Drought-resistant plants

As climate change presents us with the challenge of gardening with less water, choosing plants to suit our growing conditions becomes paramount and a wide range of drought resistant plants is available to complement your garden collection. Who would have thought this topic pertinent for the Emerald Isle (!) but here you go...

Generally speaking, you can often tell if a plant is adapted to growing in these conditions because their leaves are waxy, succulent, hairy, sticky, small, needle-like. The light colour reflects the sun while the fine hairs trap moisture around the plant tissues. Drought-resistant plants need not be bland looking! Below is a selection of plants with good drought-tolerant properties.

Bougainvillea is a champion in tolerating the drought and one of the toughest shrubs that survive in extreme heat. Bougainvilleas are tropical plants, but they do not like wet feet. Their roots are rather delicate and if left in standing water will quickly rot. In addition, bougainvillea will not flower as well when they are too wet - letting the plant get a little dry will often net you extra blossoms. These tropical climbers are suitable for large containers placed in the garden during summer. Bougainvilleas need a bright sunny position, but protection from direct sunlight and good ventilation will help encourage the bracts to mature and persist longer on the plant. Please also note that in Irish climes, Bougainvilleas fare better as indoor plants as it will only survive with minimum night temperatures of 10°C.


Bougainvillea is on special promotion at the garden centre: £5 instead of £17.99)

Lavender is amongst the most resilient shrubs; once established, it is drought-tolerant. Lavender can be grown on its own (it makes fine low edging) or as a companion plant with roses or other summer-flowering bulbs and herbaceous perennials such as Echinacea, Helianthus, Phlox, Monarda and Rudbeckia. The Lavender variety that we stock, Lavandula Stoechas (Lavandula St. Bella Purple), has grey-green leaves and aromatic foliage with a spectacular show of flowers. To successfully grow lavender, it should best be planted in well-drained soil with full sun. 

Lavenders can complement a wide range of flowers, such as poppy (Lavandula St Bella Purple 2L - £6.69)

Sedum (Stonecrop), another famously resilient species, stores moisture in its thick, succulent, green, golden, purple, or red leaves. Sedum comes in various shades of yellow, white, red and pink and are mainly groundcovering varieties that flower in summer. You can plant it on the roof or even on a vertical wall to take advantage of its insulating properties and colourful appearances. If you want to make the plants bushier use the Chelsea chop, cutting growth back by half or more in May - they will flower a few weeks later.

Sedum Sunsparkler

Sedum Sunsparkler Mixed ( £11.69)

While Astrantia (Masterworts) performs best in moist and slightly acidic, light rich, loamy soils (and their clump-forming shape make good ground cover plants if planted and grown in a group), it can also tolerate drier soils as long as the plants are mulched, placed under partial shade and not baked in summer. Incorporate compost, dried leaves, even used coffee grounds into your soil for more organic nutrients. Coffee grounds will also add enough acidity to the soil for the astrantia to be perfectly happy.

Astrantia Mix Major

 Astrantia Mix Major (£18.99)

Erysimum (Dwarf Wallflower)

Wallflowers like to grow in well-drained soil and full sun. Short-lived but self-seed, a variety like Bowles's Mauveis versatile and performs well in perennial beds, borders, rock gardens and containers. Bowles's Mauve is a bushy evergreen perennial to 75cm, with narrow, dark grey-green leaves and rich mauve flowers 2cm in width; it is shortlisted for the Chelsea Plant of the Centenary for the decade 1973-1982.

Erysimum Bowles Mauve

  Erysimum Bowles Mauve ( £8.29)

Even drought resistant plants need careful watering and groundwork before they are established. On heavy soils, add a mixture of organic matter and grit or sharp sand; on free-draining soils, mix in organic matter. Apply a mulch to reduce surface evaporation, keep the soil cool and keep weeds down. Give plants a good soaking before planting. If the rootball is dry, soak in a bucket. Water early in the mornings and in the evening to reduce evaporation. For water efficient gardening, install a water butt and re-use water from baths and washing up. 

Next article Efficient garden watering for the summer