University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Northern Drought Resistant Plants                 OH 73

Dr. Leonard P. Perry, Extension Professor

With as much as 1/3 of the country under drought conditions of various levels recently, and another 1/3 in a drought watch zone, many gardeners are anxious about the impact of this on their gardening and landscapes. There are practices they may follow concerning wise water use and practices, saving or recycling water, and cultural practices. Then there is the choice of plants more resistant to such droughts.

If such droughts aren't too severe, or for too long a period, it may just be best to weather the extreme conditions. Most established herbaceous perennials and woody plants will survive some water stress, just perhaps not growing or flowering as well. But if such a drought in your area is more severe, or frequent, or you're tired of the extra watering even if it is available, tougher plants may be called for. Most such lists to date are for arid climates, such as the southwest, or Texas. Below are a few drought resistant plants you might consider for northern landscapes, but they aren't cactus--they will still need some occasional water, just not as much as many others not listed.

Annuals, Biennials, Bulbs (most spring flowering)


baby's breath (annual)

begonia (wax leaf)




dianthus (annual pink)


dusty miller

flowering tobacco (Nicotiana)

four o'clocks



gloriosa daisy (annual Rudbeckia)



Mexican sunflower (Tithonia)

morning glory

periwinkle (annual vinca)


phlox (annual)

purple fountain grass (Pennisetum)

rose moss (Portulaca)

spider flower (Cleome)

statice (Limonium)


sweet alyssum


zinnia (Profusion series especially)

Perennials, Grasses (G)

USDA hardiness zones will vary with species and cultivar

Achillea (Yarrow)

Agastache (Anise Hyssop)

Alcea (Mallow)

Amsonia (Blue Stars)

Artemisia (Wormwood)

Asclepias (Butterfly Flower)

Baptisia (False Indigo)

Calamagrostis (Feather Reed Grass, G)

Calluna (Heather)

Carex (Sedge, G)

Chrysogonum (Goldenstar)

Coreopsis (Tickseed)

Delosperma (Hardy Ice Plant)

Dianthus (Pinks)

Echinacea (Coneflower)

Erianthus (Plume Grass, 6)

Festuca (Blue Fescue, G)

Fragaria (Strawberry)

Gaillardia (Blanket Flower)

Gaura (Wandflower)

Geranium (sanguineum, Perennial G.)

Gypsophila (Baby's Breath)

Helleborus (Hellebore)

Hemerocallis (Daylily)

Hosta (Plantain Lily, shade)

Lamium (Dead Nettle)

Lavandula (Lavender)

Liatris (Blazing Star)

Lupinus (Lupine)

Miscanthus (Eulalia, G)

Nepeta (Catmint)

Oenothera (Evening Primrose)

Panicum (Switch Grass, G)

Papaver (Poppy)

Pennisetum (Foxtail Grass, G)

Paeonia (Peony)

Penstemon (Beard tongue)

Perovskia (Russian Sage)

Phlox (subulata, Ground P.)

Rudbeckia (Black eyed Daisy)

Salvia (Perennial Sage)

Sedum (Sedum)

Sempervivum (Hens and Chicks)

Stachys (Lamb's Ears)

Thymus (Thyme)

Verbascum (Mullein)

Vinca (Periwinkle)

Yucca (Adam's Needle)

Shrubs, Vines (V) (E=evergreen)

Aristolochia (Dutchman's Pipe, V)

Aronia (Red Chokeberry)

Buddleia (Butterfly Bush)

Campsis (Trumpetcreeper, V)

Caryopteris (Bluemist Spirea)

Chaenomeles (Flowering Quince)

Clematis (Sweet Autumn Clematis, V)

Clethra (Carolina Allspice)

Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster, E)

Cytisus (Scotch Broom, E)

Hamameles (Witch Hazel)

Itea (Virginia Sweetspire)

Juniperus (Juniper, E)

Lonicera (Honeysuckle, V)

Microbiota (Russian Arborvitae, E)

Myrica (Bayberry)

Parthenocissus (Virginia creeper, V.)

Potentilla (Cinquefoil)

Rosa (Rose, many species/shrub types)

Taxus (Yew, E)

Viburnum (dentatum, Arrowwood V.)

Weigela (Old-fashioned Weigela)

Trees (E=evergreen)

White fir (Abies concolor, E)

Box Elder (Acer negundo)

Gray Birch (Betula populifolia)

Cedars (Cedrus, E)

Hackberry (Celtis)

Spruces (Picea, E)

Pines (Pinus, E)

Oaks (Quercus)

Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina)

Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)

White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis, E)

Elms (Ulmus)

Besides the few in this list, you can probably find more at complete garden centers and nurseries. Some of the clues to look for in plants, that help them survive droughts, are:

Return to Perry's Perennial Consumer Page

Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture. Lawrence Forcier, Director, UVM Extension System, Burlington, Vermont. University of Vermont Extension System and U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating, offer education and employment to everyone, without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, and marital or familial status.

Last reviewed 5/02