Drought tolerant shrubs are a must for gardens in areas that experience dry conditions. In this post, we’ll explore colorful, low-maintenance shrub options that will thrive even when the rain stops.
Whether you want a splash of color, privacy screening, or ground cover, there are drought-tolerant shrubs to suit your needs from the perennials like Russian sage and butterfly bush to evergreens like juniper and barberry. So if you want shrubs that flourish with less water, you’re in the right place!
JUMP TO TOPIC
- Drought Tolerant Shrubs For a Splash of Color in Summer
- 1. Russian Sage
- 2. Butterfly Bush
- 3. Juniperus Squamata
- 4. Japanese Barberry
- 5. Lantana
- 6. Smoke Tree
- 7. Blue Mist Shrub
- 8. Blue Sage
- 9. Dwarf Burford Holly
- 10. Dwarf Yaupon Holly
- 11. Dwarf Nandina
- 12. Dwarf Wax Myrtle
- 13. Dwarf Bottlebrush
- 14. Crepe Myrtle
- 15. Purple Leaf Sand Cherry
- 16. Red Twig Dogwood
- 17. Cranberry Bush Viburnum
- 18. Witch Hazel
- 19. Desert Willow
- 20. Golden Mop Cypress
- 21. Heavenly Bamboo
Drought Tolerant Shrubs For a Splash of Color in Summer
1. Russian Sage
Russian Sage is a perennial shrub known for its drought tolerance and drought-tolerant flowers. The leaves are gray-green and narrow, providing an airy texture to gardens. The fragrant purple flowers bloom in the summer heat and attract beneficial insects like bees and butterflies. These flowers fill the air with an aromatic fragrance.
Russian Sage tolerates hot, dry conditions once established and requires little water. The shrub thrives in poorly drained soils and is able to withstand long periods without water. In late winter and early spring, gardeners should prune spent flower stalks back to the basal foliage to encourage fresh new growth for the upcoming growing season. This helps prolong the shrub’s flowering capabilities over multiple years.
2. Butterfly Bush
Butterfly bush produces abundant powdery-blue flowers that attract various species of butterflies. These aromatic blossoms appear on tall arching branches above simple dark green leaves. Butterfly bush requires minimal care once established, thriving with little pruning and infrequent watering. As a result, the fast-growing shrub quickly forms a large hedge or screening plant. Butterfly bush prefers full sun and well-drained soil for optimal growth.
To maintain an attractive shape and encourage thicker growth, gardeners typically prune butterfly bush branches right after the final spring bloom. This removal of spent flower stalks stimulates additional flowering for the next growing season. The butterfly bush’s hardy nature, easy care requirements, and ability to attract countless winged visitors make it a favorite addition to gardens everywhere.
3. Juniperus Squamata
Juniperus squamata, commonly known as single-seed juniper, is an attractive evergreen conifer shrub prized for its foliage color and drought tolerance. The single-seed juniper grows into a dense, compact, mounded form, typically reaching heights between three to four feet. Its scale-like blue-gray needle leaves provide winter interest as well as drought-tolerant ground cover.
This adaptable shrub thrives in hot, dry conditions once established, requiring minimal supplemental watering. The single-seed juniper’s small stature and dense habit make it a good choice for planting in rock gardens, accenting foundations, and filling narrow spaces. Little pruning is needed besides the occasional shaping of mature shrubs.
Single seed juniper’s natural form, hardiness, and waterwise nature allow it to adapt to a wide variety of landscapes with ease, enhancing gardens and yards with its subtle blue coloring year-round.
4. Japanese Barberry
Japanese barberry is a deciduous shrub that is prized for its colorful foliage, attractive flowers, and persistent berries. In spring, as the leaves emerge, the branches appear covered in bright red or purple foliage that eventually fades to green by summer. Clusters of yellow flowers bloom at this time, followed by the development of red berries that persist through winter.
The arching branches grow to form a shrub approximately three to five feet tall with an equal spread. Regular pruning right after flowering helps maintain a compact, dense form and prevents legginess. Japanese barberry is tolerant of hot, dry conditions as well as moderately salty soils, making it a versatile landscape plant.
The shrub’s year-round visual appeal, low maintenance requirements, and adaptability to various soil and climate conditions have allowed Japanese barberry to become a popular addition to modern gardens and landscapes. When planted in mass, the profusion of colorful berries provides winter interest and attracts songbirds seeking food sources during colder months.
