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Drought Tolerant Landscaping in Utah

Drought-tolerant landscaping has become increasingly popular in Utah within the past few years and with good reason. According to Utah Hazard Mitigation, Utah is the second driest state in the United States, with an average of 13 inches of annual precipitation. With drought and water shortages increasing across Utah and the western United States, many people are turning to drought-tolerant landscaping to conserve water while beautifying their yards at the same time. This article will discuss everything you need to know about drought-resistant landscaping, from design to the plants you can incorporate.

What is Drought-Tolerant Landscaping?

Let’s start with the basics. What is a drought? A drought is a prolonged period of dryness, specifically one that prevents the growth of vegetation or damages crops. It’s generally caused by a lack of rainfall and water in the atmosphere. In response to drought, many homeowners and businesses are turning to a landscape that helps conserve water. Drought-tolerant landscaping is a type of landscaping designed to thrive with little to no supplemental water. It usually consists of hardscapes, rocks, native plants, and low-maintenance landscape features that can withstand low-water conditions.

Drought-Tolerant Utah Landscape Design

While it might seem challenging to find drought-resistant plants fitting for the Utah landscape, there are a surprising number of drought-tolerant plants, some of which are native to the area and are beautiful in any Utah landscape design.

Drought-Tolerant Plants

Native Utah plants are not only drought-resistant, but they’re also a great addition to any landscape. In addition, they’re often strongly disease-resistant and attract pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and even hummingbirds. Here are a few of our favorite drought-tolerant plants in Utah:


Yucca | Drought Tolerant Plants | Drought Resistant Landscaping Ideas for Utah | Think Architecture

Yucca | Utah Native Drought-Resistant Plant

A stunning statement piece in any landscape design, deep-rooted yucca are some of the most beautiful full-sun drought-tolerant plants. This is partly because the long tap roots make them particularly drought-resistant and hardy in zones 4-10.

Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental Grass | Drought Tolerant Plants | Drought Resistant Landscaping Ideas for Utah | Think Architecture

Ornamental Grass | Drought Tolerant Plant

Many types of ornamental grasses thrive in the full sun and with little water. Some can even thrive in partial shade, making them an excellent option for various landscape designs. With thick roots that conserve water, they’re great for any dry spots in the garden.

Jupiter’s Beard 

Jupiter's Beard | Drought Tolerant Plants | Drought Resistant Landscaping Ideas for Utah | Think Architecture

Jupiter’s Beard | Drought-Tolerant Plant

Jupiter’s beard, also known as red valerian, is an ever-blooming flower with tiny clusters of dark flower heads and deep-green foliage. This incredibly low-maintenance plant thrives with minimal water and is popular with pollinators.


Sedum | Drought Tolerant Plants | Drought Resistant Landscaping Ideas for Utah | Think Architecture

Sedum | Drought Resistant Plant

There are several different varieties of sedum, each appropriate for various areas of the landscape. However, they’re all manageable in Utah’s dry landscape and offer a unique interest in landscape design.


Lavender | Drought Tolerant Flowers | Drought Resistant Landscaping Ideas for Utah | Think Architecture

Lavender | Drought Tolerant Flowers

Lavender is a hardy plant that requires very little attention throughout the growing season and is a beautiful addition to any Utah landscape design. This pollinator plant offers soft scents and bright blossoms.

Drought-Tolerant Trees

Trees that can withstand heat and require little water are the backbone of Utah landscape design. Choosing drought-resistant trees helps conserve water and add pops of color to the landscape. As a bonus, we all know they’re great for providing much-needed shade.

Blue Spruce

Blue Spruce | Drought Tolerant Trees | Drought-Tolerant Landscaping Ideas for Utah | Think Architecture

Blue Spruce | Drought Tolerant Tree

Designated as Utah’s first state tree, the blue spruce is a beautiful drought-resistant tree. It provides winter interest and serves as a visible accent in any landscape.

Japanese Zelkova

Japanese Zelkova | Keaki Tree | Drought Resistant Trees | Drought-Tolerant Landscaping Ideas for Utah | Think Architecture

Japanese Zelkova | Drought Resistant Tree

The Japanese zelkova is a tough, drought-resistant residential shade tree. They are disease-resistant and often used as a substitute for elm trees because of their similar appearance.

Utah Juniper

Utah Juniper Tree | Drought Tolerant Trees | Drought-Tolerant Landscaping Ideas for Utah | Think Architecture

Utah Juniper | Utah Native Drought Tolerant Tree

As one of the most drought-tolerant plants in Utah, the juniper is a busy, native tree that produces small berries that serve as food for birds. It adds a beautiful, evergreen interest to any landscape.

