11 Best Drought-Tolerant Shrubs for Your Yard

“I live in California and I would like to bring back the life of my garden. What plants should I include?”

In locations where the scorching heat of the sun is intolerable to most living in the garden, it is imperative to resort to plants that can survive prettily despite the dryness.

This is where drought-tolerant shrubs enter. Why shrubs? Shrubs or bushes are handsome plants that can grow high but littler than a tree so expect it to mature faster.

They will add attraction for the most season and some even bear edible fruits not only for wildlife but to humans as well.

So what are the most amazing Drought-tolerant plants for your xeriscape garden?

Lucky you, if you have never (not even once) missed watering shrubs or you live in a location where regular rainfall comes. Opposite and drought resistant shrubs are for you.

They will flourish gorgeously as if you irrigated them based on the schedule. These drought-tolerant flowering shrubs can give you the garden aura you want to achieve despite little watering.

We've rounded 11 Best Drought-Tolerant Shrubs. Check them out and see if any is for your region. After all, you cannot dictate the sky to pour rain whenever you want to.

1. Japanese tree lilac

Syringa spp
  • Botanical name: Syringa spp.
  • Other names: Syringa
  • Plant type: Deciduous shrub
  • Sun exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • Water frequency: Regular
  • Soil condition: Well draining soil, Average type, Humus rich
  • Size: 5-15 feet
  • Bloom time: Spring, Summer
  • Special feature: Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-7

Lilac (Syringa) is a garden mainstay and a favorite because of its showy flowers that are not just ornamentally beautiful but fragrant as well. It is a flowering drought-resistant shrub that is easy to grow and virtually pest-free except mildew attacks.

Lilac will best bloom under the bright sun with some mulch to keep it moist. The genus includes the common Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) which has the most fragrance among the Syringa species.

Syringa vulgaris tends to grow big, 6 to 16 feet tall and 8 to 12 feet wide, but pruning will keep it in shape and improve the air circulation.

Syringa 'Red Pixie' is another species that is thought to thrive in dry spells. They are dwarf lilac growing 4-6 feet but blooms profusion of flowers in deep to pale pink panicles.

It is one that can repeat bloom provided a good environment. Red Pixie Lilac is also deer-resistant and can endure dry soils.

Another species of Syringa is the Korean Lilac. Syringa meyeri 'Palibin' is one cultivar but has a shorter height of 4-5 feet tall but spreads 5-7 feet wide. Palibin Lilac shows pinkish flowers against dark green, round leaves.

The beautiful shrub is also the recipient of prestigious awards from the Royal Horticultural Society and The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society of Garden Merit and Gold Medal Award respectively.

2. Panicle Hydrangea

Panicle Hydrangea
  • Botanical name: Hydrangea Paniculata
  • Other names: Peegee Hydrangea
  • Plant type: Deciduous shrub
  • Sun exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • Water frequency: Average
  • Soil condition: Well draining soil, Medium moisture, Rich
  • Size: 8-20 feet tall and 6-8 feet wide
  • Bloom time: Summer, Fall
  • Special feature: Attracts butterflies, bees and hummingbirds
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-8

Panicle hydrangea provides all-season interest since it is a summer bloomer but can also last through the harsh winter. They are cold hardy shrub native to China and Japan.

Paniculatas are more drought-tolerant among the species of hydrangea. Tough stems carry green leaves and pretty white ball of flowers when established.

The show of flowers last season to season as this flower adapts by just changing colors. Snowy flowers transform into pale pink and foliage turns scarlet during fall.

Cultivated species worth introducing is Hydrangea paniculata 'Grandiflora'. Grandiflora hydrangea is as grand as its name showing large, conical white flowers each 18 inches long.

It is upright soaring 18-20 feet tall and spreads up to 15 feet. Others consider it a small tree and a tall drought tolerant.

Grandiflora has dark green leaves dashed with yellow tint and these changes to reddish-purple in fall.

One more cultivar considered as the fast-growing drought-tolerant shrub is Hydrangea paniculata 'Vanille Fraise'.

Vanille Fraise hydrangea boosts conical flowers in late summer. The inflorescences appear milky white first but commute to strawberry pink as it ages.

This show lasts for weeks before completely turning bronze in the late season.

Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight' is also a cultivar worth mentioning. It is a drought-tolerant shrub but the most winter hardy in the family.

Dense flowers of lime green to deep pink tops slightly arching stems that can grow and spread 6 to 8 feet.

Like other cultivars with the change of color during fall, the conical blooms fade to brown after the show ends.

