Avoid Big Water Bills with These Drought-Tolerant Shrubs

drought tolerant shrubs
Here Are the Best Drought-Tolerant ShrubsPhotos from Japan, Asia and othe of the world - Getty Images

Shrubs are a great investment. They add interest, color and structure to your garden. But if you live in a dry climate—or want to avoid high water bills—you'll want to plant drought-tolerant options.

When choosing shrubs, make sure they can survive winters in your U.S. Hardiness Zone. (Find your zone here. Note that the hardiness zones have recently changed.)

Then plant them in the right spot where they will receive the correct amount of light. Full sun is considered 6 or more hours of direct sunlight per day, while part sun is half that—about 3 hours. Shade means the plant receives only a little morning sun.

It's important to pay attention to these guidelines! Shade lovers will fry in the hot sun, while sun lovers planted in shade tend to become leggy and unattractive as they try to stretch toward the available light.

How to Plant Drought-Tolerant Shrubs

It’s important to remember that drought tolerant shrubs still need water as they’re getting established. The best way to ensure they do well for years to come is to help them establish strong roots.

That means the first season, water regularly and deeply. Don’t just sprinkle on a little every day. Instead, hold your garden hose on the root ball for several minutes. Make sure the water isn’t just running off but is penetrating the soil. Check by poking your finger into the soil to feel the moisture level. If it’s still dry a few inches down, keep watering.

Finally, read the plant tag so you know exactly how tall and wide to expect a shrub to grow. There are many varieties with varying sizes. If you're tight on space in your landscape, look for those labeled "dwarf" or "compact."

Ahead, our favorite drought tolerant shrubs for every climate, including those that did the best in the University of California Plant Irrigation Trials:

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Also known as bluebeard, this lesser-known bush grows in a deep mound with bright blue flowers late in the season. New varieties also may bloom pink.

USDA Hardiness zones: 5 to 9
Full sun
Varieties to try: Beyond Midnight, Beyond Pink'd

drought tolerant shrubs caryopteris
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Butterfly Bush

Butterfly bush is covered in blooms from late spring all the way to frost. Of course, butterflies and other pollinators love it! Look for newer varieties that are not invasive and that are more compact.

USDA Hardiness zones: 5 to 9
Light: Full sun
Varieties to try: Pugster Blue, Miss Violet

drought tolerant shrubs butterfly bush
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Although this culinary herb is often considered an annual, in warm climates, it becomes a large shrub. Or pot it up and bring it indoors for the winter to enjoy again on your patio next summer.

USDA Hardiness zones: 6 to 10
Light: Full sun
Varieties to try: Arp, Roman Beauty

Read more: How to Plant an Herb Garden

drought tolerant shrubs rosemary
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Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon gets huge, eye-catching blooms in late summer, providing much-need color when most of the rest of your garden is winding down.

USDA Hardiness zones: 5 to 9
Light: Full sun
Varieties to try: Polly Petite, Sugar Tip, Azurri Blue

drought tolerant shrubs rose of sharon
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Ninebark has lovely, arching branches. Its foliage may be dark green, peach, or wine-colored. The tiny pinkish-white flowers in spring are a pollinator favorite.

USDA Hardiness zones: 3 to 7
Light: Full sun
Varieties to try: Summer Wine, Tiny Wine, Diablo

Read more: Design a Pollinator Garden That Actually Works

drought tolerant shrubs ninebark
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Shrub Rose

Shrub roses bloom from spring to summer, and they're not at all fussy, once established. Deadhead the blooms if you want to keep it neat, but most new cultivars, or cultivated varieties, don't require that to keep blooming. (Learn how, why, and when to deadhead plants.)

USDA Hardiness zones: 4 to 8
Light: Full sun
Varieties to try: Brick House Pink, Double Knock Out, Ringo series

Read more: How to Grow and Care for Knockout Roses

best drought tolerant shrubs
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Abelia has glossy foliage and tubular flowers that pollinators, such as hummingbirds, love. Many new varieties are more compact so they won't become overgrown in your garden.

USDA Hardiness zones: 6 to 9
Light: Full sun
Varieties to try: Apple Perfection, Sunshine Daydream

Read more: Beautiful Flowers That Attract Hummingbirds

drought tolerant shrubs abelia
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Potentilla is one of the longest blooming shrubs in the garden. With cheery flowers in white, pink or yellow, it's also a deer-resistant choice.

