5 Drought Tolerant Plants in the Northwest

August 19, 2014

Over the course of the year you may feel like the Northwest gets enough rain to ensure any plant can survive. This summer, however, while you were visiting a local park or enjoying a drink outside in the sun you may have seen your normally lush plants go from green to tan.

If watering your landscape has been stuck in the back of your mind and has not exactly lead to action in the yard perhaps give some consideration to drought tolerant plants. Drought tolerant plants are plants that have the ability to thrive under water-stressed conditions. In other words, these types of plants have the ability to survive while being watered fewer times than other plants in similar conditions.

It should be noted, however, no matter what plant, there may need to be supplemental watering after initial planting to ensure the plants roots are established in the soil so it can later withstand drier conditions. The plants profiled here are some of the most vibrant and engaging specimens:


Perovskia atriplicifolia
Perovskia atriplicifolia, Russian Sage

This is a resilient perennial that adds a soothing blue/purple color to a dry garden. It grows to under 4ft and requires little maintenance beyond cutting the plant back in the winter before new growth begins in the spring.


Buxus sempervirens 'Suffruticosa'
Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’, Edging Boxwood

This shrub is one of the mainstays for creating hedges for almost any formal garden. This shrub creates wonderful vegetative barriers because of its noble dark green foliage and low, compact form.  You can also break away from its classic use by using the boxwood in a container as a focal point.  As far as maintenance, this shrub is extremely slow growing so it is easy to keep up with clipping (if it is needed, try to do so once a month from May to August). Note, this shrub does not enjoy full western sun exposure.


Sedum spurium 'Schorbuser Blut'_3
Sedum spurium ‘Schorbuser Blut’, Dragon’s Blood

This intriguing, evergreen succulent covers the ground with a dense mat of bright dark pink flowers come Fall. Along with strong aesthetics, it is suited well for shoving into cracks in the rock and for suppressing weeds. This plant needs little care but be sure to cut to the ground in the fall.


Yucca filamentosa 'Color Guard'
Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’, Adam’s Needle

Strong, sharp, and striped embodies the characteristics of this evergreen shrub. Great for container installations and adding interest to borders, this evergreen shrub also boasts a central stem carrying cream-colored, drooping clustering flowers that can grow up to 6 ft. or more. After dutifully watering for the first two years to help the plant establish its roots, almost no care is needed.


acer circinatum_3
Acer circinatum, Vine Maple

A native to Washington, this tree is a close relative to Japanese maples and is a great fit for smaller, urban gardens as it grows only 10’ to 15’. This tree exhibits interest in many ways. The enticing truck is green when young and tends to grow multiple trunks but the leaves are especially worthy of note because of the intense color change that occurs come fall, from a light green color to bright red/orange. In the sun the tree grows upright and in the shade the branches spread out to cover more space.


Do you have drought tolerant plants in your garden?  If so, what sort of characteristics do they add to your outdoor space?

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