Lantana is an evergreen shrub prized for its vibrant flowers that bloom continuously throughout the growing season. Depending on the cultivar, the rounded clusters of lantana flowers can be found in a range of colors, including yellow, orange, pink, and red. The lantana shrub has a rounded, spreading form, typically growing to three to four feet tall and wide.
Lantana is both deer resistant as well as drought-tolerant, thriving with infrequent watering once established. Pruning the shrub right after flowering encourages fuller, denser growth for the following year. Lantana’s nonstop color, low-maintenance nature, and adaptability make it a favorite plant for landscapes and gardens. Lantana shrubs provide a splash of color all year long and require minimal effort to thrive.
Their ability to flourish with infrequent water and withstand harsh conditions offers gardeners an option for a hassle-free addition with continuous visual appeal. Lantana’s durability and colorful flower display have allowed the plant to become a staple option for modern gardens of all sizes.
6. Smoke Tree
The smoke tree is a large deciduous shrub or small tree valued for its showy display of frothy white flowers in spring. Clouds of panicle hydrangea-like blossoms completely cloak the branches, giving rise to the shrub’s common name. The fragrant white flowers appear before the dark green leaves in spring, covering the branching framework in a hazy mist that resembles a cloud of smoke.
Once the leaves have fully emerged, gardeners can prune off the spent flower stems to maintain an attractive shape for the rest of the growing season. Smoke trees respond well to regular pruning and shearing, which can help keep them at a manageable size. The aptly named smoke tree offers a dramatic and ethereal flowering display in early spring, providing crucial nectar for foraging pollinators.
Once the blooms fade, its smooth olive-green leaves provide architectural form until fall. Smoke trees’ ability to thrive in various landscape conditions and their brief but spectacular floral performance have made them an appreciated addition to larger gardens and properties.
7. Blue Mist Shrub
The blue mist shrub is an arching deciduous shrub prized for its pyramidal form, blue-grey foliage, and masses of petite white flowers. Narrow holly-like leaves with toothed edges line evenly spaced stems, covering the plant and providing a dusting of silver coloring to the garden in spring and summer. Clusters of fragrant white flowers appear in late spring and linger into early summer.
The blue mist shrub’s leaves emerge bronze-purple in color in spring before fading to a blue-grey tone as they mature. In winter, pruning the branches back to the desired size helps maintain a compact, low-mounded shape for the following growing season. This adaptable shrub thrives in various landscape conditions, tolerating both heat and drought well once established.
The blue mist shrub’s structural form, airy foliage, and neat architectural shape provide appealing garden accents from spring through fall. Its low water and upkeep demands make the shrub a practical addition to modern gardens despite its intrinsic visual appeal.
8. Blue Sage
Blue sage is an aromatic evergreen perennial shrub prized for its grayish-green foliage and abundant lavender flowers in summer. The fragrant blossoms attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and other beneficial pollinator insects. The twiggy, branching habit of blue sage forms a dense, bushy mound that grows to about two to three feet tall and wide. Infrequent pruning after flowering encourages denser, fuller growth of new branches the following year.
Blue sage is tolerant of heat, humidity, and dry soil conditions once established, requiring little supplemental watering. Blue sage’s cheerful summer blossoms, wonderful fragrance, and low maintenance needs make it an ideal addition to perennial borders, herb gardens, and landscape designs.
Though small in stature, blue sage has a big impact through its long blooming display and ability to attract beneficial wildlife to the garden. With its neat rounded form, aromatic foliage, and tolerance to various conditions, blue sage offers gardeners an adaptable, low-fuss shrub with high visual appeal.
9. Dwarf Burford Holly
Dwarf Burford holly is a graceful evergreen shrub valued for its dense, compact form, spiny holly leaves, and colorful berries. Its mounded shape typically grows to a height between two to four feet, making it well suited for planting alongside foundations, in borders, and for use in compact hedges. Clusters of small yellow flowers appear in spring and give way to bright red berries that persist through winter, providing valuable forage for birds.
The spiny, holly-like leaves provide texture and year-round foliage to the landscape. Dwarf Burford holly requires little pruning besides the occasional shaping up of mature shrubs. Once established, this low-maintenance holly tolerates hot, dry conditions and does well in drought-prone areas. Dwarf Burford holly’s ornamental greenery, colorful foliage, and abundant berries provide visual appeal across multiple seasons.
