7 Drought Tolerant Plants to Grow in Wisconsin

Drought-tolerant plants are low maintenance and can add beauty to your garden. Which ones should you consider growing in your garden?

Having trouble preserving the vibrancy and color of your garden throughout the dry seasons? Even if there is no rain in the forecast, there are drought-resistant plants that continue to grow. 

In this article, I focus on hardy plants that can survive with little water and will give a splash of color and texture to your landscape!

Check out the best 7 drought-tolerant plants that are suitable to grow in Wisconsin below. 

1. Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium Scoparium)

Little bluestem is a decorative bunchgrass that grows in 18- to 24-inch-tall mounds with fine-textured leaves. They have a lovely blue-green hue that changes to a rust color in the fall and fluffy white seed heads.

Little bluestem, like many other native grasses, is a warm-season perennial. It requires temperatures to be rather warm before it begins to sprout new growth. Although little bluestem may sometimes be found in lower moisture regions, particularly in its native habitat, it favors drier highland locations. It is a plant that tolerates drought pretty well overall.

It can grow in a wide variety of soil types, but it is especially well suited to well-drained, practically infertile soil, which makes it a great erosion barrier. Although it can tolerate a little shade, it prefers full sun.

Growing little bluestem grass as an aesthetic foliage plant in the landscape gives broad-leaved and blooming plants a dimensional and architectural backdrop. It serves as cover for foraging wildlife, and its seeds are enjoyed by both song and game birds.

growing little bluestem in the forest

2. Common Snowberry (Symphoricarpos Albus)

The common snowberry is a natural shrub of the Caprifoliaceae (honeysuckle) family that grows across California, primarily in places below 4,000 feet from the coast to the east of the Sierras. The hue of its deciduous leaves is medium green, and it sports pink flowers that bloom in the early summer. 

Fertilized flowers develop into snow-white drupes, which is how the plant got its name. The common snowberry has traditionally been grown for its ornamental value. Its white fruits are best seen in the winter when the branches are bare of leaves.

The plant can be found in open woodlands, clearings, and rocky slopes. It is easily adaptable to a variety of situations. It is effective for a project such as mine reclamation, riparian planting, restoration, and slope erosion management. 

The white snowberry’s native habitat is often damp, but the plant has naturalized in dry regions. Thanks to its deep roots, it can tolerate droughts well. It is a great addition to a dry woodland garden.

common strawberry growing in dried branch of tree

3. Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia Spp.)

Rudbeckia, also known as “black-eyed susan,” is a well-known perennial flower with beautiful blossoms that are brilliant yellow, gold, or bronze with dark brown centers. Black-eyed susans are beloved by homeowners for a variety of reasons, one of which is that they need very little upkeep. They can tolerate harsh environments and can withstand a lot of sun, heat, and drought.

The optimal conditions for growing black-eyed susans are full sun and well-drained soil. It can handle morning shade and afternoon light, but it may not bloom as well and could be more prone to illnesses that might result in the development of ugly dark brown or black patches on the leaves. 

Black-eyed susans grow nicely in container gardens as well as landscape beds and borders. Remove fading flower heads to promote new blossoms throughout the season.

bright yellow of black eyed susan flower

4. Wild Bergamot (Monarda Fistulosa)

Wild bergamot is a native perennial that thrives in the dry soils of prairies, rocky woodlands and glade borders, unplanted fields, and near roads and railways. The plant can be found in Hardiness Zones 4 to 8. Coarse pom-pom-like clusters of lavender, pink, or white flowers bloom on top of 2- to 5-foot-tall, open-branched stalks.

This plant thrives in full sun or moderate shade in dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil. It is resistant to both drought and heat.

Wild bergamot is one of the best plants for attracting long-tongue bees, such as honey bees, bumblebees, and miner bees. It is also well-liked by butterflies, skippers, and leaf cutters. Wild bergamot gives color and contrast to a meadow, herb garden, wild garden, native plant garden, or naturalized areas.

purple wild bergamot flower in the forest

5. Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon Digitalis)

Foxglove beardtongue is another name for smooth penstemon. It grows naturally in open forests, meadows, and grasslands in the eastern and midwestern United States. It only reaches a height of 3 feet. From mid-spring to early summer, it blooms profusely with white flowers.

While it is relatively simple to grow foxglove beardtongue everywhere, it will thrive in healthy, well-drained soil that receives direct sunlight. It can withstand not only a variety of humidity levels but also drought and hot temperatures. 

Early summer is the traditional time for beardtongue plants to bloom, filling the void between dying spring bulbs and the maturation of summer blooms like coneflowers, yarrow, and coreopsis. Foxglove beardtongue is excellent for bulk plantings, rock gardens, hummingbird gardens, and borders, as well as relaxed, unforced environments. 

white foxglove beardtongue blooming in the forest

6. Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea Purpurea)

The purple prairie clover enjoys one of the broadest distributions of all perennial clovers. Its foliage is delicately textured, with compound, odd-pinnate leaves. Cone-shaped flower heads rise above the leaves during the summer months. 

This clover thrives on sandy to alluvial soils in its natural habitat. The large spreading root structure makes it a great erosion control plant. If exposed to spring rainfall, the plants need minimal water during the summer, and they can withstand severe droughts.

This prairie plant has an excellent garden shape and may be planted in any sunny location. It looks great in a range of settings, such as naturalized prairie areas, rock gardens, sunny perennial borders, and native plant gardens.

purple prairie clover in the grassland

7. Sky Blue Aster (Aster Azureus)

The sky blue aster is a native herbaceous perennial that grows in Hardiness Zones 3 to 8. 

It can thrive in any kind of well-draining, mildly acidic soil, likes full sun, and tolerates little shade. It can withstand intense heat and drought, although it will benefit from occasional watering during particularly dry weather.

The sky blue aster blooms from August through October, featuring beautiful blue blossoms. They pair beautifully with showy goldenrod, but for shorter specimens and ground coverings, it provides a texturally-rich vertical backdrop that is green in the summer and bloom-heavy in the autumn.

Additionally, when the growing season winds down, this clumping plant offers crucial habitat for the beneficial insects, birds, and butterflies that frequent your garden.

Phillis Butler
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