Drought tolerance is characterized by a plant's ability to get by on less water. Yet native climate often defines the boundaries of this trait. The plants in this list all share the ability to grow in arid conditions when water is scarce.
A plant that tolerates and perhaps thrives on less than 15 inches of annual rain may be overwhelmed by moisture in a state where drought lowers the annual average from 50 to 40 inches. But Flowers by the Sea also gladly provides information if you ask about Salvias and companion plants that are appropriate for drought in damper parts of the nation.
One definition of drought is a below-average amount of rain and snow over an extended period, such as during more than one growing season. Yet drought is caused by more than a shortfall of local precipitation.
Even if your areaâs seasonal average of moisture is at a historically normal level, the level in another region may not be. If waterways and dams connect the two regions -- such as in the American West -- low river levels can mean decreased water storage and drought for both areas. Furthermore, if your regionâs population is growing but its water supply isnât, that can also lead to drought due to insufficiency.
This adds up to a web of trouble that can only be untangled through water conservation. One effective conservation measure is to design gardens with plants that are attractive yet need little water. These are called xeriscapes, waterwise landscapes and dry gardens.
Drought tolerance is closely connected to the term "xeric," a Greek word for "dryâ and the root of xeriscape. Xeriscapic plants include species accustomed to arid climates or dry summer/wet winter growing conditions, such as along coastlines with Mediterranean climates.
The Salvias and companion plants in this list share the ability to grow when water is scarce. They are attractive even while surviving minimal summer water. Many are native to arid regions or are from Mediterranean climates.
Before ordering plants, please carefully consider your local growing conditions in order to select species that will be right for your climate and yard. We're happy to provide recommendations.
(Blue African Sage or Blousalie) A handsome, densely branched shrub with small, gray leaves, this Salvia puts on a show when in full bloom. The pale blue flowers bloom on foot-long spikes that cover the plant. Each flower has a large, trumpet-shaped, green-and-red bract at its base.
(Sacred White Sage) Bees, hummingbirds and spiritual blessings are all connected to Salvia apiana, an elegant shrubby sage that is an important herb to indigenous Californians. It deserves a place in salvia gardens that can meet its demands. Stiff and almost fleshy, its leaves are tight rosettes of brilliant, silvery green that is almost white.
(Compact Sacred White Sage) Salvia apiana var. compacta is significantly shorter than the common species of Sacred White Sage and somewhat more cold tolerant. Its smaller leaves and compact form make it a tidier choice for home gardens with the right kind of growing conditions.
(Arizona Blue Sage) We are so impressed with this top-performing, drought-resistant ground cover that we have rated it best of class. Arizona Blue Sage is adaptable to a variety of shady conditions and blossoms so abundantly that it seems to have as many rich blue flowers as it has leaves. It is native to dry, shaded areas in mountain canyons in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
(Arizona Deep Blue Sage) In contrast to the lavender-blue flowers of Arizona Blue Sage (Salvia arizonica), the blossoms of Arizona Deep Blue are nearly purple. They are the kind of deep lavender that you might see in a southwestern sunset.
(Turkish Tea Sage) Sometimes an attractive plant is also medically powerful. That's true of the lavender flowered Salvia aucheri, which has strong white beelines. This Turkish native is consumed as an ingredient in teas used as folk remedies for many problems, including abdominal bloating and infections.
(Cut Leaf African Blue Sage) In botanical names, aurita means “ear shaped.” It’s the ear-like lobes of this sage’s leaves that give the species part of its name Salvia aurita ssp. galpinii. The cut leaf foliage is heavily lobed, mint green and lightly hairy.
(Mejorana) In Spanish, Mejorana means ‘marjoram.” Similar to oregano-type Marjoram – another Mint family member -- this sage is used to flavor meat dishes. Our cultivar, which is native to Texas and Mexico, has lovely bluish-purple flowers that bloom summer to fall amid fragrant, fine, furry green foliage.
(Pacific Blue Sage) Whorls of deep lavender-blue flowers contrast brightly against the dark maroon stems of this likely hybrid of Salvia brandegeei and Salvia munzii.
(Wand Sage) Whorls of deep violet blossoms are cupped by dark bracts on the flower spikes of this mid-height herbaceous sage from Turkey. Its foliage is thick, corrugated and fragrant. This plant is lovely and hardy, so it is surprising that it wasn’t introduced to commercial cultivation until 2007.
(Anatolian Cushion Sage) Rising up only 6 to 8 inches, this is a pixie-sized sage that loves gritty soils. It is perfect for dry gardens with gritty soils in USDA Zones 5 to 9. In fact, it seems to love the colder zones best. We think it is particularly fond of frozen ground in winter, because that helps keep its roots from getting too damp.
(Wooly Canary Island Sage) The pale magenta, parrot-beak flowers of this sage, supported by deeper magenta bracts, heat up the landscape. But when you get close, it may be the velvety texture of the foliage that makes you sigh.
(Candelabra Spanish Sage) Tall, well-branched spikes display large two-tone blue flowers above a compact shrubby mass of attractive, furry white leaves. When in bloom, this drought-resistant native of Spain will awe every visitor to your garden.
(Woolly White Sage) Salvia candidissima has tidy, upright stems covered with whorls of creamy white blossoms shaped like tiny parrot beaks. They rise from a mid-green rosette of leaves that become fuzzier and whiter as summer heat increases.
(Caucasus Sage) This hardy ground cover sage grows 4 to 12 inches tall and 12 inches wide. The velvety white fur of its foliage aids moisture retention. Its soft, royal purple flowers make it stand out. We think this Salvia deserves to spread far and wide.
(Cedros Island Sage) From the Island of Cedars off the coast of Baja California Sur comes this delightful xeric sage with deep violet-blue flowers and silvery foliage. The square-shaped, 1-inch-long leaves are densely covered with downy, short, white hairs providing moisture retention.
(Silver Germander Sage) With its compact habit, brilliant silver-white leaves and large, sky blue flowers, this is an outstanding heat-tolerant choice for dry, sunny gardens. We consider this to be one of the finest short ground covers for these conditions.
(Marine Blue Sage) The name and origin of this fine cultivar has long been in dispute. It may be a clone or hybrid of the Mexican plant Salvia chamaedryoides var.isochroma. It is one of the prettiest, strongest sages we grow.
(Rough Blue Sage) Honeybees and butterflies love this deer-resistant shrub, which grows wild on the southwestern Cape of South Africa. It is a member of the most diverse plant community in the world, the fynbos -- an Afrikaans word, meaning "fine bush" and referring to scrub plants or shrubbery.
(Snowflake Sage) Wiry, trailing stems of small white leaves make this plant look like fresh snowfall. Numerous, small, sky blue flowers with prominent bee lines further add to the cooling look. This dry-garden plant is native to the mountains of the Chihuahuan desert of North Central Mexico.
(Golden Leaf Sage) A tinge of gold in its fuzzy, pebbled foliage gives Salvia chrysophylla its common name. Abundant lavender flowers with pale cream lower lips make it stand out in the landscape.
(Blue Turkish Sage) Large velvety gray-green to white leaves in loose rosettes give this sage a distinctive look as does the celestial violet-blue of its flowers. The blossoms seem much too large for this short sage and its thin, candelabra-branched flower spikes.
(Vermilion Bluffs® Mexican Sage) The brilliant red flowers of Vermilion Bluffs bloom abundantly from August to October. This variety of the Mexican native Salvia darcyi is cold hardy to Zone 5b at altitudes up to 5,500 feet.