If you have a patch of garden with dry soil, you may have tried several species without success, but don’t give up on this yard space. A wide variety of tough perennials exist to fill in dry areas. Perennials for dry ground help return life and color to these spaces so that they stop looking so dry and dead.
Your mind may immediately turn to cacti and other succulents. Though these plants are good choices for a dry garden, your yard does not need to end up looking like a desert. Several flowering plants and ornamental grasses thrive under dry conditions.
- Perennials that Grow in Dry Soil
- Reasons for Dry Soil
- How to Plant Perennials for Dry Ground
- White Stonecrop (Sedum album)
- Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
- Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) – A Spiky Drought-Tolerant Perennial
- Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
- English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
- Blanket Flower (Gaillardia x grandiflora) – A Colorful Drought-Tolerant Perennial
- Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’)
- Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis)
- Ice Plant (Delosperma cooperi) – A Vivid Drought-Tolerant Perennial
- Buffalo Grass (Bouteloua dactyloides)
- Ornamental Onion (Allium giganteum)
- Golden Marguerite (Anthemis tinctoria) – A Sunny Drought-Tolerant Perennial
- Sea Thrift (Armeria maritima)
- Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii)
Perennials that Grow in Dry Soil
Fill your yard with drought-tolerant perennials to guarantee a lush, vibrant garden. These hardy plants survive in conditions that would destroy most plants.
Reasons for Dry Soil
It’s possible that your parched earth is sandy or rocky or has a poor soil structure. Alternatively, the ground may not receive much rain or be located under a tree. Depending on your situation, improve water retention by adding organic matter or mulch.
Soil ameliorants like gypsum and lime increase water penetration, while a wetting agent performs a similar role in water-repellent soil. Consider, as well, using a sprinkler on dry soil.
How to Plant Perennials for Dry Ground
If you’re planting from a container, dig a hole that’s two or three times larger than the pot, scooping the earth into two piles. Mix organic matter into one of the piles.
Push some soil back into the hole, insert the plant and more soil, pack it down, then water it. If you have any leftover soil, form a lip around the plant to retain water.
White Stonecrop (Sedum album)
This evergreen ground cover’s dense succulent leaves turn reddish-brown in the fall and winter. From June to August, it boasts masses of tiny, star-shaped white flowers. This sedum is mildly toxic and invasive in some areas.
Place white stonecrop in a rock garden or border, between stepping stones, or along a stone wall. Propagate using division, seeds, or root cuttings.
Choose a full sun location with dry to medium-moisture, average-quality, well-drained sand or gravel. Hardy white stonecrop does not require fertilizer and only needs watering if conditions are dry.
Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
This herbaceous perennial has long, light-green leaves and, from June to August, mauve, white, or pink flowers. Fragrant milkweed hosts monarch butterflies.
It makes an excellent addition to a butterfly garden, while its dried seed pods look striking in a flower arrangement. Propagate common milkweed using root cuttings or seeds. This plant spreads vigorously.
Plant common milkweed in full sun and well-drained soil. Dry or poor soil and clay are all acceptable. Do not fertilize this plant, and only water it in very dry conditions.
Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) – A Spiky Drought-Tolerant Perennial
In July and August, this beauty’s flower spikes change from pale to brilliant blue then back again. Its woody-based branches and lightly scented gray-green leaves grow in clumps.
Russian sage complements white or yellow flowers. Site this drought-tolerant plant in full sun. It survives in poor soil but benefits from fertilizer or compost every other year in late fall.
If you grow Russian sage from seed, you may need to wait four months for germination and several years for flowering. It’s more common to plant it from a container – anytime during the growing season. Keep seeds or a transplanted plant moist.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
On its long stalks, this herbaceous perennial produces fern-like leaves and, from June to September, white or yellow blossoms. Yarrow spreads vigorously and is toxic to dogs, cats, and horses. It also occasionally causes rashes.
Sow yarrow seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the final spring frost. Alternatively, grow it from a container, adding compost. Find a full sun location with well-drained, sandy, dry to medium-moisture clay or loam.
Yarrow handles poor-quality soil but benefits from an annual application of compost to the soil beside it. Like many other drought tolerant plants, it only requires watering if there’s less than one inch of rain per week.
English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
This semi-wooded perennial, native to Mediterranean regions, produces narrow gray-green leaves and bluish-purple, mid-summer blooms. Dried lavender leaves and flowers are common in sachets and potpourri.
A mass of English lavender makes an excellent addition to a border or rock, herb, or scent garden. Propagate it in a sunny spot using stem cuttings.
Plant English lavender in sandy, well-drained, dry to medium-moisture, and slightly alkaline soil. It does not need compost or fertilizer. Though young lavender plants need plenty of water, established plants are drought tolerant.
Blanket Flower (Gaillardia x grandiflora) – A Colorful Drought-Tolerant Perennial
This short-lived perennial bears fiery, daisy-like flowers on and off between mid-summer and fall. It shines as a cut flower and in a container or border, particularly when combined with soft-textured or spiky plants. It attracts hummingbirds.
