Master Gardeners offer advice on drought tolerant plants

WELLINGTON COUNTY – Question: I need to cut the amount of watering I do in my perennial garden. Are there any perennials that do not need a lot of water?

Last summer was quite hot and very dry. Many of us spent a lot of time watering plants to keep them going.  

But there are many perennials which will tolerate drought once they are established. 

Newly planted perennials will require watering until they are established, which for most is after the first year.

Many native and Mediterranean plants have adapted to conserve moisture. 

Some have developed deep root systems which can seek and store moisture. 

Others have large leaves that shade their roots and help prevent moisture loss.  

Leaves that have a hairy surface help to retain moisture and keep the plant cool. 

Thick leaves allow the perennial to store moisture. 

All these adaptations are characteristic of drought tolerant plants.

When adding drought tolerant perennials to your landscape, take care to choose the right plant for your light and soil conditions. 

Most drought tolerant plants will grow best if planted in conditions like their native habitats. 

Most of these perennials will not tolerate wet feet and need well drained soil. The right plant will thrive in the right light conditions. Full sun plants need a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight.

Full sun drought tolerant perennials

-Rock Cress;


-Hens and Chicks;


-False Indigo;






-Russian Sage;



-Sedum; and


Semi shade plants need four to six hours of morning or afternoon sunlight; they require shade from the midday sun.

Semi Shade Drought Tolerant Perennials




-Coral Bells;

-Pasque Flower;

-Barren Strawberry;


-Daylily; and

-Solomon’s Seal.

Shade plants can tolerate less than four hours of sunlight preferably morning sun. 

Shade Drought Tolerant Perennials

-Canada Anemone;



-Bigroot Geranium;

-False Solomon’s Seal;

-Hay Scented Fern;

-Male Fern;

-Lady’s Mantle; and


There are many drought tolerant varieties, but the lists provided are easily found in local garden centres. Once established these plants will require very little watering and leave you with more time to enjoy your garden.


Donna Kahn, Guelph-Wellington Master Gardeners