10 drought-tolerant summer plants to withstand the heat

Don't let the heat stop you from creating the flower garden of your dreams

The Met Office has predicted a hotter than average summer with little rainfall, which is great for us but not for the plants in our gardens. British gardeners are eager to keep their flowers blooming bright all summer long, but which species of summer plants that are most likely to withstand the high summer heat?

Julian Palphramand, shrubs, specimen plants & roses buyer for Wyevale Garden Centres, lists 10 drought-tolerant plants that will best adapt to the prolonged dry season.
Want more garden ideas for summer? READ: Jobs to do in the garden in July – watering, sowing and flower care

1. Vervain – Verbena rigida and Verbena bonariensis

Verbena rigida and verbena bonariensis are beautiful examples of drought-tolerant plants. They are popular perennials that have tiny clusters of fragrant, bright purple flowers through summer and well into autumn. Verbena have rich nectar, so butterflies and bees also love them. They reach an ultimate height of 60cm and cope well in well-drained, moderately fertile soil (chalk, clay, loam or sand) and in a sunny position.

Plant care: no pruning is required with verbena rigida, but you will need to cut down verbena bonariensis in spring and deadhead in autumn.

2. Blue Spire – Perovskia atriplicifolia

As the name suggests, this small deciduous sub-shrub produces glorious violet-blue flowers or ‘spires’ in late summer and autumn, along with aromatic grey leaves. It grows to an ultimate height of 1.5m and does well in poor, but well-drained soil (chalk, loam or sand) and in full sun.

Plant care: prune in the spring to get a better flowering display later on in the year.

3.  Wormwood – Artemisia Powis Castle


(Image credit: Amateur Gardening)

This shrubby perennial forms a billowing mound of soft, silver evergreen foliage, offering a beautiful contrast to other greenery in the garden. Plant it in any well-drained soil (chalk, loam or sand) in a sunny spot, but sheltered from cold winds. It will reach an ultimate height of 1m.

Plant care: you can cut it hard back in spring to maintain compactness.

4. Hot Lips - Salvia jamensis

Salvia jamensis with red and white flowers

(Image credit: TBC)

Salvia as a genus are all drought resistant. ‘Hot Lips’ is a striking variety, which produce masses of red and white flowers from July to October. If you touch the leaves, they smell delicious! It is much loved by bees and butterflies and is easy to grow.

It does well in ordinary, well-drained soil (chalk, loam or sand) and in the sun; though make sure you shelter it from cold winds. It will reach an ultimate height of 1m.

Plant care: prune lightly in spring to remove dead and damaged growth, and mulch roots in autumn in cold areas.

5. French Lavender - Lavandula stoechas

french lavender with purple flowers

(Image credit: TBC)

All lavenders are tolerant to drought. I rather like French lavender, with its dense spikes of purple flowers on top of which are violet bracts with reddish-purple veins. It is a low maintenance shrub and flowers in late spring and summer (July to August). Butterflies and bees love it, and its greyish green, evergreen foliage is also beautifully fragrant.

Plant in well-drained soil (chalk, loam or sand) and in a sunny position, but make sure it is sheltered from cold winds as it is not as hardy as English lavender and will struggle to thrive in cold, wet soil. It can be grown in a container but you will need to protect it from frost in the winter. It will reach an ultimate height of 1m.

Plant care: trim lightly after flowering in late summer.

6. Stonecrop – Sedums

stonecrop sedums

(Image credit: TBC)

As a Genus, they are drought tolerant due to their ability to store water in the leaf structure and their waxy leaf coating which prevents water from escaping from inside the leaf. They thrive in full sun or partial shade and can be used for both beds and borders as well as making perfect plants for pots and planters. They do well in any well drained soil (chalk, loam or sand) and often attract bees and butterflies.

Plant care: cut back to new growth in the spring and keep weeds at bay.

7. Cabbage palm – Cordyline australis

cabbage palm cordyline australis

(Image credit: TBC)

Cordyline austrlias, or cabbage tree or cabbage palm, are all drought tolerant. They look good all year round and are great for coastal gardens and in large pots or borders. They are an architectural plant with green leaves and, in hot summers, will sometimes produce small, very scented flowers (July to August).

Plant in well-drained, fertile soil (chalk, loam or sand), and in a sunny, or partially shaded, position. Make sure they are sheltered from cold winds.

Plant care: keep them warm in winter by wrapping pots in fleece or bubble wrap. If planted in the ground, they may be destroyed if you have a severe winter but don’t worry, as they will often shoot again from the base.

8. Limestone houseleek – Sempervivum calcareum

limestone houseleek sempervivum calcareum

(Image credit: TBC)

The Limestone houseleek is a very easy-to-manage evergreen plant, which has spirals of geometric pointed blue-green evergreen leaves with red tips. Spikes of pink flowers appear in June to August. It is drought-tolerant and also tolerates being neglected, so good for the low-maintenance gardener. It is great in pots, rock gardens, gravel gardens and crevices in walls.

Plant in well-drained soil (chalk, loam or sand) and in full sun. If you are planting it in a container, use a 50/50 mix of John Innes No 2 potting compost and horticultural grit. It will reach an ultimate height of 0.1m.

Plant care: once flowering is over, remove rosettes that have died.

9. Pink rock rose – Cistus creticus

cistus creticus with purple-rose papery flowers with yellow stamens.

(Image credit: Future PLC/Val Corbett/Country Life)

This rock rose is a compact evergreen with wavy-edged leaves. During the summer (June to July) it is covered in purple-rose papery flowers with yellow stamens.

It comes from the eastern Mediterranean, and is suitable for coastal gardens and well-drained soils (chalk, loam or sand). Make sure you plant it in full sun and sheltered from cold winds. It will reach an ultimate height of 1m.

Plant care: don’t feed it, but do trim it lightly after flowering.

10. Kaleidoscope – Abelia grandiflora

kaleidoscope abelia grandiflora

(Image credit: TBC)

This small, colourful evergreen will bring a kaleidoscope of colour and fragrance into your garden and bees and butterflies will love it too. Its leaves are vibrant yellow and green in spring, deep green and creamy gold in summer and orange, red and yellow in autumn and winter. It is a great shrub for year-round interest. During mid-summer to autumn (August to October) it also has scented pink and white flowers.

Plant in well-drained, fertile soil (chalk, loam or sand) and in a sunny, but sheltered position. It is excellent in a container and will reach an ultimate height of 1m.

Plant care: Trim lightly in spring and if you grow it in a container keep it in a frost-free environment over winter.

Want to see more garden ideas? READ: Small garden ideas to make the most of a tiny space

Will you be incorporating these summer plants into your garden decorating scheme?

Deputy Editor

Jennifer is the Deputy Editor (Digital) for Homes & Gardens online. Prior to her current position, she completed various short courses a KLC Design School, and wrote across sister brands Ideal Home, LivingEtc, 25 Beautiful Homes, Country Homes & Interiors, and Style at Home.