Sow blanket flower’s seeds in the spring – though the plant may not flower until the following year – or in late summer, then protect the young plant over the winter. You can also grow it from a container.
Full sun and well-drained, poor-quality soil are ideal for blanket flowers. Do not plant them in clay or give them fertilizer. Water them every other day initially, then weekly if it’s very hot and dry.
Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’)
This long-blooming, self-seeding perennial has hairy leaves and yellow, dark-centered flowers. They make excellent cut flowers and complement blue, purple, and other jewel tones.
Start black-eyed Susan seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the final spring frost, keeping them in the fridge for the first four weeks. Alternatively, sow its seeds outdoors once daytime temperatures reach 60°F.
Full sun is best, or otherwise partial shade, and well-drained, not-too-fertile soil. Water the plant well in its first season, and apply compost to the soil nearby.
Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis)
This ornamental grass’s smooth, narrow leaves form an arching mound and turn golden bronze in the fall. In mid- to late summer, it bears strong-smelling pink or brownish flowers.
Use prairie dropseed as a ground cover or border, meadow, or specimen plant. Its small, round seeds do drop to the ground, to be snatched up by birds and other animals.
Prairie dropseed takes about four years to mature if grown from seed, so consider dividing an existing plant in the spring. Plant it in full sun in well-drained, dry, rocky soil, or clay if necessary. This hardy plant benefits from slow-release fertilizer.
Ice Plant (Delosperma cooperi) – A Vivid Drought-Tolerant Perennial
This herbaceous perennial has succulent-like flesh and rich, red-purple summertime flowers. Its tiny hairs reflect light like ice crystals. This plant is invasive in some areas.
Ice plant does best in a desert or rock garden, on a slope, or as a ground cover or edging plant. Propagate its cuttings in full sun and dry, well-drained, neutral soil. Ice plant suffers in moist soil and dense clay.
Plant it by mid-summer in cooler climates and the fall in hot ones. Add compost upon planting and organic fertilizer in the fall. Water the plant at most every other week during the summer, then let it dry out completely before winter.
Buffalo Grass (Bouteloua dactyloides)
This low-maintenance grass’s bluish-green, slightly curly blades form a turf from May to September. Propagate buffalo grass in April or May with seeds, sod, or plugs, which are small seedlings.
Full sun and well-drained soil are the perfect conditions for buffalo grass. Keep the soil moist but not soggy as the plant establishes itself, then give it only a little water each week.
Fertilize the turf in the spring and again in June or July with one pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet. Mow it once a week to two or three inches tall. Since buffalo grass is not a thick grass, it tends to get weeds.
Ornamental Onion (Allium giganteum)
This tall, drought-tolerant perennial bears globes of tiny, star-shaped purple flowers from late spring to early summer.
The blooms make lovely cut flowers, fresh or dried, and combine well with fine-textured plants, like ornamental grasses, as well as with other flowering bulbs. Consider planting a sweeping drift of allium in a bed or border.
Find a patch with full sun and fertile, well-drained, dry or medium-moisture, sandy or gritty soil. Plant ornamental onion in the fall, applying flowering bulb fertilizer.
Golden Marguerite (Anthemis tinctoria) – A Sunny Drought-Tolerant Perennial
This hardy perennial has lacy, chamomile-scented leaves, and golden yellow or white daisy-like flowers in the summer and sometimes the fall. Its mounds work well in beds and borders or as a ground cover for banks and slopes.
Propagate golden marguerite seeds in pots in a cold frame in the spring. Alternatively, use basal cuttings in late spring or early summer.
Select a site with full sun and average-quality, well-drained, dry to medium-moisture soil. Golden marguerite tolerates poor soil and hot, dry conditions. Its water needs are low.
Sea Thrift (Armeria maritima)
This low-lying, slow-growing evergreen boasts clusters of round flowers on wiry stems. The bright pink, red, violet or white flowers work wonderfully in a fresh or dried bouquet. Use sea thrift in a rock garden, perennial bed, or container, or as an edging plant.
Grow it in full sun in the north and part sun in the south. Sow sea thrift seeds in the fall or divide an existing plant in early fall or spring. Well-drained, sandy soil that’s not too moist or fertile is best.
Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii)
In the summer and fall, this shrub bears long masses of pink, purple, red, white, or yellow flowers. Although it does not host butterflies, it does attract them. Butterfly bush is invasive in most of the United States, so look for varieties native to the Southwest.
This plant grows in fertile, well-drained soil and full sun. It needs lots of space and harmonizes with ornamental grasses. Plant butterfly bush in the spring or fall when there’s no frost risk.
Give the plant compost and a thorough watering during planting. Once established, water it in the summer if it rains less than one inch per week. Do not feed your butterfly bush fertilizer.
Though you may have given your dry garden up for lost, do not despair. Dry soil does pose its challenges, but certain plants, from ornamental grasses to flowering shrubs, thrive under these conditions.
Perennials for dry ground bring succulent rosettes, waving grasses, and lush blooms to parched gardens. Choose the varieties that appeal to you and get planting.
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