I live in Central Florida near the coast, in a yard that gets full sun most of the day. Due to the geology of our area, it also contains lots of sand, which leeches the moisture out of the ground even faster during our hot summers. While it’s been hard to find plants that tough out drought conditions and brutal temperatures, I now enjoy a mixture of colorful, carefree plants all summer long.
The following flowering plants are proven winners in dry weather.
I’m lucky in that my gaillardia flowers grow back every year from the prolific seeds the prickly mature seed heads produce. Even light moisture from a night-time fog revives thirsty plants, and the bees and butterflies love them. The orange, red and yellow blossoms keep the garden in color right up through the fall. Pinch off the tips of each plant to keep them flowering and full.
I love this plant best in container gardens. It’s a wonderful, sturdy plant that takes off in the sun and produces a tall, silvery effect that sets of other plants beautifully. Trust it to perform best in dry conditions — it’s native to the Middle East (not Russia, as the name might imply).
It’s one of the first plants to return to bloom in my garden each year, and the most popular with our hummingbirds and butterflies. While the fuller and visually striking blue varieties tempt me most, it’s the leggy, drought-loving red varieties like Salvia coccinea that perform best in my garden and attract the most winged visitors. They’re not as brilliant in a landscaped gardening bed as some of the other cultivars, but for staying power and endurance you can’t beat them in a dry-weather garden. Pinch off spent spikes to keep them full and flowering.
Coneflowers of any color laugh at drought. Good thing, too, because the bees love it. The large flowers put on a huge show when grouped together, and they’ll forgive all but the most careless neglect. I discovered they don’t like wet feet at all, and since my garden is at the bottom of a slope where water collects after a storm, I’ve found they work best in containers that drain well. If you’re lucky enough to have a dry patch of yard that needs a show-stopping display, go with coneflower.
Here in the Sunshine State, this plant grows wild and is considered a weed by many (although almost every garden center and nursery sells it). Some varieties keep low to the ground, while others (like the native orange and red variety), sometimes pop up over the back of my fence, which is around six feet tall. Either way, butterflies go mad for lantana, which happily blooms all summer long when even the toughest plants give out. I’m fond of a white variety for my front yard; I trim it back in the winter, and it springs to life once it’s hot again, giving the butterflies a favorite nectar source. Note that it’s not the best choice if you have young children or plant-eating pets, as its beauty comes with a highly-toxic price if ingested.
It’s nearly impossible for me to walk by lavender plants for sale without putting a few in my cart. I love everything about them, but I especially love pinching the leaves together to release that heavenly scent. Unfortunately, I kill half of them; because I love them so much, I plant them everywhere, including in pots with more thirsty plants that need constant watering… and lavender prefers dry conditions. While those short-lived unfortunates provide me with fleeting beauty, the others, properly planted in dryer spots and watered infrequently, flourish. They love neglect and provide countless reasons to keep them in your garden when the sun is hottest.
Try one of these proven dry-weather plants in your garden and enjoy their color even in the worst summer heat.