Courtney Potter Photography

When you hear the term drought-tolerant plants, the first examples that may come to mind are cacti and succulents. Luckily, there are more lively shrubs and blooming vines that require less water and maintenance, as well. That’s a boon to your retail and landscape customers. To add more color to your water-wise inventory, we asked growers who specialize in drought-tolerant plants to recommend underused plants that deserve more appreciation.

Stephen Rubin of Altman Plants in Vista, Calif., suggests the following:

Scientific name: Polygala fruticosa 'Petite Butterfly'

Common name: 'Petite Butterfly' sweet pea shrub

Description: Continuously blooming, round and compact shrub with magenta to purplish pea-like flowers and gray-green foliage. Sweet pea shrub is a coastal species that tolerates dry cycles and seaside conditions. Once established, it can thrive on limited water in well-drained soil. Can be used as a long-lasting cut flower. Winter pruning is encouraged to maintain a desirable shape and plant vigor. It grows up to 2-3 feet high and 2-3 feet wide. Attracts bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

Hardiness: USDA Zone 9

Water usage: Occasional to medium

Scientific name: Hesperaloe parviflora

Common name: Red yucca

Description: Drought tolerant when established, this plant is native to the Chihuahuan Desert of west Texas into northeastern Mexico. The leathery long, narrow blue-green leaves have deep grooves and white fraying fibers along the margins, and winter temperatures sometimes turn the foliage slightly purple. In midsummer the clusters of rose-pink flowers are borne on tall red flower stalks to 5 feet. These flowers are quite attractive to hummingbirds. Plant in full sun or light shade in well-drained soil. It is drought tolerant but appreciates occasional irrigation in summer to encourage flowering. It grows to 3-4 feet high and 2-4 feet wide.

Hardiness: Zone 7

Water usage: Occasional (at most)

Scientific name: Euphorbia x martinii 'Ascot Rainbow'

Common name: 'Ascot Rainbow' spurge

Description: With this spurge, expect a stunning display of variegated narrow grayish-green leaves with yellow edges that change color as you progress up the stem of the plant. Upper leaves tend to yield a pink to reddish tinge in cooler weather. In warmer areas, year-round color will persist and change with the seasons. Will tolerate heat and drought and is deer and rabbit proof. Grows 18-24 inches high and wide.

Hardiness: Zone 6

Water usage: Occasional

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Left: Altman Plants

Leigh Schaffer of Village Nurseries in Orange, Calif., suggests the following:

Scientific name: Mahonia 'Soft Caress'

Common name: ‘Soft Caress’ mahonia

Description: Moderate-growing evergreen shrub, grows up to 3 feet tall by 4 feet wide. This unique selection is a thornless variety that features slender, upright-growing branches clad with narrow, medium to dark-green, bamboo-like foliage that is ideal for adding a texture contrast to shadier parts of the garden. This attractive foliage is accented with upright-growing spikes of showy, bright-yellow flowers that create an eye-catching display from fall into winter. Adding further appeal to this unique variety are the large clusters of silvery-blue berries that appear after flowering. Well-suited as a foundation, border or mass planting and is a popular choice for Asian-themed gardens, as well as making a good containerized specimen. It prefers a rich, well-drained soil, and while this variety requires little water once fully established, ample water should be provided during its first initial year of growth. It thrives in a partial shade to shade exposure.

Hardiness: Zones 7a-11

Water use: Low water once established

Sunset Western
Garden Collection

Scientific name: Lomandra longifolia ‘Roma13’

Common name: Platinum Beauty lomandra

n: Evergreen, grass-like perennial with a low mounding habit. Soft green leaves banded in a cream white. It looks best in full sun to partial shade. Once established, it requires little water. Use as a slope groundcover, container specimen or in a mixed border. Very low maintenance.

Hardiness: Zones 8-10

Water use: Low water once established

TreeTown USA

Scientific name: Callistemon viminalis ‘Neon Pink’

Common name: Bottle Pop Neon Pink bottlebrush

Description: Fast-growing evergreen shrub, grows 5-6 feet tall and wide. This unique, pink-blooming variety features all the durability and splendor of its full-sized cousins, but in a more compact-growing, easier-to-manage size. Lance-shaped, grayish-green foliage is accented with abundant, bottlebrush-like, neon-pink flowers that appear throughout the warmer months of the year, or nearly year-round in mild climates. A favorite for bees and butterflies and makes a good cut flower. Floriferous and heat-loving, this attractive variety takes well to pruning and is well-suited as an accent, border or hedge, as well as making a good container specimen. It prefers a well-drained soil, requires little water once fully established, and thrives in a full sun exposure.

Hardiness: Zones 8-11

Water use: Low water once established

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