Its low water and care needs make Dwarf Burford holly a practical choice for foundation plantings, courtyard gardens, and smaller landscapes where its structural form and seasonal interest provide impact beyond its stature.
10. Dwarf Yaupon Holly
Dwarf yaupon holly is a graceful evergreen shrub appreciated for its small stature, ornamental holly leaves, flowers, and berries. The dense, compact form typically grows to three to four feet tall and wide, making it well-suited as a hedge plant or foundation shrub. Small clusters of white flowers appear in spring and give way to abundant purplish-black berries that provide valuable forage for birds through the winter months.
The spiny, holly-like leaves remain on the branches throughout the year, offering visual interest and foliage texture regardless of season. Dwarf yaupon holly requires minimal pruning beyond the occasional shaping of mature shrubs. Once established, this low-maintenance holly is remarkably drought-tolerant and thrives in hot, dry climates.
Dwarf yaupon holly’s year-round decorative greenery, ornamental spring flowers, and colorful winter berries provide visual appeal across all seasons despite its diminutive stature. Its ability to withstand neglect and flourish with infrequent watering makes dwarf yaupon holly an excellent choice for low-maintenance landscapes where its dense, structural form and seasonal interest provide year-round impact.
11. Dwarf Nandina
Dwarf nandina is a compact evergreen shrub appreciated for its bamboo-like foliage, rounded form, and bright winter berries. Arching stems are clad with foliage that emerges reddish before maturing to a bluish-green color. In winter, the ornamental foliage is accented by an abundance of bright red berries that persist into spring.
The dense, mounded shape typically grows two to four feet tall, making dwarf nandina well suited for use as a low hedge, border plant, or groundcover. This hardy shrub tolerates drought, heat, and sandy or salty soil conditions once established, requiring little supplemental watering. Dwarf nandina offers ornamental foliage appeal year-round while also providing valuable forage for birds through its winter berries.
The shrub’s low maintenance needs, rounded form, and ability to thrive in a range of landscapes have allowed dwarf nandina to become a staple landscape plant for smaller gardens and spaces. Dwarf nandina’s neat, compact habit and tolerance of neglect provide structure and visual interest beyond its diminutive stature — all while requiring minimal upkeep from gardeners.
12. Dwarf Wax Myrtle
Dwarf wax myrtle is a compact evergreen shrub appreciated for its fragrant oval leaves, reddish-brown exfoliating bark, and ornamental berries. Tiny white flowers in spring give way to purple-black fruit in fall that persists into winter, providing valuable forage for birds. The dense, mounded form typically grows two to four feet tall, making dwarf wax myrtle well suited for use as a low hedge, groundcover, or accent plant.
The aromatic, holly-like leaves are resistant to deer browsing and provide textural appeal year-round. Once established, this low-maintenance shrub is remarkably drought-tolerant and thrives in hot, humid climates with minimal supplemental watering.
Dwarf wax myrtle’s decorative foliage appeal, ornamental winter berries, and low water needs make it an ideal choice for areas with poor or compacted soil where other plants struggle. Its rounded habit, resistance to deer, and ability to withstand neglect and harsh conditions provide structure and visual interest beyond its diminutive stature.
The year-round ornamental value provided by dwarf wax myrtle’s foliage, bark, and berries, paired with its practical, low-fuss nature, have allowed this fragrant evergreen shrub to become a staple in modern coastal gardens and landscapes.
13. Dwarf Bottlebrush
The dwarf bottlebrush is a compact deciduous shrub appreciated for its bottlebrush-like flowers, small stature, and low maintenance requirements. Bright red or coral flowers appear in mid to late summer and attract hummingbirds to feed on the abundant nectar. The narrow green foliage provides a backdrop for the showy blooms and remains attractive after flowering.
The dense, rounded form typically grows only three to four feet tall and wide, making dwarf bottlebrushes well suited for use as an accent or hedging plant. This hardy shrub is both drought tolerant and pest resistant once established, requiring minimal pruning and care beyond the occasional shaping of mature specimens.
Dwarf bottlebrush offers a pleasing floral display in summer by producing an abundance of vivid red blooms that are visually dynamic and attract beneficial pollinators to the garden. Its compact, neat habit and tolerance of neglect allow dwarf bottlebrush to thrive in smaller landscapes where its seasonal color and structural form provide impact beyond its diminutive stature.
