Trees, Shrubs, and Groundcovers Tolerant of Dry Sites

Dry soil can exist when there is simply not enough water to supply plant roots in a growing area.
Trees, Shrubs, and Groundcovers Tolerant of Dry Sites - Articles

Updated: August 14, 2017

Trees, Shrubs, and Groundcovers Tolerant of Dry Sites

A wide building overhang or large areas of pavement near shrub beds will reduce the total amount of water entering the soil. Other dry situations include planting areas with insufficient soil volumes to accommodate the plant's root system, compacted soils, and sites that are commonly windy and experience regular high temperatures (e.g., near parking lots, southern and western exposures). The quality of the soil can also have a direct effect on the moisture-holding capacity. Soils that are commonly sandy are considered dry soils because they tend to drain very quickly and available water moves below the root zone or evaporates from the soil surface; however, heavy clay and loam soils that have greater water-holding capacity can also be dry depending on the site. The addition of organic matter to sandy or other dry soils will improve its quality. Dry soils frequently exist under the canopy of large trees whose root systems take water from the soil at the expense of other plants growing nearby. In addition, mulching and providing supplemental water (e.g., watering deeply) will benefit plants in dry situations. The following plants will tolerate drier sites than most:

Trees and their USDA Hardiness Zone

  • Hedge maple, Acer campestre 5-8
  • Amur maple, Acer ginnala 3-8
  • Tartarian maple, Acer tataricum 3-8
  • Ohio buckeye, Aesculus glabra 4-7
  • Silk-tree, Albizzia julibrissin 6-9
  • Pawpaw, Asimina triloba 5-8
  • European hornbeam, Carpinus betulus 5-7
  • Common hackberry, Celtis occidentalis 3-9
  • Eastern redbud, Cercis canadensis 4-9
  • American yellowwood, Cladrastis kentukea 4-8
  • Turkish filbert, Corylus colurna 4-7
  • Hawthorn, Crataegus species 4-7
  • European beech, Fagus sylvatica 4-7
  • Green ash, Fraxinus pennsylvanica & varieties 3-9
  • Ginkgo, Ginkgo biloba 4-8
  • Thornless honeylocust, Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis cultivars 4-9
  • Eastern red cedar, Juniperus virginiana 3-9
  • Golden-rain tree, Koelreuteria paniculata 5-8
  • American hophornbeam, Ostrya virginiana 3-9
  • London plane tree, Platanus x acerifolia 5-8
  • Callery pear, Pyrus calleryana 5-8
  • Scarlet oak, Quercus coccinea 4-9
  • Bur oak, Quercus macrocarpa 3-8
  • Chestnut oak, Quercus prinus 4-8
  • Red oak, Quercus rubra 3-7
  • Sassafras, Sassafras albidum 4-9
  • Japanese pagoda tree, Sophora japonica 4-7
  • Japanese tree lilac, Syringa reticulata 3-7
  • Lacebark elm, Ulmus parvifolia 5-9
  • Japanese zelkova, Zelkova serrata 5-8

Shrubs

  • Mentor barberry, Berberis x mentorensis 5-8
  • Japanese barberry, Berberis thunbergii and varieties 4-8
  • New Jersey Tea, Ceanothus americanus 4-8
  • Common flowering quince, Chaenomeles speciosa 4-8
  • Sweetfern, Comptonia peregrina 2-5
  • Gray dogwood, Cornus racemosa 3-8
  • Smokebush, Cotinus coggygria 5-8
  • Common broom, Cytisus scoparius 5-8
  • *Juniper, Juniperus species 4-9
  • Beautybush, Kolkwitzia amabilis 4-8
  • Privet, Ligustrum species 4-7
  • Northern bayberry, Myrica pensylvanica 3-6
  • Common ninebark, Physocarpus opulifolius 2-7
  • Bush cinquefoil, Potentilla fruticosa 2-6
  • Sumac, Rhus species 3-9
  • Rugosa rose, Rosa rugosa 2-7
  • Nannyberry, Viburnum lentago 3-7
  • Chastetree, Lilac, Vitex agnus-castus 6-8
  • Yucca, Yucca filamentosa 5-9

Ground Covers

  • Prostrate abelia, Abelia x grandiflora 'Prostrata' 6-9
  • Bishop's goutweed, Aegopodium podagraria 4-9
  • *Bugle-weed, Ajuga reptans 3-9
  • Northern sea oats, Chasmanthium latifolium 5-9
  • Creeping Cotoneaster, Cotoneaster adpressus 4-7
  • Daylily, Hemerocallis species (when not in flower) 3-11
  • St. John's wort, Hypericum calycinum 5-9
  • *Hidcote lavender, Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote' 5-8
  • *Dwarf nandina, Nandina domestica cultivars (e.g. Harbor dwarf) 6-11
  • Evening primrose, Oenothera speciosa 5-8
  • Ribbon grass, Phalaris arundinacea 'Picta' 4-9
  • *Stonecrop, Sedum species 4-9
  • Creeping thyme, Thymus serpyllum 5-9
  • *Periwinkle or Myrtle, Vinca minor 4-8

*Indicates Evergreen

Prepared by N. Robert Nuss, retired professor of horticulture. Reviewed and revised by Scott Guiser, retired extension educator and Jim Sellmer, professor of ornamental horticulture.