22 Drought Tolerant Plants for Containers


sunpatiens and creeping jenny in container

By Jennifer Poindexter

Would you like to grow a thriving container garden? Do you live in an area with little rain? It sounds like you need to consider plants that are drought tolerant and grow well in containers.

If this suits your needs, you’ve landed in the right spot. I’m going to walk you through a variety of container grown, drought tolerant plants. For the record, this doesn’t mean that you don’t have to keep them watered! It just means they are generally drought tolerant compared to many other container plants that require more regular and consistent watering to stay alive.

I’ll fill you in on their hardiness zones and a few of the plant’s basic growing conditions to help you make selections that work for your particular situation.

Here are your options for drought tolerant plants that grow well in containers:

1. Mint

Mint is a hardy green plant that produces a delicious fragrance and taste. It’s a great addition to most herb gardens, especially when grown in a container. The reason being is mint can be aggressive and take over a growing location. Containers help keep the plant in a specific area.

If you’d like to add mint to your container garden, it’s hardy in planting zones three through eight. This plant requires full to partial sunlight. It also needs soil that’s well-draining. The more nutrient-rich your soil is, the more reason mint has to thrive. Though, the plant can thrive in lower-quality soil as well. You can get away with watering mint once or twice per week.

2. SunPatiens

SunPatiens are the first variety of impatiens that enjoy growing in full sunlight. These plants produce vibrant blooms amongst dark green foliage. When growing SunPatiens, be sure to supply them with an area with full to partial sunlight.

Plus, they also need well-draining soil that’s nutrient-dense. SunPatiens require consistent watering for a week after planting to help the roots become established. Once that’s taken care of, only water these flowers when the soil is dry to your first knuckle when inserted in the dirt around the plants.

3. Agave

Agave is a larger plant that grows well in the ground or in containers. It’s recognized by its green, pointed foliage that grows in different layers . If you need a little greenery in your landscape, don’t overlook agave.

This plant is hardy in zones eight and nine but can be grown as an annual elsewhere. Agave needs full sun and well-draining soil. If growing agave in a pot, it’s important to plant in a clay container to ensure the plant doesn’t become waterlogged. Finally, agave can thrive in settings where it’s only watered a few times each month once its roots are well-established.

lantana in container

4. Lantana

Lantana is a gorgeous option which produces many small, colorful blooms which come together and form larger blooms. Should this be a plant you’re interested in, be advised that it’s considered invasive in some areas.

Otherwise, this plant is hardy in zones seven and higher. It needs a growing location with full sunlight and well-draining soil. Lantana is known for being drought tolerant once its roots are established. When this takes place, the plant can thrive on one inch of water each week.

5. Ornamental Grass

Ornamental grasses come in many varieties. In general, they produce blades of fluffy grass that provide a little texture to your landscape. Some ornamental grasses even come in different colors.

If you need a splash of subtle color, ornamental grass could be for you. The growing conditions will vary by variety, but in general, many ornamental grasses are hardy to zones four and lower. They thrive in full sun, well-draining soil, and most varieties should be able to survive on what rain they receive. During periods of severe drought, you can water the plants deeply once or twice per week to keep them going.

6. Princess Flower

The princess flower is a bushier plant which produces colorful, traditional blooms. This plant is only hardy in milder climates including planting zones nine and higher.

However, you may grow princess flowers as annuals, and they could still reach heights around three feet in a container and up to six feet if planted in the ground. The princess flower thrives in full sunlight and well-draining soil. This plant only needs approximately one inch of water each week.

salvia in container

7. Salvia

Salvia is one of my favorite plants because of its layered look. The plant starts with a mound of green foliage. Then it produces long stems which have colorful blooms that crawl up the stem and bloom vertically. It’s colorful and unique.

Should this be the right plant for your container garden, ensure you meet the growing conditions. Salvia is hardy in planting zones three through eight. This plant requires a growing area with well-draining soil and ample sunlight. You should only need to water these plants once per week to ensure they receive approximately one inch of water.

8. Mandevilla

The mandevilla plant comes in a couple of different varieties. They all look the same by producing dark green leaves and brightly colored flowers. Yet, some varieties bush and others climb. Be sure to consider the look and need you have in your landscape before planting mandevilla.

Once you know the correct type needed, it’s time to consider what the plant needs from you. In most areas, mandevilla is grown as an annual as the plant is only hardy in zones nine through eleven. When selecting a growing location, choose a place with full sunlight, well-draining soil, and ensure the plant is watered once or twice each week.

9. Verbena

Verbena is a bushy plant that produces small, colorful blooms that come together to form larger, more colorful blooms. If you’d like a mounding, colorful plant verbena could be for you.

When you know verbena is a plant you’d like in your container garden, it’s time to consider proper growing conditions. Verbena can thrive on one inch of water each week. It also needs a growing location with partial to full sunlight and well-draining soil. This plant is a perennial in zones five through eight.

10. Hibiscus

Hibiscus flowers are another one of my favorites on this list because of their bright colors and simplistic beauty. If you need vibrant colors in your landscape, don’t overlook this plant. When growing hibiscus plants, understand that there’s a perennial variety and tropical variety. The perennials are hardy in zones five through nine. The tropical varieties are typically only hardy in milder climates. You can also grow hibiscus flowers as annuals.

No matter the variety, hibiscus plants do best in full sun and well-draining soil. In general, once established, tropical hibiscus need water a few times each week. Perennial hibiscus need water twice a week their first year and only once per week each year after.

11. Boxwood

Boxwood is a type of evergreen shrub that can be pruned to grow in a variety of shapes. They look nice when pruned into a rounded shape when grown in a container garden.

