Planting & Landscaping

Shrubs For Full Sun Drought Tolerant

Drought-tolerant shrubs that have a sunny position do not necessarily need to be spiky, thorny shrubs.

In areas with mild winters and hot, dry summers, there may be certain parts of your garden that are baking hot and sunny, with limited or no irrigation. These areas are ideal for shrubs that thrive in full sun and are drought tolerant.

This area may be close to a wall that reflects the heat, or close to paving, or your drive. Choosing the best shrubs for this growing condition is essential. Many shrubs embrace the heat and sun, with little water. 

However, many people treat their drought-resistant plants like any other garden plant and water them regularly. Be aware that after they have established, they have adapted to very little water.

Drought In The USA

Drought Conditions

Parts of the US are no strangers to drought conditions and water restrictions. The longest drought in California lasted 376 weeks, beginning December in 2011 and ending in March 2019. Learn how drought is affecting your neighborhood.

Established Drought Resistant Plant

An established plant is one that has settled into its present planting spot and has grown its root system from its former pot life at the nursery.

Most water-wise shrubs have a tap root or a root system that extends very far in search of water.

Giving them regular watering for the first growing season is recommended. Plants in a garden bed should all require the same watering needs.

Related: Growing Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides)

How Do You Landscape With Drought-Tolerant Plants?

Before planting, get rid of all weeds and rake the area to smooth. Good drainage is essential. Drought-tolerant shrubs do not like "wet feet."

Make sure to check the sunlight requirements beforehand.

Amend the soil by adding compost and prevent water run off from compacted dry soil. Whether your soil is clay or sandy, it will always benefit from additional compost.

Roughly sketch your design out on paper, keeping the bigger plants at the back of the bed in a layered effect with the medium height plants in the middle and the smaller plants in the foreground. 

Use mulch or stepping stones or crushed stones in high traffic areas.

Related: Shasta Daisy, Crazy Daisy: Planting and Care



Organic mulch such as woodchips breakdown and improve the soil in time.

When using inorganic mulch such as crushed rock or small stones, place weed guard fabric under the rock mulch. The fabric will keep the soil and rock/stones from mixing as well as keeping weeds at bay for a few years.

Mulch keeps the soil cool and limits evaporation, as well as reducing run-off.

Mulching is the best way to suppress weeds, which will compete for the water.

Related Topic:  When Is The Best Time To Mulch?

Water-wise Plants

When planning for a water-wise garden, consider the native shrubs from your area or plants which have these characteristics.

  • small needle-like leaves, e.g., Rosemary
  • grey foliage which reflects the sunlight, e.g., lavender
  • hairy foliage, e.g., lambs ear
  • succulents which store water in their fleshy leaves
  • waxy leaves which prevent moisture loss, e.g., kalanchoe

Xeriscape Garden


One style of a xeriscape landscape is one that requires little or no irrigation for arid and semi-arid climates.

Another xeriscape garden is creating a regionally appropriate landscape that conserves water. Once established, a xeriscape garden requires very little maintenance.

Do not be put off from xeriscape gardening, thinking it is stones, rocks, and cacti and a few Yukka. A xeriscape garden can be as sparse or as lush as you like, as long as you stick to the main principle of using plants with the same water requirements.

Evergreen Shrubs For Full Sun - Zones 7 - 11



Agave is a succulent, which has large fleshy leaves and grows well in Southwest and Mediterranean climates.

Agaves only flower after 15 to 20 years and die after flowering. They form small new plants called pups at the base of the dead mother plant.

The flower stalk appears from the center of the agave and is very tall in relation to the plant. The flower has nectar-rich flowers, which the bees and birds love.


Fleshy pointed leaves similar to agaves. The leaves funnel the water to the plants' crown.

Aloes only require watering during dry periods. Most aloes bloom in winter.




Lavender is a small shrub with medicinal and culinary qualities. It has exceptionally fragrant flowers.

Lavender needs good drainage and air circulation.


The official flower of Los Angeles, they can withstand long dry spells.

Strelitzia has an interesting structure with orange and blue flowers resembling a bird. An easy plant to grow.



Lantana grows well in coastal areas and is heat and drought tolerant, which has tiny trumpet-shaped flowers.


Plumbago has a spreading, rambling habit and grows 6 to 10 feet (1.5 - 2meters) tall and 8 to 10 feet (2 - 2.5 meters) in width.

It is a hardy shrub and not bothered by pests and diseases.



Rosemary is an excellent choice for coastal gardens as they are tolerant of salt spray.


Bougainvillea is a climber if trained but can be also be trained as a hedge.


Echinacea (Coneflower)

Daisy-like flowers with a deep root system to search for moisture.


Bright red berries as well as reddish leaves in the fall.

From ground cover to large hedge, cotoneaster has a plant for you.


Kangaroo Paw


Australian water-wise plant with flowers resembling a kangaroo.

Low maintenance plants and very drought tolerant.

Euphorbia (Spurge)

Most loved of the euphorbias is the poinsettia, which is associated with Christmas.

Crepe Myrtle


Sometimes referred to as Crape Myrtle, flowers in summer and fall from deep purple to red.

They have attractive bark, colorful fall foliage, and showy flowers.

Small Drought Tolerant Shrubs

Dwarf Nandino

Dwarf Nandino

Dwarf Nandino grown for its dramatic fall and winter foliage.


Dwarf variety - require little water after the first growing season. 



Drought tolerant and evergreen.



Give structure to the garden when mass planted.


Mostly native to New Zealand, this shrub provides year-round interest.

Some varieties bloom in winter.


Daisy-like flower, blue to purple.



Silver-gray hairy foliage, which feels very similar to a lambs ear. Very easy to grow.


Low growing small shrub with a heavy fragrance.



Geraniums bloom over a long period.

Zonal geraniums are drought tolerant once established.


Compact varieties such as Little Moonshine are just as water-wise as common yarrow.

Russian Sage

It has silvery stems and fragrant leaves. Bees and butterflies are attracted to this shrub.



  • Gardening in a dry, hot, sunny area need not be boring.
  • Always remember to mulch to keep the soil cool and limit the weeds.
  • Invest in drip irrigation or buried soaker hose for the times you will need to provide water.

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