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Top 10 Drought Tolerant Perennials

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Swallowtail Butterfly on Echinacea

Want to save money by watering less and have a garden that needs very little attention? Try planting a drought tolerant or native perennial garden this season. Below I have listed some of my favorite extremely common perennials that are easily found in garden centers nearly nationwide. Most tolerate tough planting conditions and have lower water needs, and almost all of them are flowering or ornamental in some fashion so attract pollinating insects. Keep in mind that all plants need more water their first season to get established. Follow the guides on the plant tags for planting needs.

Black eyed susans and fall sedum

Sustainable Watering Tip: Water less frequently, but deeply down at soil level. Heavily soaking the garden at the root level during establishment insures a deeper and better developed root system as well as less fungus issues on the top of the plant.

Conservation gardening with drought tolerant plants can still be an experience filled with lots of flowers that attract wildlife, for example, the Coneflower and Black-Eyed Susan in the photo above. Below are my favorite flowering drought tolerant plants, both common and native for the Illinois area (if you live elsewhere, please consult a local nursery for advice on native plantings which might offer a lot of flower power).

Top 10 Drought Tolerant Common Perennial Varieties

  1. Yarrow (Achillea)
  2. Stone Crop (Sedum) All varieties  – Fall bloomer
  3. Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)
  4. Penstemon (Penstemon) All varieties
  5. Lamb’s Ears (Stachys byzantina)
  6. Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata) – Spring bloomer
  7. Coreopsis (Coreopsis) All varieties
  8. Coneflower (Echinacea) All varieties
  9. Blanket Flower (Gaillardia) All varieties
  10. Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida sullivantii goldsturm) All varieties

Top 10 Drought Tolerant NATIVE to Illinois Perennial Varieties (for locals from my city or state)

  1. Illinois Getting Started Guide BookBlack-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
  2. Blazing Star or Gayfeather (Liatris pycnostachya)
  3. Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
  4. Little Bluestem Grass (Andropogon scoparius)
  5. New England Aster (Aster novae anglae)
  6. Prairie Coreopsis (Coreopsis palmata)
  7. Prairie Dropseed Grass (Sporobolus heterolepis) – Salt tolerant
  8. Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)
  9. Wild Petunia (Ruella humilis)
  10. Yellow Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata)

To learn more about great plants to grow specifically in Illinois, please check out my book the Illinois Getting Started Garden Guide: Grow the Best Flowers, Shrubs, Trees, Vines & Groundcovers. Thanks so much and happy drought tolerant gardening!

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  1. Good ideas Shawna, especially for the beginning of the planting season. If we have a summer like last year we will need lots of xeric plantings.


  2. Great info as we get out there and start to look at new perennials to add this year!!!

  3. Great info as we get out there and start to look at new perennials to add this year!!!

  4. Shawna – great list – those all work here (and I have most of them) here where it's 102 today and we're at something like 28 days over 100 already when our normal total annual average is 12 days. Of course, that means we assume we can still use words like normal and average since we now seem to have neither!

  5. Thank you. I didn’t know that creeping phlox is drought tolerant. I did learn the hard way about Black-eyed Susan this year–very wilty. I understand that your list is for perennials, but my hanging basket of portulaca has required less water than any of my perennials, and it has bloomed all summer through drought and heat.

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