17 Hardy & Drought Tolerant Ground Cover Plants

Looking to add some ground cover to your garden, but want to make sure that it doesn't require consistent watering? There are many drought tolerant ground covers, so picking just one can be a challenge. In this article, we look at some of our favorites, with names and pictures of each!

drought tolerant ground cover

Looking for a drought tolerant ground cover for areas in your garden or around your home landscape that may need some filler plants? There are plenty of different ground covers that can withstand a lack of water while keeping open spaces in your garden a little more green.

Ground cover plants are perfect for filling in beds and replacing large portions of dirt, rock, or grass. If you stick to drought-tolerant species, you’ll end up with a stunning landscape that takes minimal effort. If you live in a less moist climate, then you’ll likely have no other choice than to stick to ground cover plants that don’t require frequent moisture.

So, where do you start? We’ve hand picked some of our favorite drought tolerant ground covers that you can add to your home landscape or garden area. Each of these plants will help fill in gaps in your garden, without requiring much moisture through the growing season. Ready to learn more? Let’s jump in!

Angelina Sedum

Sedum rupestre
Angelina Sedum is an evergreen plant with golden green foliage that blooms with small yellow flowers in summer.
Scientific Name: Sedum rupestre
  • Plant Type: Perennial Evergreen
  • Geographic Origin: Europe
  • Plant Size: 1 to 3 feet wide
  • Sun Exposure: Partial to Full Sun
  • Plant Zone: 5 to 9

Angelina Sedum is part of the sedum family, often referred to as the stonecrop because it can grow in the rockiest of soils. The plant is technically an evergreen that displays succulent foliage in a golden-green color.

Throughout the summer, the Angelina Sedum will bloom tiny yellow flowers, giving its already golden foliage a fantastic glow. When fall comes around, the flowers fall off, and the foliage fades to a shade of rusty orange.

Plant this beauty in well-draining soil with direct sunshine and watch it quickly spread.

Bearberry Cotoneaster

Cotoneaster dammeri
Bearberry Cotoneaster is an evergreen shrub that produces white, fragrant flowers and red berries that attract birds.
Scientific Name: Cotoneaster dammeri
  • Plant Type: Evergreen shrub
  • Geographic Origin: China
  • Plant Size: 6 feet wide
  • Sun Exposure: Partial to Full Sun
  • Plant Zone: 5 to 8

Anyone who enjoys evergreens and Christmas-like foliage will love a ground covering of bearberry cotoneaster. This impeccable plant is a dense, drought tolerant evergreen shrub decorated with tiny white flowers and bright red berries.

The plant itself can grow as tall as 12 inches, but it can spread nearly six feet wide and cover quite a large area. It’s very easy to grow and maintain, becoming very drought tolerant once established.

It also attracts birds and butterflies, which can add another layer of life and beauty to your property.

Chamomile

Chamaemelum nobile
Chamomile forms a dense carpet and is often used as a base plant for lawns, although it also looks great in the garden among other herbs.
Scientific Name: Chamaemelum nobile
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Europe
  • Plant Size: 8 to 12 inches wide
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun
  • Plant Zone: 2 to 9

Many people know about chamomile tea and the plant’s herbal remedies, but did you know that the chamomile herb also makes a wonderful, drought-tolerant ground cover?

There are two varieties of chamomile: German and Roman. German chamomile is likely the variety you have in your tea collection, while Roman chamomile is a creeping plant that sprouts small white flowers with distinct yellow centers.

While the German variety is an annual plant, Roman chamomile is a perennial plant that will bloom each summer. The plant is very low-maintenance and releases a very pleasant fragrance.

Creeping Phlox

Phlox stolonifera
For all their beauty, Creeping Phlox plants are quite beautiful and can grow in poor soil.
Scientific Name: Phlox stolonifera
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: North America
  • Plant Size: 2 feet wide
  • Sun Exposure: Partial to Full Sun
  • Plant Zone: 4 to 8

The creeping phlox plant produces a lovely ground cover of pastel shades, including lavender, pink, bluish-purple, and white. Though a perennial plant, the creeping phlox is evergreen in nature. It has needle-like foliage, similar to a pine tree, that makes it stand out among other plants.