3. West Indian Lantana

Lantana camara
  • Botanical name: Lantana camara
  • Other names: Common Lantana, Verbena shrub
  • Plant type: Evergreen shrub
  • Sun exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • Water frequency: Frequent
  • Soil condition: Well draining soil, Slightly acidic
  • Size: 6 feet tall and 8 feet wide
  • Bloom time: Late spring to fall
  • Special feature: Attracts butterflies, bees and hummingbirds
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 8-10

Beach enthusiast? You may have noticed an abundance of flowers from the Lantana genus. Lantana is the common drought tolerant evergreen shrubs you see near seas.

The plant has high salt tolerance and deer resistance perfect as a seaside ornamental plant.

Common Lantana forms into a mound of cheerful flowers in red, orange, yellow, blue or white. Most of the time, each cluster has two colors making it a two-tone pompom.

The gorgeous flower is aromatic too but unpleasant to the majority. However, the foliage will pass smelling citrusy.

A cultivar of Lantana camara called is Lantana camara 'Landmark Citrus'. It is a resilient plant that does not only thrives drought and salt sprays but also deer, heat, and humidity as well.

Landmark Citrus Lantana has bright colors of orange and yellow contrasting the dark green foliage. The plant grows tall and wide as 1 to 2 feet.

Lantana camara 'Landmark Peach Sunrise' has the same optimistic characteristic of the Citrus Lantana but the flowers have the shades of yellow and salmon pink.

Each bloom is about 2 inches and the whole Peach Sunrise Lantana reaches up 2 feet. It is highly toxic if taken orally.

An interesting Lantana is the ones that trail. Regardless of the sprawling habit, botanists consider them as a shrub. Lantana plants are generally tagged as invasive though. A good example is Lantana montevidensis (Trailing Lantana).

This Lantana grows up to 2 feet in height and spreads 3-5 feet wide. The blooms are light lavender-colored with a yellow center.Trailing Lantana blooms year-round in regions where there is no danger of frost.

4. Burning bush

Euonymus alata
  • Botanical name: Euonymus alatus
  • Other names: Winged spindle, Winged euonymus
  • Plant type: Deciduous shrub
  • Sun exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • Water frequency: Regular
  • Soil condition: Well draining soil, Slightly acidic or alkaline
  • Size: 15-30 feet tall and 10-15 feet wide
  • Bloom time: Late spring to early summer
  • Special feature: Attracts birds
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-8

Burning bush has more ornamental value in the leaves presentation than the spring blooms. As a matter of fact, it brings more joy to gardeners during fall after the blooming season.

The large drought resistant bush first exhibits non-showy, green flowers that develop into crimson berries in fall. This fruit has orange seeds inside. When the fallen seeds meet a fertile soil, it may sprout a new plant.

The green foliage transforms into fiery red in the late season. The majestic look of the small tree is linked similar to Moses whom Jesus appeared into in the form of a burning bush (without fire).

This small tree grows twiggy, dense and displays more vibrant under the full, bright sun.

A drought tolerant flowering shrub of Euonymus species is Euonymus atropurpureus (Eastern Wahoo). It is an upright plant reaching 12-20 feet tall and blooms maroon inflorescences in the green backdrop.

In time, the flowers mature to berries carrying red seeds and the foliage turns red in the fall when its show is the most prominent.

Euonymus europaeus 'Red Cascade' (Spindle) can also pass dry spells. It grows 9-10 feet and spread 7-8 feet.

Likewise, it has a dense, all-season color that can be used as your informal hedge or screen. The spindle is a drought-tolerant shrub for zones 4.

The cultivar of the genus shorter in height is the E.fortunei. One of which is Euonymus fortunei 'Emerald Gaiety' (Wintercreeper) that only reaches 5 feet in height.

Wintercreeper has emerald green foliage which is glossy and touched with abstract margins of white. Euonymus fortunei may creep and is considered invasive in some parts of the USA.

5. Wild Privet

Ligustrum vulgare
  • Botanical name: Ligustrum vulgare
  • Other names: Common privet, European privet, Golden privet, Wild privet
  • Plant type: Deciduous or semi-evergreen shrub
  • Sun exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • Water frequency: Occasional
  • Soil condition: Well draining soil, Dry to medium
  • Size: 10-15 feet tall and 8-15 feet wide
  • Bloom time: Summer, fall
  • Special feature: Attracts butterflies
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-8

Common Privet under the genus Ligustrum, is native to Europe that's why it is also called the European privet.

L.vulgare is a deciduous shrub but is semi-evergreen to regions with milder climates. It may tolerate winter temperature and urban pollution but not the soggy environment.

The wild privet is one of the most commonly used shrubs for hedging since it grows dense foliage and can be trimmed to the desired shape and size.

It can bloom flowers that are aromatic but pungent and then develop into blackberries.

