feet
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lavender flowers


Lavender is a beautiful and fragrant addition to your drought-resistant plant collection. Found naturally in the dry sandy soil of the Mediterranean, lavender has naturally evolved to grow with minimal water, says Awot. "Lavender can easily be grown in containers both outdoors and indoors, meaning you can bring it indoors during cold winter months to prevent damage and prolong the life and your enjoyment of the plant," she says. "Lavender is also pollinator-friendly, while helping to repel pests such as mosquitos, fleas, and ticks."

  • Zones: 5-10
  • Size: Grows to a mature height of 20 to 24 inches
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Bee Balm (Monarda)

bee balm flowers

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For gardeners with lofty visions of fragrant flowers and fresh produce grown in their backyard, it's worth adding this drought-resistant plant to your space. As Awot explains, Monarda is a type of perennial pollinator plant that is drought-tolerant and attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds to your garden with its vibrant flowers. "Given Bee Balm thrives in full sunlight or partial shade, it's suitable to handle the sun's heat, while adding a beautiful pop of color to your yard," she says. "You'll find Bee Balm offered in various color options like white, pink, red, lavender, and purple."

  • Zones: Grows best in zones 4-9
  • Size: Grows to a mature height of 3 feet
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Black Eyed Susan

black-eyed susans


Part of the coneflower family, you may have watched Black Eyed Susans sprout in your yard growing up. Ketterling says these flowers need little upkeep or maintenance since they will pretty much grow anywhere, like the mountains or in the lower elevations. While they are not susceptible to bugs or insects due to their cone shape, they are inviting to butterflies, hummingbirds, and birds. "They provide a long stem from their green leaves, and each flower has a single cone on it: that is where they get their name," he says. "The cones are somewhat stiff, but provide a way for them to catch dew and humidity and are inviting to the critters." They require little water but do need proper drainage to survive.

  • Zones: 3-8 or 9
  • Size: Grows to a mature height of 12-18 inches tall
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gaillardia flowers


Do you have a sunshine-flooded front yard that is begging for a little bit of rainbow dusting? If so, Awot suggests this colorful, drought-resistant, sun-loving perennial. "Known for its daisy-like appearance, this stunner offers blooms with vibrant colors that will brighten your garden bed," she says. "Gaillardia are extremely drought tolerant and make for an excellent middle-of-the-border option in the cottage garden, and for naturalizing in a wildflower meadow."

  • Zones: 3-9
  • Size: Grows to a mature height of 3 feet
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lantana flowers

For gardeners who crave color and vibrancy, this plant creates gorgeous clusters of brightly colored flowers that open to one shade and then fade to another. "It is a mounding plant, which makes it good for bedding and hanging baskets and planters," Awot says, adding that this annual loves the heat and is very drought tolerant. "It can also tolerate sea spray so it does well near the beach," she says. Lantana requires well-draining soil and full sun to thrive, but can multiply in the summer heat without much care.

  • Zone: Annual all zones but hardy in zones 9-11
  • Size: Grows to a mature height of 5 to 6 feet
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portulaca flowers


Portulaca is a pretty choice for a simple, drought-resistant ground cover, producing many 1-inch flowers in shades of yellow, red, pink, orange, and white. It tolerates poor soil and does not want much care, says Awat. Generally speaking, it can grow where most flowers can't, and grows best in hot, dry areas—so if you're in the desert area, it may be the best bet for your garden goals.

  • Zones: It is an annual that can be grown in any zone
  • Size: Grows to a mature height of 6 inches
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