Organic Gardening

11 Drought Tolerant Shrubs to Grow in Warm Climates

Are you looking to add shrubs with red leaves to your garden? What about plants that have fragrant flowers? Or those that have pretty white flowers? If so, look no further than these plants. 

Everything on this list is extremely drought resistant and are all relatively easy to care for. If you’re like me and are conscious about your footprint and want to reduce your water intake to help preserve our ecosystem, then these plants are great options. 

Drought Tolerant Agastache Shrub
Drought Tolerant Agastache Shrub

Many of these flowers bloom between late spring to early fall and look great in small spaces, as hedges, or as borders around your garden. Here’s everything you need to know about these plants: 

1. Blue Mist Shrub (Caryopteris)

Blue Mist Shrub
Blue Mist Shrub

This is a highly drought-tolerant shrub. In fact, you rarely have to water it. The only time you should do so is when the ground is extremely dry and the weather is extremely hot. 

It’s because of this that the blue mist shrub is very easy to care for. Plus, thanks to its fragrant purple flowers, it makes for the perfect addition to your landscape. 

Here’s everything you need to know about taking care of this flowering shrub:

Botanical Name:  Caryopteris
Growth Rate:  18-30′ long and 3′ tall
Native Range:  Asia
Hardiness Zones: 5-9
Dangers: Non-toxic
Soil Needs:  Moist, well-draining soil 
Exposure: Partial shade or full sun 
Ease of Care: Low-maintenance
Diseases: Crown rot
Propagation: Divide plant in mid to late summer
Fertilizer: Apply a 15-15-15 fertilizer in early spring
Pests: Not applicable
Blooming Period: Early – late summer
Pruning: Trim plant down by half during the early spring season
Water needs: Water when the ground is dry
Blue Mist Shrub Growing Guide Chart

2. Burning Bush (Euonymus Alatus)

Burning Bush
Burning Bush

Talk about a showstopper! The burning bush is aptly named because of its large fiery red leaves. Though the burning bush can survive in dry conditions, it really prefers to be exposed to sunlight.

Spending too much time in the shade will result in less vibrant leaves – and considering this is what makes this plant so unique, this is something to avoid. 

Thinking about adding this to your landscape? Here’s how to take care of it: 

Botanical Name:  Euonymus Alatus
Growth Rate:  6-12′ tall
Native Range:  Russia and Asia
Hardiness Zones: 3-9
Dangers: Toxic if ingested
Soil Needs:  Well-draining soil 
Exposure: Partial or full sun 
Ease of Care: Low-maintenance
Diseases: Powdery mildew
Propagation: Divide between late fall and winter after the plant goes dormant
Fertilizer: Apply a slow-release fertilizer in early spring
Pests: Spider mites
Blooming Period: May – June
Pruning: Not required
Water needs: Water twice a week until roots are established, then drop to one watering per week 
Burning Bush Growing Guide Chart

3. Butterfly Bush (Buddleja)

Butterfly Bush
Butterfly Bush

With its pretty purple flowers and honey-like scent, it’s no wonder why butterflies want to hang out on the aptly named butterfly bush! 

Butterfly bushes are one of the best drought-tolerant shrubs to add to your landscape, not just for pollination reasons but because of how tall they get. The average butterfly bush can get to be up to 12 feet tall. Flowers appear anytime between late summer and fall. 

The butterfly bush is a great way to add color to your garden. Here’s everything you need to know about this low-maintenance shrub: 

Botanical Name:  Buddleja
Growth Rate:  6-12′ tall
Native Range:  China
Hardiness Zones: 5-10
Dangers: Non-toxic
Soil Needs:  Moist and fertile, well-draining soil 
Exposure: Full sun
Ease of Care: Low-maintenance
Diseases: Downy mildew
Propagation: Propagate semi-ripe cuttings in the summer
Fertilizer: Apply garden fertilizer in the spring and summer
Pests: Red spider mites, Japanese beetles
Blooming Period: Late summer to fall 
Pruning: Late spring
Water needs: Water once a week
Butterfly Bush Growing Guide Chart

4. Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina)

Heavenly Bamboo
Heavenly Bamboo

Heavenly bamboo is a common evergreen shrub that has red leaves and red berries. However, be mindful that the berries this plant produces can be very dangerous. This is because they actually contain cyanide, and they are very toxic to humans and wildlife. 

However, the plant itself is very attractive to pollinators. It’s usually best planted as a garden border and is pretty drought-resistant.

Once the roots are established, heavenly bamboo can tolerate a dry spell, only needing water occasionally. 