Creeping phlox does well in rocky soil. It grows quickly and easily in flower beds, but it always spills over wonderfully in planters.

If you want to continue to see the dainty flowers, pay attention to the thick growth. You should trim this growth down to encourage new growth, which will yield more flowers. The thicker growth will eventually stop blooming.

Creeping Thyme

Thymus spp
Creeping Thyme is a groundcover plant that produces small purple, pink or white flowers, loves the sun and tolerates drought well.
Scientific Name: Thymus spp.
  • Plant Type: Herbaceous Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Europe
  • Plant Size: 6 to 18 inches wide
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun
  • Plant Zone: 2 to 9

The creeping thyme plant makes a gorgeous ground covering for any kind of landscaping in need of some bright color. The wide spread of small flowers bloom in purple, pink, and white and sprout from a hardy stem.

This ground covering loves a ton of sun and is resistant to droughts. As a member of the mint family, it has a very pleasant scent. It grows close to the ground, mimicking the appearance of a vine, and has unique blue-green leaves to go with its bright flowers.

Dwarf Periwinkle

Vinca minor
Dwarf Periwinkle is a creeping perennial, evergreen plant with leathery, glossy leaves and solitary purple flowers.
Scientific Name: Vinca minor
  • Plant Type: Evergreen Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Europe
  • Plant Size: 18 inches long
  • Sun Exposure: Any
  • Plant Zone: 4 to 9

Dwarf periwinkle may sound dainty and fragile, but it’s a very tough, low-maintenance plant with high reward. Periwinkle is often used as a ground cover due to its ability to bloom in low, spreading vines. It’s drought tolerant and can be grown in poor soil conditions.

The vines of a periwinkle plant bloom pretty little flowers all over. The most common types have lavender or purple flowers, while others are blue or pink.

Periwinkle is a perennial, so you can count on it to bloom again each spring. The plant can quickly cover a large, space and do very well with little sun and little water. It’s a great plant for inexperienced gardeners looking to beautify their property.

Beware, though; the plant is toxic to pets. But because of this, it’s also resistant to pests.

Ice Plant

Delosperma cooperi
Ice plants are quite hardy without moisture, and love to be in the sun.
Scientific Name: Delosperma cooperi
  • Plant Type: Hardy Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Africa
  • Plant Size: 12 to 24 inches wide
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun
  • Plant Zone: 6 to 10

While “drought-tolerant ground cover” doesn’t sound like a title for a very appealing plant, but the ice plant tosses that assumption out the window. The ice plant grows far and wide, bursting with vibrant, colorful flowers that almost seem too gorgeous to be real.

Ice plants are ideal for areas with lots of heat, plenty of sunlight, and little rain. The plant doesn’t enjoy sitting in moisture; in fact, it does best in dry, sandy soil. The low-growing branches can spread as far as two feet and will easily fill a large container or flower bed.

Lantana

Lantana camara
Lantana grows easily and does not require special conditions. It’s a hardy grower, and a desert climate favorite.
Scientific Name: Lantana camara
  • Plant Type: Perennial/Annual
  • Geographic Origin: Tropics, Mexico, West Indies
  • Plant Size: 6 feet wide
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun
  • Plant Zone: 7 to 11

Lantana is known best for its love of hot, sunny weather and its ability to bloom loud and proud all season long. This impressive perennial can grow tall, but most plants spread low and wide very rapidly.

The plant grows beautiful two-inch flowers in several different colors, including pink, orange, white, yellow, blue, and purple. The flowers often create a multi-colored appearance by sprouting several colors in one head.

Lantana plants make an excellent choice for gardens and containers alike – and it’s not uncommon for them to trail over containers for a lovely waterfall effect.

Oregon Grape

Berberis aquifolium
Oregon Grape does not require special care, and is resistant to drought.
Scientific Name: Berberis aquifolium
  • Plant Type: Evergreen Shrub
  • Geographic Origin: Northern North America
  • Plant Size: 2 to 5 feet wide
  • Sun Exposure: Partial to full shade
  • Plant Zone: 5 to 9

The Oregon grape goes by many names, including holly-leaved barberry, tall mahonia, and mountain grape. This evergreen shrub is an excellent visual choice, as it gives your property color all year-round.

