The best drought-tolerant plants

May 22, 2012 at 10:30 a.m. ET

If you live in a hot and dry climate, keeping your garden lush can add up to big water bills at the end of the month. Several plants in addition to cactus can thrive in low-water conditions and many will do just as well even if you are in a wetter climate.

succulent pants

Many states from the southwest to the northeast will go through a dry period rather than an actual drought, and some areas simply go several days without rain. Learning which plants do well in dry conditions or require less water can save you time and money.

Our favorite drought-tolerant plants

Lavender plant
  • Lavender
  • Agastache
  • Sundrops
  • Russian sage
  • Bush sage
  • Meadow sage
Blanket flower
  • Blanket flower
  • Lamb's ears
  • Coneflower
  • Amsonia
  • Succulents
  • Black-eyed Susans
  • Peonies
  • Salvia
  • Thyme
  • Daylilies

Water-saving tips

Mulch: A thick layer of mulch will not only enrich your soil as it breaks down, but it will help hold in moisture. To take it a step further, lay down gardening fabric or plastic and cut small holes where your plants are then cover that with mulch. This will help keep weeds out of your garden and will likely allow you more time in between watering.

Time of day: It is best to water in the early morning when the hot sun isn't in full force. The water is more likely to soak in deep instead of simply evaporating. In addition, it will give your plants the water they need to face the hot day to come. If morning doesn't work, late evening is best as long as there are a few hours of sunlight left to dry the leaves. Water left on leaves can cause fungus over time.

Deep soak: For larger plants like bushes and trees, a deep soaking a few times a week is often better than light watering daily. A drip system can be an efficient way to get a large amount of water directly to your plants without any effort on your part. Place mulch over the drip line, being sure not to block the nozzle, and the water will go directly into the dirt without ever having a chance to evaporate on the surface. A deep watering will encourage deep root systems, which will save you money, too.

Collect it: A rain collection system can pay for itself over time. Most hardware stores sell everything you need to turn your roof and gutter system into a rain collection system in just a few hours. The water you collect can then be used in the garden whenever you need it. Even if it only rains a few times a month, the gallons you collect can add up to big savings.

Go for perennials: Shrubs, trees and perennials will give you a much greater bang for your buck thanks to their deep root systems. The deeper root systems allow the plants to reach moisture deep in the soil instead of only relying on surface water, which dries out quickly. In addition, perennials will come back year after year with proper care, saving you money on plants too.

Find the best perennials for your garden >>

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