Top 50 water-wise plants

These plants grow effortlessly in low-water conditions and bloom in an array of colors

Blanket flower

Rachel Weill

Blanket flower

Blanket flower (Gaillardia) features gorgeous golden tips and requires moderate water.

More: How to grow blanket flower

Spanish lavender

Courtesy of High Country Gardens

Spanish lavender

Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas) has deep purple “rabbit ears” that stand out in garden beds. The plant thrives with only moderate water.

More: How to grow Spanish lavender

Sea holly

Sea holly

Sea holly (Eryngium amethystinum), whose silvery blue stems are topped with amethyst flower heads, attracts butterflies and needs moderate water.

More: How to grow sea holly

Euphorbia rigida

Marion Brenner

Euphorbia rigida

In this Napa Valley garden designed by Ron Lutsko (lutskoassociates.com), clusters of chartreuse Euphorbia rigida add a spritz of lime. The plant thrives with only moderate water.

More: How to grow Euphorbia rigida

Salvia 'Amistad'

Saxon Holt / Photo Botanic

Salvia 'Amistad'

Hummingbird favorite Salvia ‘Amistad’ grows fast to 4 feet tall with little water.

More: How to grow Salvia

Kangaroo paw

Michele Lee Wilson

Kangaroo paw

Velvety kangaroo paws (Anigozanthos ‘Orange Cross’ and Bush Gems series) add spicy color against golden grasses in a garden in Tiburon, California, designed by Arterra Landscape Architects (arterrallp.com). The plants tolerate drought but flower best with some water in summer and excellent drainage in light sandy soil.

More: How to grow kangaroo paw

African daisy

Thomas J. Story

African daisy

African daisy (Arctotis), with blooms that can range from brilliant orange to cool purply-white, needs moderate water.

More: How to grow African daisy

Pincushion flower

Jeffery Cross

Pincushion flower

The plants make great informal hedges, start blooming in January and February, and pump out showy colorful flowers for cutting.

More: How to grow pincushion flower

Ceanothus

Steven Gunther

Ceanothus

Its purple buds open to intense blue flowers that attract bees. The leaves are dark green, small, and quilted, and the plant needs no summer water.

More: How to grow Caenothus

Aloe

Erin Kunkel

Aloe

Dramatic leaves and striking blooms of yellow, red, or orange makes a wide varieties of aloes all-around perfect.

More: How to grow aloe

 

Strawberry tree

Strawberry tree

Puffy fruits the size of olives turn from yellow when young to red when mature. The fruits are borne at the same time as urn-shaped flowers among dark evergreen leaves. It requires moderate to minimal water.

More: How to grow strawberry tree

Fairy duster

Steven A. Gunther

Fairy duster

The shrub attracts hummingbirds with its brilliant red stamens that resemble powder puffs. Use it as an accent in front of a living ocotillo fence or as a backdrop for small blue agaves. Needs minimal water.

More: How to grow fairy duster

Smoke tree

Chris Leschinsky

Smoke tree

This deciduous shrub with purple foliage turns more burnished in fall; flowers resemble puffs of smoke. Requires minimal water.

More: How to grow smoke tree

Pride of Madeira

Saxon Holt

Pride of Madeira

Actually from Madeira, this plant produces wonderful spikes of blue-purple flowers along the coast in poor soil and with practically no extra water. Bees love it.

More: How to grow pride of Madeira 

Bottlebrush

Bob Wigand

Bottlebrush

Hummingbirds love bottlebrush, a shrub with colorful flowers carried in dense, bristle-like spikes. Needs moderate water.

More: How to grow bottlebrush

Rockrose

Steven Gunther

Rockrose

Rockrose adds resinous perfume to the garden as well as showy, papery flowers. Sun loving and fast growing, the flower is tolerant of aridity.

More: How to grow rockrose

Cotoneaster

Ben Woolsey

Cotoneaster

Clusters of red fruits last a long time among the dark green leaves of this evergreen shrub. Thrives in full sun, with minimal to moderate water.

More: How to grow cotoneaster

Dalea

Terrence Moore

Dalea

Clusters of rose-purple flowers cover this shrub in fall. Needs minimal to moderate watering.

More: How to grow dalea

Hop bush

John Tann on Flickr Creative Commons

Hop bush

This evergreen shrub, with fine, bronze foliage, can be trained into a tree. Needs minimal to moderate water.

More: How to grow hop bush 

 

Brittlebush

Steven Gunther

Brittlebush

This shrub bears a profusion of bright yellow daisies. Needs minimal watering.

More: How to grow brittlebush

 

Grevillea

Linda Lamb Peters

Grevillea

Large, colorful flowers fleck this unthirsty shrub all summer long.

More: How to grow grevillea

Juniper

Jerry Pavia
 

Juniper 

Ranging from low ground covers to large trees, these widely grown plants are conifers, though they produce fleshy, berrylike fruits instead of woody cones--and need very little water.

More: How to grow juniper

Crape myrtle

Saxon Holt

Crape myrtle

This is the signature plant for many hot-summer regions. It’s hard to beat the showy summer flowers, beautiful bark, and brilliant fall color.

