8 Drought Tolerant Plants to Grow in New York

Drought tolerant plants can survive dry spells and make your garden look beautiful. Which ones should you consider growing?

Drought is a risk that every gardener must face. With changing weather patterns, planting species that can handle dry conditions has become even more crucial. Some plants that can survive in prolonged dry spells can keep your garden looking beautiful.

The following information lists drought-tolerant plants that should grow under dry conditions.

1. Smooth Alder

The smooth alder (Alnus serrulata) is a small deciduous tree that can endure New York’s cold temperatures and grows to 10 to 15 feet tall. Its natural habitats include bogs and stream banks, and it grows and flourishes in direct sunlight.

Slender, green male flowers and red female blossoms mature in late winter. The alternating leaves have hairy undersides and serrated, scalloped edges. The bark is smooth and gray-brown, with a fluted appearance. 

slender and green smooth adler

2. Sweetfern

Sweetfern (Comptonia peregrina) has a compact, dense, and uniform growth pattern. It consistently produces blue-tinged dark green delicate leaves and has a pleasant scent most apparent on warm, sunny days.

Sweetfern can be used in large groupings in a landscape, and it makes an excellent foundation plant. A typical sweetfern height ranges from 24 to 47 inches, and the fine-textured leaves complement coarser shrubs.

The shrub is appreciated for its ability to thrive in dry, sandy, and barren soil, even when subjected to full sun. 

yellowish leaves of Sweetfern plant

3. Butterfly Weed

Asclepias tuberosa, also known as butterfly weed, is drought resistant thanks to its deep taproot. Its flowers provide an abundant supply of nectar for bees and butterflies in the garden. It tolerates salt and grows well in poor and dry soil.

Cultivars range in height from 1 to 3 feet and have yellow, orange, red, or white flowers. The plant can be successfully grown in full sun and somewhat dry to medium soil.

Mature plants easily self-seed in the landscape. Unlike other milkweed species, butterfly weed does not have a milky sap.

orange butterfly weed flowers

4. Lantana 

Lantana, commonly known as Spanish flag, is a popular beach plant because it thrives in hot, dry conditions and tolerates salt and sandy soil.

Lantana flowers come in various colors, including yellow, orange, red, white, pink, and lavender. The plant requires deadheading to bloom all summer. 

Beautiful seed heads produce shiny, blue-black fruit, and the leaves emit a spicy smell. Because it tolerates poor growing environments, it has the potential to become invasive in certain areas.

yellow and pink lantana indian flowers

5. Bayberry

Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica) is a lovely native shrub with glossy olive-green foliage. Even with few leaves on the plant, its rounded and thick growing habit provides cover for birds. The female plants produce many clusters of fragrant, gray berries that add winter interest to the landscape.

Bayberry can grow in both dry and wet conditions. In most cases, it will not require any watering. This adaptable shrub grows well in marshes and requires minimal maintenance.

red bayberry japanese fruits

6. Beachplum

Beachplum or Prunus maritima is a round, dense, suckering shrub. It is covered with gorgeous, fragrant white flowers along the branches before the leaves emerge in the middle of April.

Although mostly grown for ornamental purposes, this plant is also recognized for its culinary properties. It has deciduous green foliage, but the pointy leaves turn a gorgeous shade of orange in the fall. 

Although Prunus maritima is native to places with moderate to high rainfall, it also thrives on shallow, sandy soils and dunes and is drought tolerant.

7. Sweet Autumn Clematis 

Sweet autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora) blooms when you need it in the fall. All summer long, its magnificent three-lobed leaves make a lovely canopy for an arbor or fence.

An abundance of white blooms in the early fall adds a finishing touch. This large shrub produces hundreds of fragrant, star-shaped white flowers in late summer and early fall.

The sweet autumn clematis is resistant to pests, diseases, and drought and thrives on neglect.

white autumn clematis flowers

8. Trumpet Honeysuckle

Trumpet honeysuckle vines produce a tremendous surge of flowers in late spring. Plants in warmer climates will continue to bloom throughout the summer.

The leaves become yellow in the fall and remain on the vines through December in many areas. They will re-emerge again in early March.

Part shade to full sun is ideal for growing trumpet honeysuckle. Direct sunlight is perfect for flowering. These woody vines can grow in various soil types and are drought tolerant.

Phillis Butler
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