Low-Water Garden Plan

No matter where you live, it's inevitable that plants will take defeats in the middle of July. Count on this easy-care garden to stay looking good through dry spells.

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A dry garden spot calls for plants that are experts at gathering and using water. Nature outfitted drought-tolerant plants with a host of special features for survival. Stonecrop's (Sedum spp.) succulent leaves store excess water. Lamb's-ears' fuzzy leaf covering slows evaporation.

A few weeks of watering right after planting is the only supplemental water this drought-tolerant garden requires. Once its roots are established, it will maintain its good looks through extended dry spells. Stocked with low-maintenance plants that thrive in full sun and dry, well-drained soil, the garden looks good from spring to fall, thanks to a bevy of textures and long-blooming flowers.

There are many places to plant this low-water wonder. A sunny spot near your home's foundation, along your driveway, or the streetside strip of grass in front of your home are all good choices. Be sure to choose a site that receives at least eight hours of direct sun a day and has quick-draining soil.

Ornamental grasses and shrubs form the bones of the garden and frilly perennials fill in the gaps. Because most grasses are drought-tolerant, use your favorites. Choose feather reedgrass for an upright, stately look or maidengrass, with its arching, silvery plumes, for a more romantic appearance.

Our free Planting Guide for this garden includes an illustrated version of the garden, a detailed layout diagram, a list of plants for the garden as shown, and complete instructions for installing the garden. (Free, one-time registration allows unlimited access to Planting Guides for all garden plans.)

Garden Size: 10 x 16 feet

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Plant List

  • 4 Crested iris (Iris cristata): Zones 4–10
  • 3 Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima): Annual
  • 3 Sedum 'Autumn Joy': Zones 3–10
  • 2 Feather reedgrass (Calamagrostis × acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'): Zones 5–9
  • 1 Variegated redtwig dogwood (Cornus alba 'Elegantissima'): Zones 2–9
  • 3 New England aster (Aster novae-angliae 'Alma Pötschke'): Zones 4–8
  • 1 Spurge (Euphorbia characias): Zones 7–11
  • 1 Money plant (Lunaria annua): Zones 5–9; biennial*
  • 3 Lady's mantle (Alchemilla mollis): Zones 4–7
  • 1 Spotted deadnettle (Lamium maculatum 'White Nancy'): Zones 3–8
  • 2 Shrubby dusty miller (Brachyglottis compacta): Zones 8–11
  • 3 Stonecrop (Sedum cauticola 'Ruby Glow'): Zones 5–9
  • 1 Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii 'Rose Glow'): Zones 4–8
  • 3 Michaelmas daisy (Aster novae-belgii 'Lassie'): Zones 4–8
  • 1 Silver Carpet Lamb's-ears (Stachys byzantina 'Silver Carpet'): Zones 4–8

Drought-Tolerant Design Tips

With some clever design tricks, you can reduce the amount of water you need to pour onto your landscape.

Group plants according to water needs. Create an oasis zone close to the house (and water source) for thirsty plants. Group plants that need only occasional watering farther out. Place the most self-sufficient plants at the perimeter of the property.

Reduce lawn. Replace thirsty lawn grasses with beds and borders of ornamental grasses, low-water groundcovers, and droughttolerant perennials and shrubs.

Create shade. Plant trees that have a high canopy and cast dappled shade. Or construct a lattice house, pergola, or other structure that casts shade.

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