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Planting for Resilience: Drought-Tolerant Plants Thriving in Harsh Conditions

09 Nov 2023

Gardening in Australia often means facing challenging climatic conditions, including extended periods of drought and harsh environments. In such conditions, choosing the right plants becomes critical, not only for ornamental purposes but also for cultivating your own edible produce when even the grocery store supplies are impacted. This article explores a range of Australian drought-tolerant plants, including both ornamental and edible varieties, that can thrive in the face of adversity.

Drought-Tolerant Ornamental Plants:

  1. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium): Yarrow is a hardy, drought-tolerant perennial that offers delicate and feathery clusters of flowers in various colors, including white, yellow, and pink.

  2. Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus spp.): Australia's iconic eucalyptus trees and shrubs are adapted to dry conditions. They provide shade, essential oils, and contribute to the overall health of your garden.

  3. Blanket Flower (Gaillardia spp.): Blanket flowers feature vibrant, daisy-like blooms in red, orange, and yellow hues. They are exceptionally drought-resistant and attract pollinators.

  4. Agastache (Agastache spp.): Agastache, commonly called hyssop, boasts spikes of tubular flowers in various colors, attracting bees and butterflies. It's a drought-tolerant perennial that is also a helpful herbal medicine for sore throats.

  5. Prairie coneflower (Ratibida columnifera): Also known as Mexican Hat, a native southwest USA wildflower with distinctive red to brown cone-shaped centers surrounded by yellow or red drooping petals. It thrives in dry conditions and attracts pollinators.

  6. California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica): The California Poppy is a vibrant orange wildflower well-adapted to arid regions. It's known for its cheerful appearance and resilience in dry climates and is used to aid sleep and relaxation.

  7. Acacia (Acacia spp.): Commonly known as wattles, acacias are drought-resistant shrubs or small trees with bright yellow, fragrant flowers. They add a touch of Australian beauty to any landscape.

  8. Salvia (Salvia spp.): Salvias come in various colors and sizes, and they are renowned for their drought resistance. They attract pollinators and offer vibrant blooms.


Edible Drought-Tolerant Plants:


  1. Rosella (Hibiscus sabdariffa): Rosella is a versatile and drought-tolerant plant that offers both ornamental and culinary benefits. The antioxidant rich calyces are used to make jams, jellies, teas, and sauces.

  2. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis): Rosemary is a versatile and drought-tolerant herb that not only adds flavor to your kitchen creations but also thrives in dry conditions.

  3. Eggplant (Solanum melongena): Eggplants are drought-tolerant vegetables known for their efficient use of water, making them a reliable addition to arid gardens.

  4. Lavender (Lavandula spp.): While not native, lavender is well-suited to Australia's arid regions. Its fragrant foliage can be used in both cooking and for its calming aroma.

  5. Sage (Salvia officinalis): Sage is a hardy herb that can withstand drought conditions and is an excellent addition to your herb garden.

  6. Kale (Brassica oleracea): Kale is a nutritious and drought-tolerant leafy green that thrives in various climates. It's a fantastic addition to your edible garden.

  7. Cherry Tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum): Cherry tomato varieties are often more drought-resistant than their larger counterparts, making them an excellent choice for your vegetable garden.

  8. Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus): Okra is a heat-tolerant and drought-resistant vegetable that produces edible pods. It's a great addition to a dry climate garden.

  9. Old Man Saltbush (Atriplex nummularia): This native Australian plant is incredibly drought-resistant and produces edible leaves that can be used in salads and cooked dishes. Berry saltbush also produces edible red berries, a native buch tucker.

  10. New Zealand Spinach (Tetragonia tetragonioides): New Zealand spinach is a hardy leafy green that can thrive in arid conditions. It's an excellent choice for a water-wise garden.

  11. Cowpeas (Vigna unguiculata): Cowpeas are drought-tolerant legumes that produce edible pods and beans. They are a valuable addition to your garden, offering both food for human and livestock and provide soil enrichment.

  12. Anasazi Corn (Zea mays): Anasazi corn is a resilient corn variety well-suited for dry climates. It's a source of delicious, drought-tolerant corn.

  13. Burdock (Arctium Lappa): With a deep taproot, water-saving leaves, and an adaptive biennial lifecycle, burdock thrives in arid conditions, offering edible roots and potential medicinal applications.



Planting Strategies for Resilience:

  1. Grouping Plants by Water Needs: When planning your garden, group plants with similar water requirements together. This ensures efficient irrigation practices and prevents overwatering or underwatering. as well; planting taller, more water-dependent plants near shorter, drought-tolerant ones can provide shade and reduce soil moisture loss.

  2. Mulching: Apply a layer of organic mulch around your plants to conserve soil moisture, reduce evaporation, and suppress weed growth.

  3. Efficient Watering: Utilise soaker hoses or drip irrigation systems to deliver water directly to the root zone, minimising wastage. Water deeply but less frequently to encourage deep root growth.

  4. Soil Improvement: Enhance your soil's water-holding capacity by incorporating organic matter like compost. Healthy soil supports plant growth and resilience during drought.

  5. Research alternative growing methods, such as wicking beds, also called sub-irrigation beds, are a water-efficient gardening and growing system designed to maintain consistent moisture for plants while minimising water wastage. These beds are particularly useful in areas with low rainfall or for individuals who want to conserve water in their gardening practices.

  6. Use of wetting agents: Perlite, Vermiculite and Hydrogel crystals can be mixed into the soil to help retain moisture and reduce the frequency of watering.

  7. Rain Barrels: Collect rainwater from your roof in barrels or containers and use it for watering your garden. This reduces reliance on municipal water sources. It is amazing what can be collected even from a bucket catching morning dew run off. 


Gardening in harsh, drought-prone conditions is possible with the right plant choices and proper care. Australian drought-tolerant plants, whether ornamental or edible, offer not only resilience but also beauty and functionality in your garden. By following water-efficient strategies and maintaining healthy soil, you can create a thriving, water-wise garden that stands strong in the face of adversity. Including a diverse selection of drought-tolerant plants ensures a bountiful and sustainable garden that can endure the challenges of harsh Australian conditions.

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