The Japanese privet is a species of Ligustrum considered to be a drought resistant shrubs. Scientifically, it is the Ligustrum japonicum which others see as a small tree since it grows up to 12 feet.

L.japonicum is widely popular where there is warmer winter like in its native East Asia. This privet blooms small panicles of white flowers.

Onto other variety of the garden invasive genus, Chinese privet (Ligustrum lucidum) can also endure dry irrigation.

It is also known as the Broad-leaf/Glossy privet because of the foliage characteristics. It grows 15 feet tall as a shrub but can be bred as a tree. Unlike the first two Ligustrum, this is hardy and drought-tolerant shrub to zones 8 and higher.

6. Border Forsythia

Forsythia x intermedia
  • Botanical name: Forsythia x intermedia
  • Other names: Common Forsythia, Golden bells, Border Forsythia
  • Plant type: Deciduous shrub
  • Sun exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • Water frequency: Occasional
  • Soil condition: Well draining soil, Acidic to alkaline
  • Size: 6 to 8 feet tall and 3 to 5 inches
  • Bloom time: Spring
  • Special feature: Attracts bees and butterflies
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-8

Forsythia belongs to the genus of the same name and member of the olive family. It is featured with cheerful yellow flowers before having leaves that aren't too ornamental.

The common forsythia tolerates a slightly humid climate ranging from 55 and 70 degrees but can also be hardy to colder regions.

A cultivar that can tolerate arid conditions and winter temperature of minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit is Forsythia × intermedia 'Sunrise'.

Sunrise forsythia grows compact to 4-6 feet tall but the Forsythia 'Courtasol' GOLD TIDE is much shorter reaching 20 inches.

However, both cultivars bloom yellow flowers and are flowering drought-tolerant shrubs of zones 6-8.

An alternative to the border forsythia that has the same tolerance to drought is the Forsythia 'Happy Centennial'.

While bright yellow flowers are adorned, the buds are more noted for its roughness against the negative temperature of -34 degrees F. It can grow 2-3 feet high and 3-5 feet spread.

7. Bottlebrush

Callistemon spp
  • Botanical name: Callistemon spp.
  • Other names: Bottlebrush tree
  • Plant type: Evergreen shrub
  • Sun exposure: Full sun
  • Water frequency: Moderate
  • Soil condition: Well draining soil, Average
  • Size: up to 15 feet tall and wide
  • Bloom time: Summer
  • Special feature: Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 8-11

Bottlebrush tree is a drought tolerant evergreen shrub contradicting its common name. The flowers are very distinct and can be easily recognized. Callistemons have aromatic inflorescence shaped like bottle cleaners, thus its name. The best show of flowers appears when bottlebrushes receive bright sunlight.

Native to Australia, Callistemons are more at ease in warmer climates. It is a low maintenance shrub, a desert plant actually, but it needs to be protected from harsh frost.

Bottlebrush may be prone to pests if left on standing water. Callistemon citrinus (Crimson Bottlebrush) is a tall drought-tolerant shrub of the Bottlebrush species.

Flower spikes are scarlet while green leaves are citrus in scent. They can grow tall up to 15 feet and hardy to zones 10.

Unlike the usual bottlebrushes that bloom red flowers, Callistemon salignus (White Bottlebrush) produce white flowers.

The variety can tolerate aridity but prefer moist soil. The exquisite charm of the White Bottlebrush has been recognized by the Royal Horticultural Society.

Missing regular irrigation is tolerable too to Callistemon viminalis (Weeping Bottlebrush).

The Weeping bottlebrush has the toughness and fast growth rate of the genus but what makes it different is the red inflorescences that appear to bow or nod. It is a good cultivar of bottlebrush species used for erosion control.

8. Japanese quince

Chaenomeles japonica
  • Botanical name: Chaenomeles japonica
  • Other names: Japonica, Cydonia, Dwarf quince, Maule's quince, and Ornamental Japanese flowering quince
  • Plant type: Deciduous shrub
  • Sun exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • Water frequency: Regular
  • Soil condition: Well draining soil, Moist
  • Size: 2 to 3 feet tall and 3 to 6 feet wide
  • Bloom time: Early spring, Winter
  • Special feature: Deer and rabbit resistant.
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-9

Chaenomeles derived its name from the Greek words 'chaino' meaning "to split" and 'melon' which means "apple" referring to the old belief that its fruits gape on its own.

Japanese quince or Chaenomeles japonica carries the etymology with its native country, Japan.

Red-orange blooms of big flowers appear on thorny stems and these develop into edible fruits after weeks of an abundant showoff.

