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10 Drought-Tolerant Flowers for Sun and Shade

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The hot summer conditions of Iowa present a multitude of challenges when it comes to landscaping and gardening. Finding plants that are well-suited to the different areas of your garden can be a challenge! But, there are actually quite a significant number of drought-tolerant trees, shrubs, and flowers that you can plant in your gardens and yard—and they can withstand a surprisingly large stretch of time without rain. Whether you are looking for plants that enjoy full sun, or a little bit of shade, this top 10 list of drought-tolerant flowers should help you plan your garden and ensure that you don’t spend all of your time (and money) on watering. 

1. Epimedium (Bishop’s Hat)

Bishop’s hat is a gorgeous groundcover perfect for a shaded or wooded area or even along a walkway. It is a drought-tolerant flower that prefers moderate shade and well-draining soil. While it does have dainty little flowers ranging from white to purple that make an appearance in the spring, its primary feature is its pointed, leafy foliage.

solomon's seal plant ted lare design & build

2. Solomon’s Seal

Solomon’s seal is another perfect drought-tolerant flower to consider if you are looking for a shaded garden. Both the green-leaved and variegated varieties are deer-resistant and relatively easy to care for. 

3. Baptisia 

Also known as false or wild indigos, baptisias are beautiful, shrub-like, drought-tolerant flowers that offer a long season of interest thanks to both their upright flowers and foliage. Their height and width vary slightly depending on the species, with the most common (Alba and Australis) reaching approximately three feet tall to three feet wide. They are sun-lovers that don’t like to be moved, so be sure to choose your site somewhat carefully when you plant them. 

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4. Butterfly Weed

Butterfly weed is a bushy perennial that graces gardens with absolutely stunning clusters of citrus-toned blooms that will remain throughout the summer season. This perennial wildflower is popular among pollinators, thrives in full sun, is easy to care for, and very drought-tolerant. 

5. Calamint

This low-growing, bushy plant will shower you with cloud-like blooms from early summer until late fall. It’s a tough, shade-loving, and drought-tolerant flower that will attract many pollinators. They’re lovely fillers that have historically been used medicinally as well as in teas and other recipes.

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6. Liatris

Liatris is a popular perennial that performs best in full sun. It’s quite drought-tolerant and is not a big fan of soggy soil. Their purple flower spikes are a lovely addition to a pollinator garden or cut flower garden. 

7. Purple Coneflower

Purple coneflower is another very popular drought-tolerant perennial—and for a good reason. They produce scores of beautiful pinkish-purple blooms that will attract a ton of butterflies. Coneflowers prefer full sun, well-drained soil, are easy to care for, and will profusely self-sow their seeds in your garden. 

russian sage ted lare design & build

8. Russian Sage

Another sun-lover, Russian sage, will grow to about three to four feet tall and two to three feet wide once established. It will hold up exceptionally well in drought-like conditions—and is almost completely critter and pest-resistant. 

9. Gaillardia

The bright color combination of Gaillardia, also known as the blanket flower, is bound to bring a smile to the face of any passerby. You can find annual, biennial, and perennial varieties, all of which grow best in full sun. They do not like wet feet, are incredibly heat tolerant, and offer quiet long-lasting blooms if you deadhead them regularly.

yarrow plant ted lare design & build

10. Yarrow 

There are all kinds of reasons to add this hardy perennial to your garden bed. They are both drought-tolerant and cold-hardy, they come in various sizes, and their flat-topped flowers will attract all sorts of pollinators. Yarrow is happy to grow in almost any soil type and is quite deer and rabbit resistant. Yarrow thrives in full sun. It will tolerate some shade but will likely get quite leggy. 


These 10 beauties will keep your gardens looking fabulous all season long, regardless of the hot, dry conditions we face. If you are on the hunt for a sun-lover, or the perfect addition to that Des Moines shade garden of yours, stop by to check out the selection of drought-tolerant flowers we’ve got in stock! 


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