Here’s a helpful care guide on how to take care of this green foliage: 

Botanical Name:  Nandina
Growth Rate:  5-7′ tall
Native Range:  Asia
Hardiness Zones: 6-9
Dangers: The berries are highly toxic and dangerous
Soil Needs:  Well-draining soil 
Exposure: Partial shade and full sun 
Ease of Care: Low maintenance 
Diseases: Cucumber mosaic virus and Nandina virus
Propagation: Divide cuttings in summer
Fertilizer: Apply an evergreen fertilizer between February and June
Pests: Whiteflies, cottony cushion scale, and mealybugs
Blooming Period: Late spring – early summer
Pruning: Prune in either early spring or late winter
Water needs: Water once a week until roots are established; then reduce watering on an as-needed basis
Heavenly Bamboo Growing Guide Chart

5. Barometer Bush (Leucophyllum Frutescens)

Barometer Bush
Barometer Bush

Also commonly referred to as a Texas sage plant, the barometer bush has thick purple flowers. It’s also a perennial, which means that it will bloom several times during its life cycle. 

In terms of the best drought tolerant shrubs to add to your garden, the barometer bush is really one of the best. It requires little to no work, including watering every 2-3 weeks.

While it doesn’t require pruning, you’re welcome to do so if you want to keep it looking trim. Likewise, you can propagate it any time of year. 

Learn more about this plant that is native to North America below: 

Botanical Name:  Leucophyllum Frutescens
Growth Rate:  5-8′ tall 
Native Range:  Texas and Mexico 
Hardiness Zones: 8-10
Dangers: Non-toxic
Soil Needs:  Well-draining soil that has medium moisture
Exposure: Full sun
Ease of Care: Low maintenance
Diseases: Not applicable
Propagation: Divide plant any time of year
Fertilizer: Not required
Pests: Not applicable
Blooming Period: Summer-fall
Pruning: Trim in late winter before new growth emerges
Water needs: Water every 2 – 3 weeks in the summer and once a month in the winter season
Barometer Bush Growing Guide Chart

6. Safari Sunset Conebush (Leucadendron)

Safari Sunset Conebush
Safari Sunset Conebush

Known for its bright red leaves, the safari sunset conebush produces small growth in the spring.

If you want to prune the plant, it’s recommended that you do so in late spring once the flowers have fully bloomed. This will keep it trim and prevent overgrowth. 

The best thing about the safari sunset conebush is that it makes a great hedge. Learn more about how to take care of this drought-resistant plant below: 

Botanical Name:  Leucadendron
Growth Rate:  3-6′ tall but can grow up to 10′
Native Range:  South Africa
Hardiness Zones: 9-11
Dangers: Toxic, if ingested
Soil Needs:  Well-draining soil 
Exposure: Full sun
Ease of Care: Low maintenance
Diseases: Not applicable
Propagation: Divide the plant in either spring or fall 
Fertilizer: Apply a low-phosphorus fertilizer if growth appears to be stunted
Pests: Not applicable
Blooming Period: Spring
Pruning: Prune in late spring after new flowers have emerged
Water needs: Once a week 
Safari Sunset Conebush Growing Guide Chart

7. Yellow Variegated Coast Rosemary (Westringia fruticosa)

Variegated Coast Rosemary
Variegated Coast Rosemary

The yellow variegated coast rosemary plant grows between 4 to 6 feet tall. Overall, this is another drought-tolerant shrub that requires minimal care to thrive. It’s generally very resistant to both pests and diseases. 

While this can be added to your garden as is, many people tend to use this as a hedge. If you opt for this, then you’ll want to regularly prune it to help keep its shape. Otherwise, only cut leafy growth in the spring and early summer months. 

Here’s a helpful overview about how to care for these white clusters of flowers that bloom all year long: 

Botanical Name:  Westringia fruticosa
Growth Rate:  4-6′ tall 
Native Range:  Australia
Hardiness Zones: 9-10
Dangers: Non-toxic
Soil Needs:  Light, well-draining soil mixed with peat moss
Exposure: Full sun and partial shade
Ease of Care: Low maintenance
Diseases: Not applicable
Propagation: Plants can be divided any time of the year
Fertilizer: Apply a mineral fertilizer in the spring
Pests: Not applicable
Blooming Period: Year round
Pruning: Trim leafy growth in the spring and early summer 
Water needs: Water once a week 
Variegated Coast Rosemary Growing Guide Chart

8. Agastache (Anise Hyssop)

Agastache
Agastache

The agastache plant prefers to grow in fertile, well-draining soil; it will not do well if it’s planted in heavy soil. This is because heavy soil makes it difficult for the plant’s roots to get established, which can lead to diseases such as root rot. 

Mabt gardeners like to add agastache to their garden because it’s a perennial and a pretty hardy one at that. It also commonly attracts birds, butterflies, and other pollinators.

Once the roots of this plant are established, you can stop watering it. The agastache plant can still thrive in extreme drought conditions.

