Best Drought Tolerant Ground Covers: Heat Loving Ground Cover Plants For Gardens

Plants of Creeping Thyme with purple flowers in garden in summer.
Image by annalovisa

By Mary H. Dyer, Master Naturalist and Master Gardener

Drought is a major concern for gardeners across much of the country. However, it’s very possible to grow a gorgeous, water-wise garden. You can find drought tolerant plants for nearly any situation, including heat-loving ground cover plants and ground covers that withstand drought. Read on for tips and information about a few of the best drought tolerant ground covers.

Selecting the Best Drought Tolerant Ground Covers

The best drought tolerant ground covers share several common characteristics. For example, drought-tolerant plants often have small or narrow leaves with a smaller surface area and reduced moisture loss. Similarly, plants with leaves that are waxy, curled or deeply veined retain moisture. Many drought tolerant plants are covered with fine grey or white hairs, which help the plant reflect heat.


Drought Tolerant Ground Covers for Shade

Keep in mind that even shade-loving plants need some sun. Usually, these tough plants do well in broken or filtered sunlight, or early morning sunlight. Here are some good choices for dry, shady areas:

  • Periwinkle/creeping myrtle (Vinca minor) – shiny green leaves covered with tiny, star-shaped indigo flowers in spring. USDA plant hardiness zones 4 through 9.
  • Creeping mahonia/Oregon grape (Mahonia repens) – evergreen leaves with fragrant yellow flowers that appear in late spring. Blooms are followed by clusters of attractive, purple berries. Zones 5 through 9.
  • Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) – soft green leaves and carpets of small white flowers in late spring and early summer. Zones 4 through 8.
  • Creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum) – small, dense leaves covered by mounds of blooms in lavender, rose, red or white. Zones 3 through 9.

Drought Tolerant Ground Covers for Sun

Popular sun-loving ground covers that tolerate drought include:

  • Rockrose (Cistus spp.) – lush, gray-green foliage and colorful blooms of various shades of pink, purple, white and rose. Zones 8 through 11.
  • Snow in summer (Cerastium tomentosum) – silvery-grey foliage and tiny white blooms that appear in late spring and last through early summer. Zones 3 through 7.
  • Moss phlox (Phlox subulata) – narrow leaves and masses of purple, pink or white flowers that last all spring. Zones 2 through 9.
  • Winecups (Callirhoe involucrata) – deeply cut leaves with bright magenta blooms that resemble tiny hibiscus flowers. Zones through 11.

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