Hot summer temperatures and reduced rainfall can make any garden look a bit gloomy at this time of year — and since many drought-prone areas have water restrictions in place, watering more isn’t always an option. However, there's still a way to maintain a beautiful summer garden. All you have to do is cultivate plants that are sure to survive the seasonal heat and water limitations. Here are a few particularly good varieties to work into your yard, as well as some tips to keep them looking lush all season long.
With flowers that range from orange and red to pink and purple, lantana is a fiery flower for any garden. Although it can grow to be eight feet tall and four feet wide, there are also more compact varieties available for those gardeners who don't have a lot of space to work with. The lantana may be known for its showy flowers, but it also boasts blue-green, chartreuse, and gold foliage.
A member of the mint family, salvia features blue and purple flowers and thrives in hot, dry conditions. Growing to about 30 inches tall, salvias (or sages) make for fragrant additions to any garden. Although it grows best in sunny locations with well-drained soil, you may also be able to grow it in partial shade. Encourage it to continue to bloom by removing existing blooms as they fade.
Also known as echinacea, coneflower is a colorful flower that resembles the cheerful daisy. Attracting butterflies and bees alike, coneflowers do best in spots with full sun and well-drained soil. They tend to spread quickly and come back again year after year.
Known for its strong fragrance, lavender grows to about three feet tall and can thrive in even the poorest soil. Still, you may have to add some compost or other organic matter in to improve drainage if you have clay soil. Cut lavender sprigs after the plant has bloomed to bring its fresh, relaxing fragrance indoors.
A member of the hyssop family, agastache features tall blue and purple flower spires and grows well in poor soil. An easy-to-grow plant, agastache thrives in full sun. Although you may need to water the plant more while it’s getting established, it should be drought-tolerant and low-maintenance thereafter.
This fragrant plant grows up to five feet tall and is a showstopper in any garden. All it needs is sun. It even does well in poor soil. The best part is that it needs very little watering once it's become established in your garden. Although it resembles lavender, it has a scent that's all its own.
If foliage is your thing, you'll love artemisia's silvery blue-green leaves, which have been known to form mounds between three and five feet tall. These tough plants also spread as wide as 10 feet in some cases.
A hardy, low-maintenance plant that's a favorite of both bees and butterflies, yarrow features compacted flower heads with tons of small flowers in shades of yellow, pink, red, and white. It’s also extremely fragrant and can be cut for its fresh flowers.
An ideal accent for containers, verbena is easy to grow and will only shoot up to about three feet in height. The flowers will bloom all season long, since the plants consistently produce new flower buds. The colorful verbena is ideal for small gardens and container gardens.
Every garden needs low-growing groundcover. Sedum grows best in well-drained soil that is average to rich in fertility. It also thrives in full sun and is often easiest to grow from divisions or cuttings. Although they may be finicky while they’re growing, they require little care once they’ve established themselves. By dividing these plants up twice a year, you can prevent them from spreading too much throughout the garden.
Tips for Planting a Drought-Tolerant Garden
Drought-tolerant plants tend to be relatively low-maintenance, especially once they're established. Of course, low-maintenance doesn’t necessarily mean "no-maintenance."
Apply mulch to help conserve moisture, keep weeds down, and keep the soil a steady temperature.
Water occasionally, especially during periods of extreme drought. Although drought-tolerant plants will survive some periods of drought or low-water, they may need some supplemental watering during periods of extreme drought, especially if they’re not yet established.
Use drip irrigation to ensure a more efficient delivery of water. You’ll end up using less because less water is wasted through evaporation. Water in the morning or later in the day for best results.
Use high-maintenance plants sparingly. There are some plants that are drought-tolerant but high-maintenance. Plant a few of these for effect, but don’t rely on them to carry your whole landscape.
Grow native plants. Native plants tend to be low-maintenance because they’ve adapted to thrive in your environment. Whether you have hot temperatures, low water availability, poor soil, etc., these plants are sure to thrive in your garden. Contact your local Master Gardener program to learn more about what plants grow best in your area.