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Top 10 Waterwise Perennials

By David Salman, High Country Gardens Chief Horticulturalist

I like lists. That's how I do my grocery shopping and organize the day's "To Do" items. Lists are a great way to boil things down to the basics, so I find lists invaluable for gardening. When asked what I recommend as the best low care, grow-most-anywhere perennials, I offer these two lists of my favorite cold hardy waterwise perennials.

All of my recommended plants check the following boxes:

  • Waterwise (xeric or drought-tolerant)
  • Easy-to-grow and are successful in a wide range of growing conditions
  • Long-lived
  • Rabbit and deer resistant
  • Long or repeat-blooming

Below are my Top 10 Old World Waterwise Perennials and Top 10 Native Waterwise Perennials. Remember, these Old World perennials can be mixed in with our Native species, and vice versa. For example, in the garden above, Agastache, Perovskia, Lavender, and Yarrow work together for a bright and attractive design.

Top 10 Old World Waterwise Perennials

These are ornamental plants that are native to Europe, the Mediterranean and western Asia. They can be grown across most of the US. And these perennials are a fantastic sources of nectar and pollen for honeybees and bumblebees (except Feather Reed Grass).

Here is my list in no particular order as they are all great:

  1. 'Blue Spires' Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)
  2. 'Coronation Gold' Yarrow (Achillea fillipendulina)
  3. 'Dark Knight' Blue Mist Spirea (Caryopteris clandonensis)
  4. 'Blue Glow' Globe Thistle (Echinops banaticus)
  5. 'Karl Foerster' Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis acutifolia)
  6. 'May Night' Sage (Saliva nemerosa)
  7. 'Moonshine' Yarrow (Achillea hybrid)
  8. 'Powis Castle' Sage (Artemisia hybrid)
  9. 'Select Blue' Catmint (Nepeta x faassenii)
  10. 'Vera' English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

Top 10 Native Waterwise Perennials

These are many of the plants that I include when designing water-wise landscapes for the drier parts of the country, west of the Mississippi River. They will do best when planted in a region that gets less than 25 inches of precipitation annually.

Again, they are in no particular order as they are all winners:

  1. 'Blonde Ambition' Blue Grama Grass (Bouteloua gracilis)
  2. 'Desert Solstice' Hummingbird Mint (Agastache hybrid) *
  3. 'Gold on Blue' Prairie Zinnia (Zinnia grandiflora)
  4. Licorice Mint Hyssop (Agastache rupestris) *
  5. 'Perfect Pink' Santa Fe Phlox (Phlox nana)
  6. Pineleaf Beardtongue (Penstemon pinifolius & cultivars) *
  7. 'Raspberry Delight' Hybrid Bush Sage (Salvia hybrid) *
  8. 'Santa Fe' Perennial Sunflower (Helianthus maximiliana)
  9. Silver Ironweed (Vernonia lindheimeri v. leucophylla)
  10. Sulphur Buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum & cultivars)

*These are also excellent for feeding pollinators, especially native bees and hummingbirds

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