With its low water and upkeep demands paired with high visual appeal, dwarf bottlebrush offers modern gardens an attractive, practical plant able to flourish with minimal fuss.
14. Crepe Myrtle
Crepe myrtle is a deciduous shrub or small tree prized for its exfoliating bark, bright summer flowers, and ornamental foliage. Various cultivars produce flowers in white, pink, red, and purple hues. The glossy dark green leaves on neatly rounded branches provide year-round visual appeal.
Crepe myrtles are exceptionally hardy, drought-tolerant plants that resist most pests and diseases once established. Minimal pruning is required beyond removing occasional dead or diseased wood. The ornamental peeling bark combined with the profusion of colorful summer blooms offers attractive seasonal interest, while the rounded shape and foliage provide structure and year-round visual appeal.
Crepe myrtle’s low maintenance needs and ability to thrive with minimal water in hot, dry climates have allowed this versatile shrub to become a staple for modern gardens. Whether planted in groupings, as accent plants, or used as low hedges, dwarf crepe myrtles offer a pleasing combination of colorful flowers, decorative bark, and structural foliage while requiring little upkeep from gardeners.
15. Purple Leaf Sand Cherry
Purple leaf sand cherry is a deciduous shrub appreciated for its dark purple foliage, cascades of white flowers, and ornamental fruit. As temperatures rise in spring, the color of the newly emerged foliage deepens from bronze-purple to a vivid purple hue that is sustained throughout the growing season. Clusters of white flowers in spring give way to small red cherries in summer that provide valuable forage for birds.
Purple leaf sand cherry offers warm season visual appeal through its ornamental purple foliage that provides striking color contrast in the landscape. While primarily planted for its decorative leaves, the cascading white blooms and colorful fruit also contribute to seasonal interest.
Purple leaf sand cherry’s neat rounded form, ability to thrive with neglect, and low maintenance needs paired with its high visual impact have allowed this rugged yet attractive shrub to become a popular addition to modern gardens.
16. Red Twig Dogwood
Red twig dogwood is a deciduous shrub prized for its red-branched skeleton, clusters of white flower panicles, and ornamental berries. In spring, the arching red stems that give this shrub its name are cloaked in a profusion of white flowers that transition into white berries, which persist through winter and provide valuable forage for birds.
The vibrantly hued branches remain prominently on display long after their leaves have fallen, providing striking winter interest and a splash of color to the dormant landscape. Red twig dogwood offers year-round visual appeal through its architectural red branches, ornamental spring flowers, and colorful winter berries.
While primarily planted for the stunning color of its stems, the seasonal display of blooms and fruit also contributes to its value as a landscape plant. Red twig dogwood’s ornamental structure, ability to withstand neglect, and low maintenance requirements paired with its distinctively hued, maroon branches have allowed this rugged yet visually compelling shrub to become a mainstay in modern naturalized and native gardens.
17. Cranberry Bush Viburnum
Cranberry bush viburnum is a deciduous shrub appreciated for its profusion of cranberry red fruits that persist through winter, clusters of white spring flowers, and ornamental leaves and forms. Arching branches lined with glossy dark green leaves form an oval-shaped canopy that typically grows six to eight feet tall and wide at maturity.
Clusters of white flowers appear in spring and transition into ornamental fruit that provides valuable forage for birds through fall and winter. Cranberry bush viburnum thrives in average to moist soil but tolerates periods of drought once established, requiring minimal pruning and care.
Cranberry bush viburnum’s medium size, neat rounded habit, and ability to thrive with neglect, paired with its high visual impact from fruit, flowers, and foliage, have allowed this rugged yet attractive shrub to become a staple in modern ornamental gardens.
18. Witch Hazel
Witch Hazel is a multi-stemmed deciduous shrub valued for its fragrant yellow flowers that bloom in winter, providing color during the dormant season. Depending on the cultivar, witch hazel will produce blooms anytime from late fall through early spring.
Witch hazel offers invaluable winter interest through its abundant cheerful yellow blooms that perfume the chilled winter air with their sweet fragrance. While primarily planted for its out-of-season floral display, witch hazel’s branching structure and arching form also contribute to its year-round visual appeal.
Witch hazel’s ability to thrive with neglect, wide winter bloom time, and low maintenance requirements, coupled with its distinctively sculptural branching habit, have allowed this versatile shrub to become a prized addition for modern ornamental and native gardens alike.
