What is Drought Tolerant Landscaping?

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Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on LawnStarter.

Whether you live in an arid climate or are committed to water conservation, drought-resistant landscaping may be right for you. In this article, you will learn what it is, why it is beneficial, and which plants you should consider for such landscaping.

Drought-tolerant landscaping allows a yard to thrive with low water through the use of native, drought-tolerant plants and grasses. Drought-tolerant plants have evolved to maximize the amount of water they take in and minimize the amount they lose.

It’s important to note, however, that even drought-tolerant plants will still need extra care and extra water as they acclimate to your garden.

Here’s an overview of what you’ll need and the types of plants that are suitable for drought-tolerant landscaping.

Drought-tolerant landscaping versus xeriscaping

Drought Tolerant Southwestern Landscaping with Succulents in Southern California
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If you live in the west, you’ve probably heard of xeriscaping — a term that combines the Greek prefix “xero,” meaning “dry,” with landscaping. LawnStarter has an excellent Beginner’s Guide to xeriscaping, but in short, xeriscaping is popular in many arid regions and is a type of drought-tolerant landscaping that often involves replacing lawn with rocks, mulch, walkways and species that are drought-tolerant drought.

However, drought-resistant landscaping is not just for dry areas. Of Mediterranean climates in California to the lush Blue Ridge Mountainsmany homeowners use drought-resistant landscaping to reduce water usage and adapt their yard to its native climate.

Why Drought Tolerant Landscaping Makes Sense

Couple saving money
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Drought resistant landscaping is a smart idea for your garden for many reasons.

You will save money. Reducing the need for water in your garden means you won’t have to spend as much to keep it green.

You will save time. Imagine the hours you’ll recover that you would otherwise have spent standing outside with a garden hose!

You will stay cool in summer and warm in winter. A well-planned, drought-tolerant landscape will increase shade in hot weather, and in winter, it will protect your home from cold winds.

Your front yard will stay cool. Drought-resistant landscaping increases curb appeal during drought conditions, especially during severe drought when local ordinances restrict water use.

It’s good for the environment. Your ecosystem will thank you for drought-prone landscaping. It can reduce soil erosion and stormwater runoff, and it removes pollutants and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Landscaping supplies

Garden bed with mulch
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Before filling your garden with plants, make sure you have what you need to keep your landscape drought tolerant. These supplies will take your garden to the next level.

  • A smart watering system. This water sprinkler system will automatically adjust to local weather conditions to water your garden as needed.
  • A drip irrigation system. If you don’t prefer sprinklers, this is another irrigation option for a drought-tolerant yard. Unlike sprinklers, drip irrigation uses a network of tubes and valves to “drip” water into your garden for a high-efficiency, largely imperceptible watering system.
  • Rocks. Large or small stones can be used with sand instead of lawn grass, or in garden beds or rockeries as a decorative feature.
  • Mulch. Another grass replacement option, mulch keeps your garden tidy and keeps weeds away.

Drought-tolerant native plants

Senior woman in her garden
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From ground covers and garden flowers to bushes and trees, there are many aquatic plants to choose from for a drought-tolerant landscape.

The native plants in your area are often naturally water efficient for several reasons:

  • Native plants can develop deeper roots than non-native plants. This allows the plants to retain more water.
  • They have adapted to thrive in the conditions typical of your hometown. There are all kinds of drought-tolerant garden designs, but native species have an evolutionary advantage when it comes to your garden. This also means that they are often perennial!
  • They won’t need much watering aside from rain once they become established in your garden.

Looking for good native plants for your drought tolerant landscape? Look up your zip code in Audubon Society’s native plant database for ideas.


Boots recycled in planter
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Succulents are having a big time in gardening and landscaping, and for good reason: their fleshy leaves and stems store a lot of water, which means they often don’t need much more than rain. . Succulents can be grown in outdoor containers, rock gardensand well-drained sandy soil.

Here are some popular succulent plant families for drought-tolerant landscaping:

  • Echeveriaincluding Black Prince and Blue Rose
  • Sedumssuch as broadleaf stonecrop and creeping sedum
  • Evervivacold hardy plants including Green Wheel and Royal Ruby
  • Kalanchoelike the panda bear and the desert rose


California flannel in the yard
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If you’re looking for something a little bigger than a succulent, there are plenty. drought resistant bushes available. Many of these species are native to the United States and hardy all year round.

These drought-tolerant shrubs may be right for you:

  • Shrubby St. John’s wort (Hyperium prolificum)
  • Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica)
  • Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica)
  • California flannel (Fremontodendron californicum)


holly leaf cherry
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Want to escape the summer heat and relax in the shade? Drought-tolerant trees are your friends. These low-maintenance species have grown to handle the heat regardless of the weather.

  • Hollyleaf Cherry (Prunus ilicifolia)
  • American smoke (Cotinus obovatus)
  • Washington hawthorn (Crataegus phaenopyrum)
  • Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)

Drought tolerant grasses

Cynodon dactylon, drought tolerant Bermudagrass
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Lawns can need a lot of supplemental watering, especially because many homeowners don’t have native grass species in their yard. These drought-tolerant grasses make lawn care easier:

  • Sandberg bluegrass (poa second)
  • tall fescue (Festuca arundinaceae)
  • bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon)
  • Zoysiagrass (Zoysia tenuifolia)

Ornamental grasses

Drought Tolerant Blue Fescue and Karl Foerster Lawn Decor
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For accents and variety, try these drought-tolerant types:

  • blue fescue (glaucous festuca)
  • stiff panic (Panicum virgatum)
  • feather reed (Calamagrostis × acutiflora)
  • big squirrel (Elymus multisetus)

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