Euphorbia 2

Drought tolerant perennial plants

As summer temperatures start to increase globally with less rainfall to irrigate our gardens it’s time to think about the ‘right plant for the right place’ in our drier gardens.  So what can you grow in your garden in North East Scotland which will look good all year round, survive the drier summers and also our colder winters?

Drought tolerant plants are usually native to dry regions such as the Mediterranean but can still be grown in our cooler gardens.  They have evolved to thrive in dry soils with little rainfall by developing characteristics such as thick fleshy leaves to store water or silver or grey-green leaves to reflect harsh sun rays.  Some have also adapted by having a coating of fine hairs on the leaf surface to trap moisture.

Here are my top 5 perennial plants which will tolerate a period of drought in summer but hardy enough to survive a cold winter in North East Scotland:- 

Bergenia are evergreen perennials with large, leathery leaves which are often tinged red in autumn.  They flower in spring with flowering spikes in white, purple or pink. Looks great with spring flowering bulbs and perennials.  Happy in sun or shade.









Euphorbia characias is an evergreen perennial. It has bluish green foliage which looks good all year round.  In summer it produces large dome-shaped lime green flowers that tower above it.  Likes full sun.  Wear gloves when pruning as it produces a milky sap which can irritate skin and eyes.








Phlomis russeliana is a hairy perennial with grey green leaves which produces yellow whorled flowers in summer. Likes full sun.  Great for sensory gardens.








Sedum spectabile are drought resistant succulents that produce domes of starry pink, purple or white flowers in late summer/early autumn.  Great for pollinating insects.








Stachys byzantina is an evergreen perennial with grey downy leaves and stems.  Flowers are purple or pink in colour arranged in whorls in an uninterrupted spike in summer. Great for sensory gardens. Likes full sun.








Other practical considerations when planting

  1. Plant any silver leaved sun loving perennials in May so they establish their roots well before winter arrives.
  2. Plant smaller specimens (9 cm potted plants are ideal) so that they get used to their growing environment gradually as they develop.
  3. Add organic matter to the soil before planting such as peat-free compost or green waste compost.  This will help to increase water availability to the new plants and drainage.
  4. DO NOT add fertiliser, as this will encourage too much lush green growth, require extra watering, and then be affected by frost in the winter.
  5. Put a 5cm layer of mulch over the newly planted area to retain moisture in the soil. This could be biodegradable and will need refreshing such as peat-free compost, bark or wood chipping or non-biodegradable such as gravel, slate or pebbles.

If you are looking for planting design advice for your garden please contact us.

Gerbera Designs is a pre-registered member of the Society of Garden Designers and a Garden Designer member of the Association of Professional Landscapers.

Get in touch with us at to organise a FREE consultation in Aberdeen City and Shire to start creating your dream outdoor space.

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