Cydonia fruits are bitter when eaten fresh from the shrub but turn sweet if left to overripe. These 'apples' still appear even if the Japanese quince experiences a water shortage.

Other Japanese quince varieties that can survive drought are Chaenomeles speciosa 'Moerloosei' (Japanese Quince) and Chaenomeles speciosa 'Kinshiden' (Japanese Quince).

Moerloosei Japanese Quince is a spreader as it reaches 4-15 feet wide. It blooms white and pink flowers that give way to the edible fruit.

While Kinshiden Japanese Quince is a fast-growing drought-tolerant shrub has light green-white double inflorescences.

9. Wintersweet

Chimonanthus praecox
  • Botanical name: Chimonanthus praecox
  • Other names: Wintersweet, Japanese allspice
  • Plant type: Deciduous shrub
  • Sun exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • Water frequency: Regular
  • Soil condition: Well draining soil, Moist, Rich
  • Size: 10 to 15 feet tall and 8 to 12 feet wide
  • Bloom time: Winter to early spring
  • Special feature: Attracts bees; Deer resistant
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 7-9

Wintersweet lives up to its name. They bloom in the winter and are sweetly fragrant. C.praecox is highly praised for enhancing winter garden when most xeriscape plants go dormant. It blooms a bunch of dirty white flowers highlighted by purple inner petals on a leafless branch.

The Japanese allspice can survive winter and drought. But in zone 7 it needs protection from extreme frost. You can try growing it in zone 6 where more meticulous winter protection is needed.

A cultivar that can survive high and low temperatures is Chimonanthus praecox 'Grandiflorus'. It can tolerate arid climates although it is most hardy during winter. The flowers are like butter popcorn eyed with purple center. It grows tall ranging 10-15 tall.

Slightly shorter variety is than Grandiflorus is Chimonanthus praecox 'Luteus'. Luteus blooms yellow flower and the tall drought-tolerant shrub reaches up to 10 feet tall.

Like any other Wintersweet, it takes more than 5 years for it to bloom but absolutely the late stunner.

10. Chinese fringe flower

Loropetalum chinense
  • Botanical name: Loropetalum chinense
  • Other names: Chinese Fringe Bush
  • Plant type: Evergreen shrub
  • Sun exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • Water frequency: Regular
  • Soil condition: Well-draining soil, Acidic, Rich
  • Size: 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide
  • Bloom time: Spring
  • Special feature: Attracts bees and other pollinators; Deer resistant
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 7-9

Chinese Fringe Bush is the full sun drought tolerant shrub that can take droughts when established and still bloom profusely.

Flowers are shaped like witch hazel's but in pink, red or white range Loropetalum chinense is the garden late bloomers but will surprise you of flourishing intermittently throughout the year.

A cultivar producing white, spider-like flowers is Loropetalum chinense 'Carolina Moonlight'. The Loropetalum is both deer and drought-tolerant in zone 8. It has a height of 5-6 feet and spreads as much.

Noted by many fringe flower cultivators for its bold foliage color is Loropetalum chinense 'Ever Red'.

The leaves are burgundy and crimson flowers appear in the blooming season. Ever red Chinese fringe flower can tolerate water shortage once it matures.

11. Siberian pea shrub

Caragana arborescens
  • Botanical name: Caragana arborescens
  • Other names: Siberian pea, Siberian pea tree, Common Caragana
  • Plant type: Deciduous shrub
  • Sun exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • Water frequency: Regular
  • Soil condition: Well-draining soil, Any type
  • Size: 10 to 15 feet tall and 13 feet wide
  • Bloom time: Spring
  • Special feature: Attracts bees
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 2-7

Caragana arborescens is a large shrub or a small tree native to Siberia. It has bright long leaves with 4-6 leaflets branching from woody stems. The flowers are yellowish giving way to seed pods. As it matures it develops into brown.

Siberian pea shrub tolerates adverse conditions like drought and strong winds. Generally, they are low maintenance shrub and are very useful in the garden or native habitat.

Two varieties of the pea shrub known to tolerate the dry climates are Caragana arborescens 'Walker' and Caragana arborescens 'Lorbergii'.

Walker pea shrub has the weeping habit that makes the shrub look like a fountain of green leaves. Foliage is ferny, nodding and pinnately cut.

Walker Caragana has a size of 6x3 feet. While Lorbegii Caragana is upright reaching 9-12 feet. It is hardy and drought-tolerant to zone 2.

Takeaway

Shrubs are pleasant ornaments of the garden. Some are even fast growers and flowering. Knowing that there are drought-tolerant shrubs reassures gardeners of the arid locations to have the lovely xeriscape. 

These shrubs are best planted in the open admired by many and will forgive water shortages willingly.

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