Top 10 Waterwise Perennials

By David Salman, Founder and Chief Horticulturalist of High Country Gardens

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 to invaluable for gardening. When asked what I recommend as the best low care, grow-most- anywhere perennials, I offer these two lists of cold hardy perennials.

All of my recommended plants are:

  • 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. I just like to organize my recommendations into lists that provide additional information about their origins.

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

Shop All Waterwise Perennials

  1. Blue Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, Hardy Plumbago

    Hardy Plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) is one of the most versatile groundcovers for cold climates growing in both sun and shade and most soil types. Plumbago blooms in late su...

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    Hardy Plumbago (Ceratostigma) Hardy Plumbago, Leadwort Ceratostigma plumbaginoides
    As low as $8.79 Sale $8.35
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    Hardy Plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) is one of the most versatile groundcovers for cold climates growing in both sun and shade and most soil types. Plumbago blooms in late summer with deep blue flowers followed by the foliage that turns burgundy red in fall.
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  2. Nepeta faassenii Select Blue

    Nepeta 'Select Blue' (Select Blue Catmint) is a fantastic xeric perennial with dramatic lavender-blue flowers and handsome gray-green foliage. A recurrent bloomer, the first flush of...

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    Select Blue Nepeta Select Blue Catmint Nepeta faassenii Select Blue
    As low as $9.99 Sale $9.49
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    Nepeta 'Select Blue' (Select Blue Catmint) is a fantastic xeric perennial with dramatic lavender-blue flowers and handsome gray-green foliage. A recurrent bloomer, the first flush of flowers comes in late spring, and again later in summer. A long-lived, easily grown perennial, this is an excellent plant for beginners.
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  3. Vic Bruno's Albuquerque Thyme Lawn

    1" tall x 18" wide. Pink Chintz Thyme (Thymus Pink Chintz) is a tight, low growing creeping thyme with thick stems of woolly green foliage that blooms in mid-spring with a profusion ...

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    Pink Chintz Creeping Thyme Pink Chintz Creeping Thyme Thymus serpyllum Pink Chintz
    As low as $7.99 Sale $7.59
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    1" tall x 18" wide. Pink Chintz Thyme (Thymus Pink Chintz) is a tight, low growing creeping thyme with thick stems of woolly green foliage that blooms in mid-spring with a profusion of salmon-pink flowers.
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  4. Perovskia atriplicifolia Blue Spires

    Perovskia atriplicifolia Blue Spires (Blue Spires Russian Sage) is the best large growing Russian Sage selection blooming with dark blue flower spikes appearing in mid-summer. Though...

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    Blue Spires Russian Sage Blue Spires Russian Sage Perovskia atriplicifolia Blue Spires
    Sale Price I Save 5%
    $10.99 Sale $10.44
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Perovskia atriplicifolia Blue Spires (Blue Spires Russian Sage) is the best large growing Russian Sage selection blooming with dark blue flower spikes appearing in mid-summer. Thought to be a hybrid of two species, this plant has amazing vigor and blooms for many months.
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