More: How to grow crape myrtle

Lantana

Linda Lamb Peters

Lantana

Tiny flowers in vibrant hues bloom all year in mild climates.

More: How to grow lantana

Heavenly bamboo

Claire Curran
 

Heavenly bamboo

Leaves emerge pinkish and bronzy red, then turns to soft light green; they take on purple and bronze tints in fall and often turn fiery crimson in winter, especially in a sunny location and with some frost.

More: How to grow heavenly bamboo

Oleander

Marion Brenner

Oleander

These pretty blooms come in colors ranging from white to shades of yellow, pink, salmon, and red. Oleanders need little water once established.

More: How to grow oleander

Pittosporum

Pittosporum

Its sculptural foliage makes this a great plant for a screen or windbreak, but it works wonderfully as groundcover or a container planting, too.

More: How to grow pittosporum

Ribes

Ribes

Pink-hued blooms give way to fruit: currants or gooseberries, depending on the variety.

More: How to grow ribes

Santolina

Santolina

The fun every-which-way foliage sprouts yellow button-head flowers.

More: How to grow santolina

Yellow bells

Yellow bells

This heat-tolerant shrub sports  trumpet-shaped flowers in a variety of orange-yellow-red hues and leaves that divide featherwise into many leaflets.

More: How to grow yellow bells

Deer grass

Joshua McCullough

Deer grass

This grass sprouts dense clusters of bright green leaves and yellow or purplish flower spikes in autumn.

More: All about deer grass

Yarrow

Thomas J. Story

Yarrow

Long-lasting beauties deliver blooms late in the season, when gardens need them most. It makes for a good edging and a neat groundcover for small areas; useful in rock gardens.

More: How to grow yarrow

Coreopsis

Thomas J. Story

Coreopsis

Fluffy blooms in a wide variety of brilliant colors atop tall stems are the signature of this easy-to-grow flower.

More: How to grow coreopsis

Mexican honeysuckle

Steven Gunther

Mexican honeysuckle

Blossoms of all species attract hummingbirds.

More: How to grow Mexican honeysuckle

 

Red Hot Poker

Photo by PlantHaven

Red Hot Poker

Flowering stems resemble glowing torches—or pokers (hence the name).

More: How to grow Red Hot Poker

Penstemon

Marion Brenner

Penstemon

This bushy plant is fairly short lived, but to make up for it, it produces lots of trumpet-shaped blooms over a long period.

More: How to grow Penstemon

Sage

Leaves of this shrubby perennial are flavorful and aromatic, which makes them a favorite for cooking.

More: How to grow sage

Apricot mallow

Steven Gunther

Apricot mallow

Downy stems bear flowers in summer.

More: How to grow apricot mallow

Verbena

Thomas J. Story

Verbena

A tall, lanky deciduous shrub, it has aromatic leaves and lilac or white flowers.

More: How to grow verbena

Fuchsia

Doreen Wynja / Monrovia

Fuchsia

Hummingbirds can't resist this sun-loving flower that produces spectacular blooms for months.

More: How to grow fuchsia

Snow-in-Summer

Charles Mann
 

Snow-in-Summer

This low-growing plant with white blooms in summer makes for excellent groundcover and performs equally well in mild and cold climates, coastal and desert areas.

More: How to grow Snow-in-Summer

Agave

Jennifer Cheung

Agave

These succulents' sculptural shapes make them perfect candidates for bold, contemporary gardens.

More: How to grow agave

 

Cactus

Thomas J. Story

Cactus

The desert plant thrives in full sun and heat with very little water. It comes in many varieties; pictured here is golden barrel cactus, with golden spines that eventually yield small yellow flowers in summer.

More: How to grow cactus

Ocotillo

Steven Gunther

Ocotillo

The desert native with grooved, spiny branches can survive on rainfall but grows and blooms best if soaked deeply once a month.

More: How to grow ocotillo

Prickly pear

Prickly pear

Large and showy flowers bedeck this plant native to the Southwest and northern Mexico. It grows best in mild, dry climates.

More: How to grow prickly pear

Bougainvillea

Bob Wigand

Bougainvillea

The vibrant, often vining bloom reaches its peak in summer, but in mildest-winter regions flowers may appear from spring through fall, and even into winter.

More: How to grow bougainvillea

Wisteria

Saxon Holt

Wisteria

This highly adaptable plant can be grown as trees, shrubs, or vines. All have large, fresh green leaves divided into many leaflets, and spectacular clusters of blue, white, or pinkish springtime blossoms.

More: How to grow wisteria

Marigold

Written by Sharon Cohoon

Marigold

The flower's searing color and strong aromatic scent make is especially exotic.

More: How to grow marigold

Statice

Statice

The papery blooms of statice (Limonium) retain their color when dried. It requires moderate water.

More: How to grow statice

Manzanita

Manzanita

It can vary from creeping groundcover to a treelike shrub, but all types have small white or pink flowers, usually in late winter to early spring, followed by berrylike red or brown fruits that attract birds.

More: How to grow manzanita

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