Water Wise Plants
Many of our Southern ornamental plants have an inherent tolerance to dry weather and can survive long periods of limited rainfall. Keep in mind that many plants that are very drought-tolerant don’t like our sticky, compacted clay. Artemesia and Lavender are examples of plants that can literally drown in winter. Always plant them in well-amended soil. It will drain in winter but also allows plants to grow a deeper root system that makes them even more drought-tolerant in the summer.
Below is a listing of ornamental plants known as "Water Wise Plants". All the plants listed here grow well in our north Georgia climate and are excellent choices. No list can ever be complete. If you have tried a plant not listed here that grows well in north Georgia and found it to be very drought-tolerant, send us an email to let us know and we’ll add it to the list.
The plants with an asterik * after their name are some of our personal favorites but they all are easy to grow and low maintenance. The three things to remember about growing healthy annuals are good soil, proper sun exposure, and the right amount of fertilizer.
Angelonia * - resembles a snap dragon flower
Black-eyed Susan Vine (Thunbergia) * - Beautiful and reseeds
Cleome (Spider Flower)
Euphorbia, “Diamond Frost” ***- One of the best- Beautiful!
Gomphrena (Globe Amaranth)
Lantana *- Lots of new colors and growth habits available
Morning Glory Vine
Peppers, ornamental *- beautiful colorful peppers, loves it dry
Portulaca *- The drier the soil, the more beautiful the plant
Purslane (Moss Rose)
Purple Fountain Grass *- Versatile, looks great with anything
Salvia (annual splendens species)
Sunflower *- comes in many beautiful colors
Sweet Potato Vine*- new varieties are more compact
Verbena *- Many colors, very tough and loved by butterflies
Viola *- Winter annual, blooms even in the worst weather
Wax Begonia (shade tolerant also)
Zinnia, Profusion *- Dwarf variety, butterfly magnet
Plants with an asterik* after their name are some of our personal favorites, but they’re all good. Because perennials live for years, it’s important to amend soil well with compost, aged manure, or bagged soil amendments. Doing so will make them even more able to withstand our hot, dry summers. If you carve a small hole in compacted clay, your plants will remind you how unhappy they are every time you look at them.
Agapanthus *- Balls of true blue flowers with strappy leaves
Artemesia *- Hates wet feet, silver foliage adds unique color
Aster *- Blooms in fall, plant these instead of mums!
Autumn Fern*- evergreen for partial to full shade
Back Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)
Catmint *- Tough, beautiful lavender-blue flowers all season
Coneflower (Echinacea) *- Carefree, beautiful flowers
Gaura (Wand Flower) *- exuberant, spiky blooms all summer
Hosta- Needs shade but will thrive amongst thirsty tree roots
Lavender *- Beautiful, never needs watering, smells heavenly
Penstemon hybrids- * Not well known, evergreen with spiky blooms
Salvia (Sage)*- Many versatile types, carefree and easy to grow
Sedum *- From groundcovers to flowering varieties; needs no water
Verbena, Brazilian *- Upright, 3 ft tall species with abundant purple blooms
Ice Plant (Delosperma)
Sedum, creeping varieties
Verbena, Homestead Purple
Shrubs, Flowering, and Evergreen
Always remember that even though a shrub (or tree) may be very drought-tolerant, it will need water and care until it becomes established. Don’t assume you can drop it in the ground and forget about it just because it’s so tough. It takes a few months (at least) for the roots to begin to expand enough to find water and until then, it’s just like it’s still in the pot!
Althea (Rose of Sharon)
Chaste tree (Vitex)
Cryptomeria, dwarf varieties
Holly (Ilex cornuta- Chinese species; Ilex crenata- Japanese species)
Juniper, all species
Ornamental Grasses, all types
Sweet Shrub- native
Wax Myrtle- native
Water well until established. The amount of water needed depends on the time of year, type of tree (evergreen or deciduous) and soil type. The trees listed here are extremely drought-tolerant and able to withstand long periods of no rain once established. There are trees not listed here that have some degree of drought-tolerance but we chose to only list the ones that we feel are the best and least likely to show signs of drought stress.
Bald Cypress- native
Cherry Laurel- native
Eastern Redbud- native
Fringe Tree or Grancy Graybeard- native
Southern Magnolia- native