The Oregon grape shrub boasts green and burgundy foliage and yellow flowers, complemented well by its purple fruit. These berries are even edible, tart as they may be.

This shrub easily multiplies and spreads and is very low-maintenance. It survives well in the shade and only requires watering once per week.

Rock Rose

Cistus
Rock Rose is a fast-growing, sun-loving shrub that is great for creating color accents in a summer garden in warm climates.
Scientific Name: Cistus
  • Plant Type: Shrub
  • Geographic Origin: Mediterranean
  • Plant Size: 3 to 5 feet tall
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun
  • Plant Zone: 6 to 10

The rock rose plant is a flowering ground cover plant known for its tolerance to extreme heat, rocky soil, and full sun. Because of this plant’s hardiness, it does well in areas that experience drought.

But looking at the plant, you wouldn’t expect it to be so tough. The greenery is accompanied by dozens of delicate flowers in shades of pink, yellow, and white. The plant grows quite easily in the worst conditions and can form an elegant ground cover in wide spaces.

What is especially unique about this plant is that each flower only blooms for a couple of hours. After that, it drops and prepares for a new bloom. The plant provides fresh blooms throughout the spring and summer.

Silver Carpet

Dymondia margaretae
Silver Carpet is a delightfully dense, drought tolerant, sprawling plant that’s 1-2 inches tall, ideal for most sunny gardens.
Scientific Name: Dymondia margaretae
  • Plant Type: Evergreen Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: South Africa
  • Plant Size: 16 to 20 inches wide
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun
  • Plant Zone: 9 to 11

The silver carpet was named for its gray-green, fuzzy leaves that spread far and wide across open ground. This plant can be very dense, making it ideal for filling in space. Some people even use it instead of grass for their lawns.

Not only is silver carpet drought-tolerant, but it can also take a bit of a beating. In most cases, the plant is okay with getting stepped on now and then.

The forgiving ground cover will even reward you with small, yellow flowers during the summer. It adds a nice touch of color and brightness for the sunny months, and it does a great job of pushing weeds out of the way on its own.

Snow in Summer

Cerastium tomentosum
A pretty perennial groundcover with narrow blue-gray foliage, ‘Snow in Summer’ will brighten up your flower beds with its profuse white star-shaped flowers with serrated petals.
Scientific Name: Cerastium tomentosum
  • Plant Type: Perennial Flower
  • Geographic Origin: Europe
  • Plant Size: 9 to 12 inches wide
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun
  • Plant Zone: 3 to 8

We all know how stunning a fresh blanket of snow is first thing in the morning. The snow in summer plant gives you the illusion of that same kind of look with its gorgeous array of little, white flowers.

Also known as chickweed and mouse-ear, snow in summer is a far-reaching, deer-resistant perennial that blooms like crazy in the summertime. The leaves form a full ground cover and make way for hundreds of little white flowers.

Snow in summer is known for reseeding itself and spreading quickly. It thrives in sunny, dry locations and even grows well in rocky, loamy, or sandy soil. The plant is prone to overcrowding, so it’s important to plant them with at least a foot of space in between each.

If you want to avoid spreading too much, you can trim off the flower stems late in the summer before they drop their seeds for regrowth.

Spanish Daisy

Erigeron karvinskianus
Spanish Daisy produces flowers similar to ordinary daisies, but with thinner petals.
Scientific Name: Erigeron karvinskianus
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Mexico, Central America
  • Plant Size: 12 inches wide
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun
  • Plant Zone: 8 to 10

Also known for its country of origin as the Mexican daisy, the Spanish daisy is a spreading perennial plant with excellent ground cover potential. Spanish daisies are very similar to traditional daisies, with several delicate petals and a bright yellow center.

The plant grows in thick bushes and can spread as far as four feet. It’s ideal as a flower bed accent, containers, or as a low growing border perennial.

The dark-green foliage pairs perfectly with the white and pink flowers. It grows well in sunny areas with well-draining soil and is highly adaptable to high temperatures. The Spanish daisy is a great choice for beginner gardeners, as it’s easy to plant and grow in practically any condition.

