What makes plants drought tolerant?

All plants require 3 things to help them flourish:  water, light and nutrients.  While some plants will do better with low light and thrive in the shade, some plants need little water or can go for extended periods without watering once they are established.

These ‘drought-tolerant’ plants have evolved different physiological strategies to survive in dry conditions. 

Water Storage
– succulents such as Hens and Chicks or Sedum contain tissue capable of storing water, so they can survive for short periods without water.  They often have thick, fleshy leaves with a waxy coating to prevent water loss.

Hairy or Fuzzy Leaves
– the fine hairs on the leaves of Black-Eye Susans or Blanket Flower, keep moisture trapped at the leaf surface, which reduces the evaporation

Lacy Foliage
– plants such as Russian Sage and Yarrow have fine, lacy foliage, designed to reduce leaf surface and lose less water through surface evaporation
– ornamental grasses also fall into this category

Leaf Colour
– light coloured leaves such as lavender with it’s grey-green leaves will reflect the sun resulting in less water evaporation

Tap Roots
– plants such as Milkweed (Asclepias) have long tap roots that help to seek out deep water sources during dry weather.