If this is the right plant for you, provide an area with well-draining soil. Lighting doesn’t really matter for these plants as they thrive in most settings. Boxwoods can thrive when provided a deep watering session once or twice each week. They’re also hardy in planting zones five through nine.

foxtail asparagus fern in container

12. Foxtail Asparagus Fern

The foxtail asparagus fern is an interesting plant. It grows in the shape of a foxtail, is wispy like asparagus, but has greenery like that of a fern. If you’d like a unique plant, this could be for you.

When growing foxtail asparagus fern be sure to provide a location with dappled sunlight and well-draining soil. Too much sunlight can scorch the fern. You should only water the foxtail asparagus fern once per week and expect it to remain hardy in planting zones nine through eleven.

13. Rosemary

Rosemary is a bushy herb filled with vibrant green foliage that produces a delicious smell and is tasty when used around the kitchen. If you’d like to add rosemary to your container garden, it could be a great fit.

This plant requires a growing space with well-draining soil and ample sunlight. The herb is hardy in planting zones eight and nine. Plus, it doesn’t require a lot of water. You can water it once per week in summer and twice per week during fall and spring.

14. Bottlebrush

The bottlebrush tree is a fun option. It produces wispy red blooms that resemble a bottlebrush. If you’d like to add something unique to your container garden, don’t overlook this option.

When growing the bottlebrush tree, be sure to select a growing location with full sun. This plant also requires well-draining soil and only needs to be watered around once per week once the roots are established. Expect the bottlebrush tree to remain hardy in planting zones nine through eleven.

15. Cuphea

Cuphea is a small, bushy plant with tube-like blooms that produce in a variety of colors. This plant could be a great way to add a splash of color to your surroundings. As you’re trying to figure out the right growing location for cuphea, be sure to take the following tips into consideration.

This plant thrives in areas with higher temperatures, plenty of sunlight, and well-draining soil. Cuphea will be an annual in most locations as it’s only hardy in zones ten and up. However, the plant is drought-tolerant as it only needs one inch of water each week.

16. Succulents

Succulents come in many forms. If you’d like to introduce a cactus to your container garden, you can get away with watering it every week in the summer and once a month in winter. With other succulents that have full leaves, this is where their water is stored.

Therefore, you may be able to go one to two weeks without watering. The key is to pick a location with full to partial sunlight, select the proper soil that drains adequately, and wait to water succulents until the soil is fully dry. Most succulents should be brought indoors over winter as they can’t handle frost.

ground orchid in container

17. Ground Orchid

A ground orchid produces long green leaves. In the center, a set of small, colorful flowers will appear. This makes ground orchids a great option for containers because they look beautiful when potted. If you’d like to grow ground orchids, select a location with full to partial sunlight. If you live in areas where the days become extremely hot, it’s best to provide afternoon shade.

Ground orchids also need well-draining soil. Check the variety of ground orchid you’d like to grow because some are hardy in zones six and higher. Others are only hardy in zones ten and up. You should be able to water these flowers deeply twice a week and still watch them thrive.

18. Chocolate Flower

Chocolate flowers (also known as chocolate daisies) have bright yellow petals and rich centers. They get their name because they’re said to smell like chocolate. These flowers produce best in areas with full to partial sunlight.

However, they can grow in a variety of soils, but it’s best if the growing medium drains adequately. Chocolate flowers should be watered regularly their first year, but won’t need regular watering in future years. These plants should remain hardy in planting zones four through ten.

19. Joseph’s Coat

Joseph’s coat produces layered foliage that comes in a variety of colors. This plant is technically a perennial but is usually grown as an annual as it’s only hardy in zones ten and eleven.

When growing Joseph’s coat, select a location with full to partial sunlight and well-draining soil. This plant should only be watered when the top few inches of soil are completely dry.

20. Pothos

Pothos is another favorite plant of mine to grow indoors or outdoors. The reason being is this is a forgiving option.

When growing pothos, select a location with dappled sunlight and any variety of soil. As long as the soil drains, the plant should do fine. You’ll have to bring pothos indoors in most areas over winter, but it’s hardy in planting zones ten and higher. It’s wise to water pothos deeply every one to two weeks.

21. Portulaca

Portulaca is a beautiful bushy plant that produces vibrant green foliage and cup-shaped, colorful blooms. If you’d like something to brighten up your garden areas this could be a great option.

As you search for the right growing location, be sure to select an area with full sunlight and well-draining soil. This plant must have full sun to bloom. Portulaca only needs an inch of water per week, and is only hardy in planting zones ten and eleven.

22. Creeping Jenny

Creeping Jenny is a great option to use for ground cover or to use as a base in a container design. This plant produces small, round leaves that drape over the edge of containers for a delicate look.

If this is the right plant for you, choose a growing location with partial shade. In the right growing location, you can water this plant deeply, and it will retain the necessary moisture it needs to thrive. This is a hardy plant in zones four through nine.

You now have twenty-two options for plants that grow well in containers and are drought tolerant. Be sure to consider the needs of the plant prior to planting.

If you select a plant with the right look that you can supply the right growing conditions and planting zone, you should have a much better experience creating a low-maintenance container garden.

More About Drought Tolerant Container Plants

https://ag.umass.edu/home-lawn-garden/fact-sheets/drought-tolerant-annuals-perennials

https://extension.psu.edu/heat-and-drought-tolerant-plants

https://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.html?number=C787&title=Gardening%20in%20Containers

sunpatiens and creeping jenny in container with text overlay flower gardening tips twenty two Drought Tolerant Plants for Containers

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