Witch hazel’s cheerful yellow flowers brighten up gloomy winter landscapes with their sweet fragrance permeating the cold air for months. The shrub’s multi-stemmed arching habit and irregular branching pattern offer visual appeal even when not in bloom.
The sensory experience of sight and smell provided by witch hazel through its cheerful yellow flowers and sweet fragrance makes it an invaluable asset to winter gardens. Combined with its tolerance of neglect and versatile branching form, witch hazel is able to thrive effortlessly in both ornamental and naturalistic landscapes.
19. Desert Willow
Desert willow is a large, airy deciduous shrub appreciated for its finely textured foliage, profuse spring through summer blooms, and sculptural form. Arching canes lined with fern-like leaves are cloaked with puffs of white to yellow flowers from spring through summer, providing an extended display of color. The fountain-shaped form typically grows into an open, arching structure reaching heights between 10 to 20 feet at maturity.
Desert willow thrives in hot, dry climates and alkaline soil once established, requiring minimal supplemental watering and pruning. Desert willow offers seasonal interest through its decorative fern-like foliage and profusion of spring and summer flowers. While primarily planted for its abundant blooms, desert willow’s airy, sculptural form and arching branches also contribute to its visual appeal throughout the year.
Desert willow’s ability to withstand hot, dry conditions once established, vast bloom period, and low maintenance requirements paired with its distinctively weeping canopy has allowed this rugged yet graceful shrub to become an iconic addition for arid landscape designs focused on structure, texture, and seasonal color alike.
20. Golden Mop Cypress
Golden mop cypress is a compact evergreen conifer shrub valued for its gold-tinted foliage and rounded form. This pest and disease-resistant shrub rarely suffers from issues besides occasional pruning to maintain its shape.
Golden mop cypress provides year-round visual appeal through its ornamental golden needles that lend a splash of color to the landscape regardless of the season. While primarily planted for the warm hue of its needles, the golden mop cypress’s dense, rounded habit also contributes to its ornamental value.
Golden mop cypress’s small size, tolerance of neglect, and pest resistance coupled with its distinctive tinted foliage have allowed this eye-catching evergreen to become a staple for compact gardens and landscape designs focused on ornamental conifers.
Planted en masse, golden mop cypresses provide an impactful textural garden accent while requiring minimal upkeep from the gardener. The bright golden needles brighten otherwise drab areas, turning them into spots of visual interest for passersby and garden owners alike.
Golden mop cypress’s ornamental value comes from both its bright golden needles and dense rounded habit. With virtually no pest issues and a tolerance for benign neglect, these compact, low maintenance evergreen shrubs bring a splash of color to small gardens and landscapes year-round while blending effortlessly into the design.
21. Heavenly Bamboo
Heavenly bamboo is an evergreen shrub appreciated for its long, gracefully arching canes, finely textured foliage, and dense, tangled form. The thread-like leaves can be green, variegated, or purple, depending on the cultivar. Once established, this low-maintenance shrub requires minimal pruning, watering, and fertilizing.
Heavenly bamboo offers year-round visual appeal through its ornamental canes and foliage that provide structure, texture, and a dusting of color to the landscape without interruption. While primarily planted for its distinctive arching canes and ornamental foliage, heavenly bamboo’s ability to form an impenetrable living screen also contributes to its desirability as a landscape plant.
Heavenly bamboo’s tolerance of neglect, dense habit, and versatile usage as either a specimen or privacy plant paired with its ornamental foliage has allowed this eye-catching evergreen to become a staple for modern gardens in need of a compact, low-maintenance hedge or privacy screen.
These shrubs thrive with little water once established, and many are heat and pest resistant. With minimum care, these shrubs will add color and texture to your yard all year round.
- Heavenly bamboo is an evergreen shrub appreciated for its long, gracefully arching canes, finely textured foliage, and dense, tangled form.
- Dwarf yaupon holly is a graceful evergreen shrub appreciated for its small stature, ornamental holly leaves, flowers, and berries.
- Juniperus squamata, commonly known as single-seed juniper, is an attractive evergreen conifer shrub prized for its foliage color and drought tolerance.
Choosing the right shrubs for your conditions and preferences will ensure you enjoy long-lasting color and visual interest even in hot, dry weather. So go ahead and pick a few drought-tolerant shrubs to add some pop to your landscape this summer!