The first thing that may come to mind when you think of conserving water in a landscape is lava rock and cactus. Fortunately, there are many drought tolerant plants available that are significantly more pleasing to the eye than rocks and cactus.
Centranthus ruber (Red Valerian, Jupiter’s Beard) is a very fast growing perennial. Red Valerian loves the full sun and is perfect for planting in tough growing areas and poor soils such as concrete curbside planters. Monrovia’s plant catalog states this plant is hardy Zones 3 to 9 and grows 2 to 3 feet both tall and wide.
Coreopsis, Early Sunrise: This golden beauty thrives in full sun, low water conditions. According to Burpee Seeds and Plants, Coreopsis grows approximately 2 feet tall and 15 to 18 inches wide; its cold hardiness is Zone 3 to 9. This flower is a repeat bloomer, but spending a little extra time deadheading, which is simply done by ‘popping’ off the spent blooms will keep Early Sunrise in fuller bloom.
Gaillardia (Blanket Flower), Arizona Sun: Much like its wildflower cousins, Gaillardia is also excellent at reseeding itself. If you are not in the perennial zones, you will still be able to enjoy this flower for more than one season if you allow the flowers to go to seed. Burpee Seeds and Plants shows this heat loving perennial is cold hardy for Zones 6 to 10, grows 8 to 10 inches tall and 12 to 15 inches wide.
Russian Sage (Perovskia) is drought tolerant once it has been established. Russian sage loves the full sun, and can handle heavy pruning with ease. This perennial displays soft silvery foliage arrayed with long, lavender spires of blooms. According to Monrovia, Russian sage grows quite large, but is nicely proportioned with a height and width of 3 to 4 feet and is cold hardy for Zones 3 to 9.
Salvia greggii (Autumn Sage): This woody perennial has prolific blossoms and can be found in pink, white, purple, and red. Ball Horticulture Company Growers shows varieties of Autumn Sage have growth habits that range in height from 12 to 30 inches and in width from 12 to 24 inches, and they are hardy to Zone 7. In general, planting them a little closer together than the maximum width range indicated on the plant label for your specific variety will make for a denser, more continuous splash of color.
Tip: When transplanting anything into your garden, keep in mind that your plants are used to nursery type conditions, meaning frequent watering. You can help minimize shock by gradually reducing the amount of water to transplants instead of initially treating them as drought tolerant. Also, try using a solution of liquid seaweed and fish emulsion on the day of transplanting. This will help minimize shock.
“Coreopsis, Early Sunrise” Burpee Gardening.
“Gaillardia, Arizona Sun: All America Selection Winner!” Burpee Gardening.
“Red Valerian Centranthus ruber ‘Coccineus’” Monrovia.
“Russian Sage Perovskia atriplicifolia” Monrovia.
“Salvia greggii” Ball Growers Advanced Search.