How to Landscape With Drought-Tolerant Plants


Many drought-tolerant plants are native to the regions where people choose to grow them. It's wise to landscape with the "less thirsty" plants in areas that get no rain for months on end, such as parts of California and the Southwest. The term "drought tolerant" encompasses more than cactus; many wildflowers, such as penstemon, monkey flower, sage and clarkia, require no irrigation after their seeds germinate with the winter rains. You'll save on your water bill and your yard will help support local birds, butterflies and beneficial insects when you grow drought-tolerant plants.

Step 1

Research the drought-tolerant plants that will do well in your climate zone and your yard. For example, if you have existing large trees, you'll want plants that require partial or complete shade. Also decide if your yard can accommodate any trees, and if so, how much space they will consume when they are mature.

Step 2

Measure your planned planting area and map it on a piece of paper. Then look at your list of plants and calculate how much space each will fill. Don't forget about pathways and other access areas that will enable you to walk through your yard.

Step 3

Create garden beds by marking areas at least 2 feet wide by 4 feet long. For trees you plan to plant, mark areas about 2 feet by 2 feet. Weed these areas and then spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of compost on top of the soil. Dig in the compost to 8 to 12 inches deep.

Step 4

Plant taller plants in the rear of your beds, especially if they will grow in front of a fence, building or property border. Plant smaller plants in the front of your beds.

Step 5

Fertilize your plants with a balanced plant food, such as one having an N-P-K ratio of 10-10-10, about one month after you plant them. Native plants require little fertilizer, so research their needs before you give them any food.

Tips and Warnings

  • Plants that are considered drought tolerant do require some irrigation until their roots become established. When you plant them in the fall, winter rains will take care of them until the dry season begins in spring or summer.

Things You'll Need

  • List of plants for your area
  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil and paper
  • Compost
  • Shovel


  • Southwest Florida Water Management District: Drought Tolerant Plants
  • Lasting Blooms: Drought Resistant Plants

Who Can Help

  • Native Plant Network
Keywords: drought tolerant plants, landscaping ideas, native trees flowers

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens," and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to Big Island Weekly, Ke Ola magazine, GardenGuides and eHow. She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.