Here’s what you need to know about this plant:

Botanical Name:  Anise Hyssop
Growth Rate:  Up to 2-4′ tall
Native Range:  The Great Plains and Canada
Hardiness Zones: 3-8
Dangers: Toxic to dogs and wildlife
Soil Needs:  Fertile, well-draining soil 
Exposure: Full sun and partial shade
Ease of Care: Low maintenance
Diseases: Powdery mildew, leaf spot, crown rot, and rust
Propagation: Divide plant in either the spring or autum seasons
Fertilizer: Add organic compost to the base of the plant in spring every other year
Pests: Not applicable
Blooming Period: Early summer – fall 
Pruning: Prune in early spring or as needed to maintain growth 
Water needs: Water once a week for the first 4 weeks and then stop watering once roots are established
Agastache Growing Guide Chart

9. Sugar Bush (Rhus ovata)

Sugar Bush
Sugar Bush

Native to both Arizona and California, the sugar bush has arching branches that develop flowers in the spring. This plant has a high drought tolerance, which is why many West Coast gardeners love to add it to their gardens. 

A sugar bush plant does need to technically be pruned to thrive, but it should only be done to remove dead leaves by hand, never shears. It doesn’t respond well to heavy pruning. As long as you keep this in mind, you shouldn’t;t run into any issues with these hardy shrubs. 

Check out this helpful guide on how to take care of this plant even in hot temperatures: 

Botanical Name:  Rhus ovata
Growth Rate:  8-12′ tall 
Native Range:  Arizona and California
Hardiness Zones: 7-11
Dangers: Toxic; causes severe skin irritation 
Soil Needs:  Well-draining soil 
Exposure: Full or partial sun
Ease of Care: Moderate
Diseases: Powdery mildew, Nectria canker, Armillaria root rot
Propagation: Divide and plant in late spring or early summer
Fertilizer: Not required
Pests: Caterpillars
Blooming Period: Spring
Pruning: Prune dead leaves by hand
Water needs: Water once a week when newly planted, then every 2 weeks
Sugar Bush Growing Guide Chart

10 Stonecrop (Sedum)

Stonecrop
Stonecrop

Though the common name for sedum is stonecrop, it may be easier to think of these as succulents. They have the ability to either grow tall and wide or in a cluster that spreads outward across your lawn.

Stonecrop have green leaves and are very hardy. They can survive with little watering once they are established. As long as they’re planted in well-draining soil, this drought resistant plant will do well. 

Stonecrop makes a great addition to your landscaping project. Here’s what you need to know about taking care of these: 

Botanical Name:  Sedum
Growth Rate:  1-3′ tall
Native Range:  United States
Hardiness Zones: 3-11
Dangers: Non-toxic
Soil Needs:  Well-draining soil 
Exposure: At least 6 hours of full sun per day 
Ease of Care: Low maintenance
Diseases: Root rot
Propagation: Divide in the spring after new growth emerges
Fertilizer: Apply a half-strength liquid fertilizer in the spring
Pests: Aphids, slugs, ants, and mealybugs
Blooming Period: Early summer – fall 
Pruning: Trim your plant by half in late spring or early summer
Water needs: Once established, water until the top layer of soil feels moist
Stonecrop Growing Guide Chart

11. Catnip (Nepeta)

Catnip
Catnip

If you’re a cat owner, then you’re probably already familiar with what catnip is. However, did you know that it’s also a plant gardeners love planting on their property? One big reason why is because they attract pollinators, which can help your garden thrive. 

The other reason is that catnip plants actually deter bugs from your vegetables. Here’s everything you need to know about this drought-resistant shrub: 

Botanical Name:  Nepeta
Growth Rate:  24-36″ tall 
Native Range:  Iran
Hardiness Zones: 4-8
Dangers: Non-toxic
Soil Needs:  Well-draining soil 
Exposure: Full sun
Ease of Care: Low maintenance
Diseases: Bacterial leaf spot, root rot, and mosaic virus
Propagation: Divide plant in either spring or fall 
Fertilizer: Not required
Pests: Spider mites, slugs, aphids, snails, and leafhoppers
Blooming Period: Late spring – early fall 
Pruning: As often as you want
Water needs: Apply 1″ of water during the growing season, then once every 3 weeks
Catnip Growing Guide Chart

Final thoughts 

When it comes to interesting plants that can withstand dry conditions, these are some of the best options available to you.

Many of these plants are native to areas that have hot and dry conditions, so they can go without water for quite some time, meaning less work for you in terms of maintaining them. 

Whether you want to see some pretty yellow flowers, blue flowers, or flowers that attract birds and butterflies, this list covers them all. With this guide, you’ll be well on your way to helping them thrive in your garden!



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