USDA Hardiness zones: 2 to 8
Light: Full sun
Varieties to try: Happy Face Hearts, Pink Princess

drought tolerant shrubs potentilla
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Daphne has the sweetest fragrance, and it blooms in late winter to early spring when you most need a dose of sunshine! Its foliage is green or variegated with pretty pinkish-white blooms.

USDA Hardiness zones: 6 to 9
Light: Part sun
Varieties to try: Eternal Fragrance, Marianni

Read more: How to Grow Daphne Shrubs

drought tolerant shrubs daphne
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Panicle Hydrangea

There are many different kinds of hydrangeas, but a type that's super-easy to grow in most of the country is the panicle hydrangea. These huge blooms appear in mid-summer and last until frost. Once established, these plants are more drought-tolerant than you'd guess.

USDA Hardiness zones: 3 to 8
Light: Full sun
Varieties to try: Limelight, Quickfire, Little Lamb

Read more: How to Grow and Care for Hydrangeas

drought tolerant shrubs panicle hydrangea
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Siberian Cypress

If you need a low-growing evergreen, Siberian cypress is a winner. This plant is extremely tough, surviving even the coldest winters. It also keeps a nice, flat form and is a great choice for erosion control.

USDA Hardiness zones: 2 to 7
Light: Full sun
Varieties to try: Celtic Pride

Read more: 25 Best Evergreen Shrubs for Your Garden

drought tolerant shrubs siberian cypress
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Unique "smoke-like" blooms appear on these shrubs in summer. Their foliage may be yellow, green or burgundy.

USDA Hardiness zones: 4 to 8
Light: Full sun
Varieties to try: Winecraft Black, Winecraft Gold

drought tolerant shrubs smokebush
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Mugo Pine

Mugo pines have interesting, dense foliage and cute little pine cones. Look for dwarf varieties, which still get about 4 or 5 feet tall.

USDA Hardiness zones 2 to 7
Light: Full sun
Varieties to try: Little Rick, Carsten's Wintergold

drought tolerant shrubs mugo pine
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The bright yellow flowers of forsythia appear in early spring before the shrub leafs out. They're super-hardy and easy-care. Look for new, compact varieties that won't take over your landscape.

USDA Hardiness zones 5 to 8
Light: Full sun
Varieties to try: Showoff Starlet

Read more: 15 Best Plants for Hillsides

drought tolerant shrubs forsythia
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There's nothing as sweet-smelling in the spring as lilacs. These hardy shrubs live for decades. New varieties will re-bloom sporadically throughout the season.

USDA Hardiness zones 3 to 7
Light: Full sun
Varieties to try: Bloomerang, New Age

Learn: How to Grow a Lilac Bush

drought tolerant shrubs lilac
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Another hardy evergreen that deer typically won't bother, junipers have a blue-ish caste and pretty berries. They come in a variety of sizes and forms, so read the plant tag so you know what you're buying.

USDA Hardiness zones 4 to 8
Light: Full sun
Varieties to try: Burley Blue, Gin Fizz

drought tolerant shrubs juniper
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This low growing shrub gets beautiful red berries in the fall, which remain on the branches in winter. Deer tend to avoid them.

USDA Hardiness zones 4 to 10
Light: Full sun
Varieties to try: Coral Beauty, Tom Thumb

Read more: 38 Deer Resistant Plants Bambi Doesn't Like

drought tolerant shrubs cotoneaster
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Lantana is often treated as an annual in much of the country. But in warm climates, it can become a small shrub. The flowers are available in gorgeous, saturated tones.

USDA Hardiness zones 10 to 11
Light: Full sun
Varieties to try: Fiesta

drought tolerant shrubs lantana
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There are many types of viburnum, and they're incredibly drought tolerant once established. With rich green foliage and white flowers in spring, this is one of the easiest shrubs to grow.

USDA Hardiness zones 4 to 8
Light: Full sun
Varieties to try: Glitters and Glows

drought tolerant shrubs arrowwood viburnum
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Crape Myrtle

Beautiful, long-blooming crape myrtle (also called crepe myrtle) is a lovely addition to the landscape. The fluffy-looking flowers come in every color, including pink, red, white and purple. Look for smaller varieties to keep them under 10 feet.

USDA Hardiness zones: 5 to 10
Light: Full sun
Varieties to try: Bellini Raspberry, Summerlasting

Learn More: The 16 Best Trees Under 10 Feet Tall for Your Yard

drought tolerant crape myrtle
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