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Mid-Atlantic Gardening: Drought-tolerant Plants for Xeriscapes

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Explore xeriscape garden design by growing drought-tolerant perennials that thrive in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Russian sage and purple coneflower are drought tolerant.

By Julie Martens Forney

One part of designing a xeriscape landscape is choosing plants that aren’t water guzzlers. Many drought-tolerant plants thrive in the Mid-Atlantic, including beauties Russian sage, purple coneflower, and butterfly bush, above. Once established, this trio of hearty plants survives on rainfall and beckons butterflies, bees, and other pollinators by the dozen. Here are some others you might like:


Agastache. Sometimes referred to as anise hyssop, this drought-tolerant perennial offers the scent and flavor of licorice in leaves and blooms. It keeps right on flowering when temperatures soar and moisture is scarce. Bumblebees, butterflies, and many other pollinators mob agastache when it blooms. Let flower heads remain on plants through winter to add interest and lure goldfinches and native sparrows, which feast on the seeds.


Lavender (Lavandula spp.). A native to the Mediterranean region, lavender is a go-to plant for xeriscape designs. This fragrant herb prefers sharply drained soil on the dry side. Be sure to get lavender that’s hardy in the Mid-Atlantic region such as English and French lavender varieties. Generally, English ‘Hidcote’ lavender is bulletproof. Amend soil with sand, grit, and limestone, plant it in a mound, and use stone mulch. Avoid peat moss and bark mulch, which can lead to crown rot.

Drought-tolerant penstemon and lamb’s ears sparkle.

Lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantina). This fuzzy favorite brings soft texture and steady silver hue to a xeriscape design. Lamb’s ears tolerate drought and grow best with well-drained soil and stone mulch, which doesn’t hold moisture against the crown. Here it’s paired with ‘Husker Red’ penstemon, another drought-tolerant plant perfect for xeriscapes.

Swamp milkweed is surprisingly drought-tolerant.

Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). As the name hints, swamp milkweed grows well in swampy, poorly drained soil. But this native plant also tolerates drought once established. It’s a pollinator magnet, drawing butterflies, bees, and a host of other critters to harvest nectar from its blooms.

All these plants make good companions, and you could use them to create a xeriscape planting area. Water until plants are established. After that they survive on typical Mid-Atlantic rainfall and keep your yard looking great.

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