Sweet Woodruff

Galium odoratum
Sweet Woodruff is a perennial herbaceous plant that produces fragrant leaves and white, small flowers.
Scientific Name: Galium odoratum
  • Plant Type: Perennial Herb
  • Geographic Origin: Africa, Asia, Europe
  • Plant Size: 9 to 18 inches wide
  • Sun Exposure: Partial to Full Sun
  • Plant Zone: 4 to 8

You may recognize sweet woodruff better by one of its common names: wild baby’s breath. Baby’s breath is often used as a filler flower in many bouquets. Its tiny, white flowers do a wonderful job accenting brighter colors and making an arrangement appear fuller.

The creeping plant does the same for yards, planters, and flower beds. The mat-forming plant boasts dark leaves intertwined with clusters of small, white, star-shaped flowers. Not only does the plant look beautiful and delicate, but it releases a sweet fragrance as well.

Sweet woodruff is easy to grow, deer-resistant, and rabbit-proof. It does well in average soil and spreads quickly when well-watered. It can be beneficial to let it sit in drought for a while to contain its spread.

White Clover

Trifolium repens
White Clover is a creeping perennial herbaceous plant from the legume family, that blooms from May to September with white flowers.
Scientific Name: Trifolium repens
  • Plant Type: Herbaceous Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Europe
  • Plant Size: 1 to 1.5 feet wide
  • Sun Exposure: Partial to Full Sun
  • Plant Zone: 3 to 10

White clover is a very common ground cover plant. There’s a good chance that you already have some in your yard mixed in with your grass.

The most recognizable part of the white clover plant is the three-part leaf that sprouts in all green. In the spring, clover will also bloom with some small, white flowers. However, it never loses its clovers.

While many people view the clover plant as a weed, others enjoy its beautiful green color. It’s ideal for mixing in with your lawn for a fuller appearance, especially if your lawn tends to get thin and patchy.

The plant is extremely drought tolerant. It also does well with rain, sunshine, foot traffic, and pets. It may not be the prettiest plant for your flower beds, but it can make your lawn glow.

Winecups

Callirhoe involucrata
Winecups blooms in April-May, July, and June with pink, deep purple, and maroon flowers that do not have a smell.
Scientific Name: Callirhoe involucrata
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Southern US
  • Plant Size: 3 feet wide
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun
  • Plant Zone: 4 to 8

Anyone concerned about drought destroying their garden and landscaping can rest assured that winecups will resolve your worries. Winecups are heat-loving plants that love full sun and look gorgeous.

The beautiful plant is named for its deep, cup-like flowers that bloom in shades of pink, deep purple, and maroon. The plant grows thick stems similar to vines and forms dense mats along the ground, making it an ideal choice for covering open spaces and filling in beds.

Like the famous morning glory flower, winecup flowers open in the morning and close in the evening. The plant does well in a variety of soil types but prefers a well-draining bed.

Yellow Alyssum

Aurinia saxatilis
Yellow Alyssum is a hardy and drought tolerant plant that is easy to use for flowering rock gardens, topping low walls or making beautiful colored borders in dry, rocky gardens.
Scientific Name: Aurinia saxatilis
  • Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Europe, Asia
  • Plant Size: 12 to 18 inches wide
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun
  • Plant Zone: 3 to 7

If your property is looking a little dull, the yellow alyssum is the perfect way to brighten it up with a burst of sun-shining color. Also referred to as basket of gold, this plant makes a stunning ground cover as it blooms bright yellow flowers complemented by blue-gray foliage.

Yellow alyssum can grow around a foot high. It grows fast and spreads widely across the ground, forming a dense mat that thrives in dry to average soil. You can expect to see its stunning blooms in the spring, and it comes back again each year.

Final Thoughts

Individual plants, shrubs, and flowers are staples in any flower bed or landscaping. But ground covers can make a very strategic addition to any outdoor space that looks a little thin or empty.

These drought tolerant ground cover plants are tough, hardy, and easy to maintain. They grow fast and require little attention, and many of them can go long stretches without any water. Try one out for yourself to class up your property a bit.

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