Upgrade To A Drought-Tolerant Garden The Smart Way

Upgrade To A Drought-Tolerant Garden The Smart Way

5 Easy Steps To Start Drought-Tolerant Gardening

What comes to mind when you think of a garden?

Lush plants with thick foliage? Green lawns? Huge blooming flowers? For most of us, this is what a garden is supposed to look like.

Lately, though, there’s been a fad among gardeners that may challenge our expectations of a typical garden. If you follow a lot of horticulture sites and sources, you may have spotted the term “drought-tolerant gardening” turning up everywhere.

But what does it mean? What does drought-tolerant gardening entail?

In a nutshell, a drought-tolerant garden can flourish and bloom with minimal water. It’s also called a water-wise garden (a term we love) because it encourages exercising smart ways to water less often.

Now, the benefits are apparent. When you use much less water to keep your garden thriving, it brings down your water bill. It needs less maintenance, which is great if you have a busy schedule or a hectic home. Plus, It helps you engage in environmentally friendly water conservation.

The best part is, a drought-tolerant garden doesn’t have to be an eyesore! There’s a diverse selection of fabulous plants and flowers that are drought-tolerant. You can create spectacular drought-tolerant landscape designs, too!

Convinced yet? If you’re all set to get right on this brand-new project, we’ve compiled a few helpful tips on starting and maintaining a drought-tolerant garden.

Interested in a formal course on gardening? Want to get authorized as a gardening specialist? Check into organizations offering classes in floristry and horticulture, like:

  • National Gardening Organization
  • American Floral Endowment
  • American Horticultural Society

Get familiar with your garden

When you’re planning to create a drought-tolerant garden, the very first step you need to take is to get familiar with your garden. Drought-tolerant plants have specific needs that you may need to prep your garden for.

Here are a couple of things you need to know about your garden to be successful at drought-tolerant gardening:

Aspect of your garden. This means the “direction” your garden faces, whether it’s north, south, west, or east. This identifies how much light and shade your garden gets. Make note of distinct spots in your garden that get more sun. Using this, you can group plants together in spaces that get the amount of light they need.

Hardiness zone. Passionate gardeners know that determining your hardiness zone is essential for growing flowering plants! It helps you find the right plants to grow for the climate in your area, as well as the best growing season for them.

Prepare your soil

All gardens need great, healthy soil so they can thrive and blossom. A drought-tolerant garden is no exception! In fact, it needs top-notch soil to sustain itself even with little maintenance. There are a few simple ways to make sure your soil stays in tiptop shape and health.

Here are a few tips for preparing soil for your drought-tolerant garden:

Work compost into your soil. Compost is a must for developing good soil structure. It binds your soil together, which helps it retain moisture and drain away excess moisture. This helps stop root rot and infections. Plus, it enriches your soil with lots of nutrients! To save a few bucks, you can build your own organic compost at home.

Add mulch. Like composting, mulch helps your soil retain water and stops it from evaporating. Mulching about 2-3 inches deep makes a huge impact on boosting soil health. It’s also excellent for weed control. Better yet, you don’t need to spend a lot on it! Dried leaves, fresh grass trimmings, newspapers, or cardboard make good-quality mulch.

Aerate your soil. Consistent aeration has plenty benefits! It opens your soil up to more oxygen, which allows it to root deeper and grow healthier. Even better, it helps prevent water runoff. There are various techniques for aerating your lawn and even your potted plants If you want to save a few bucks on aerators, you can create DIY aerators!

Choose the right drought-tolerant plants.

Not all drought-tolerant plants are created equal. Now that you’ve become well-acquainted with your garden, pick plants that suit your climate, soil type, and garden design. If you’ve already checked your hardiness zone, the next step is to determine your soil type. Take note of your garden’s colors and landscape design.

Here are a few examples of our favorite drought-tolerant plants to give you ideas on which ones to get:


  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Mugo Pine
  • Ninebark
  • Privet
  • Boxwood
  • Bouganvilla
  • Russian Sage
  • Bayberry
  • Butterfly Bush


  • Agaves
  • Aeoniums
  • Euphorbias
  • Little Jewels
  • Sedums
  • Aloes
  • Palms
  • Perennials
  • Perennial Flax
  • Globe Thistle
  • Coral Vine
  • Coneflower
  • Salvia
  • Portucala
  • Poppy


  • Okra
  • Cabbages
  • Leeks
  • Quinoa
  • Peas
  • Carrots
  • Lentils

Ornamental Grasses

  • Switch Grass
  • Feather Reed Grass
  • Maiden Grass
  • Fountain Grass
  • Blue Fescue

Small Trees

  • Bay Laurel
  • Palo Verde
  • Live Oak
  • Bur Oak
  • Cedar Elm
  • Vine Maple
  • Gingko Biloba

Use the right watering techniques


Of course, your drought-tolerant plants still need a good drink so they can thrive! Watering needs vary from plant to plant. But there are a few tactics that you can apply to most of your drought-tolerant plants. These ensure they grow healthy and stay healthy!

Here are a few methods you can use to water your plants or flowers the proper way:

Water on a regular basis until they’re established. Keep in mind: the drought-tolerant part comes after they’ve grown. This means they need regular watering for their first growing season. Water them once each week and be sure the moisture gets to their roots.

Avoid overwatering. True to their name, drought-tolerant plants thrive better with little to no water once they’re established. Research each of your plants’ specific watering needs. A good tip is to water only when the soil is dry and crumbly. Also, make note of how much water they require in different seasons. For example, succulents only need watering once or twice through the entire winter season.

Practice deep watering. Water your plants deeper and less often. Deep watering encourages their roots to keep growing downwards, so they won’t need a lot of water. For instance, most shrubs and perennials need water to about 12 inches deep. Another important tip is to make sure you don’t water their stems, crowns, or leaves. This can result in rotting or fungal infections.

Use drip irrigation equipment. Xeriscaping experts recommend drip irrigation for drought-tolerant gardens. This ensures proper watering delivered right to your plants’ roots. Need to stick to a budget? Create your own drip irrigation system with plastic bottles, PVC pipes, and more! These are quite easy to DIY with a little effort and patience.

Maintain your garden

Of course, the key to a successful garden is to keep it well-maintained! Besides providing your plants or flowers with light and water, here are a few top tips for keeping your garden healthy and lovely:

Reduce fertilizer use. Fertilizers promote rapid growth, which makes plants seek more water and need trimming. This can harm your plants and make them unhealthy. Try to avoid regular fertilizing, particularly during the summer. If you think you need to fertilize, select slow-release fertilizers.

Practice regular weeding. Weeds use up a lot of water that should go to your precious plants instead. So be sure to remove weeds regularly.

Plan your use of colors, textures, and decor. It’s also important to keep your garden looking bright and gorgeous. Get plants with different textures and colors that complement each other. And remember, a little decor never hurts! Get inspiration by checking out this list of drought-tolerant landscaping ideas.

Photo by Judah Guttmann