Pinyon Pine

Pinyon Pine | Drought Resistant Trees | Utah Landscape Design | Think Architecture

Pinyon Pine | Utah Native Drought Resistant Tree

This water-thrifty pine tree is a small tree that looks great in any landscape design. Common in the deserts of the Great Basin region, this tree is hardy in zones 4 to 8 and can tolerate hot, dry conditions.

Drought-Tolerant Ground Cover

Planting drought-tolerant ground covers add valuable vegetation to the area and a pop of color and texture to the landscape design. Some of these options are also great for areas where landowners want to remove & replace their grass with a more drought-tolerant turf option.


Yarrow Achillea | Drought Tolerant Ground Cover Utah | Think Architecture

Yarrow Achillea | Drought Tolerant Ground Cover

This low-growing ground cover has soft, feather-shaped leaves with flower stalks that grow upward. This drought-resistant plant quickly spreads to fill an area with green foliage and beautiful flowers.

Hens and Chicks

Hens and Chicks | Drought Tolerant Ground Cover Utah | Think Architecture

Hens and Chicks | Drought-Resistant Ground Cover

These low and slow-growing succulents fill in a landscape, growing in empty areas in rock gardens, stone paths, and rock walls. While hens and chicks aren’t a ground cover you can walk on, they make excellent plants for filling in a full-sun area of your garden landscape.

Creeping Thyme

Creeping Thyme | Drought Tolerant Ground Cover Utah | Think Architecture

Creeping Thyme | Drought Tolerant Ground Covering

With many available varieties on the market, creeping thyme is a flat plan that spreads to cover the area like a carpet. As a bonus, bees love creeping thyme when it blooms.

Ice Plant

Ice Plant | Drought Tolerant Ground Cover & Flowers Utah | Think Architecture

Ice Plant | Drought Resistant Ground Cover

With some of the most striking and perhaps heat-tolerant blooms in Utah, ice plants are excellent ground covers that beautify any space. They come in a wide variety of colors, too.

White Clover

White Clover | Drought Tolerant Ground Cover Utah | Think Architecture

White Clover | Drought Tolerant Turf Option

The clover root system is a steady supply of nitrogen to the soil, which is beneficial for any plant growth in the area. White clover is drought-tolerant and will not overcrowd grass, making it a great addition to already-existing turf areas.

Drought-Tolerant Shrubs

There are quite a few shrubs that are perfect for low-moisture environments such as Utah. Here are a few of our drought-resistant shrubs that can provide privacy, texture, and plenty of color around the yard.

Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon | Drought Tolerant Shrubs Utah | Think Architecture

Rose of Sharon | Drought Tolerant Shrub

Established rose of Sharon plants can tolerate little moisture and are a stunning addition to any landscape. The shrub produces paper-like flowers that come in a variety of colors.

Butterfly Bush

Butterfly Bush | Full Sun Drought Tolerant Plants Utah | Think Architecture

Butterfly Bush | Full Sun Drought Tolerant Plant

This low-maintenance deciduous shrub features fragrant purple flowers that bloom from mid-summer to mid-fall. It’s a showstopper that is a great focal point in any water-wise landscape.

Russian Sage

Russian Sage | Drought Tolerant Utah Native Plants | Think Architecture

Russian Sage | Drought Tolerant Utah Native Plant

This bushy purple plant is one of the most drought-tolerant plants in Utah. In fact, it thrives in dry, poor soil and rarely needs to be water once established. The spiky, purple foliage attracts many pollinators and is attractive in many landscapes.


Sagebrush | Drought Tolerant Plants Utah | Think Architecture

Sagebrush | Drought Tolerant Plant

While it’s one of the most common plants in the Utah landscape, it can be a stunning addition to any urban landscape. As a bonus, it only needs the rain that falls from the sky; there’s no need to give it any additional water.

Water-Wise Botanicals and Drought-Tolerant Plants: Is There a Difference?

When you begin researching and planning drought-tolerant landscaping, you may come across many different definitions and references, including water-wise landscaping, water-saving landscaping, water-efficient landscaping, sustainable landscaping, and xeriscaping. Though each term is slightly nuanced, they all generally mean the same: landscaping a specific area with hardscaping and heat- and drought-tolerant plants that need little water.

When the terms water-wise and drought-tolerant are applied to plants, perennials, succulents, grasses, and trees, it simply means that the plant has adapted to an arid climate and requires little water to grow and thrive. Representatives from various Utah State and city organizations define water-wise plants as:

  • Water conserving
  • Adapted to Utah’s arid climate and cold winters
  • Available in Utah nurseries and garden centers
  • Relatively easy to maintain
  • Continue to live and grow even under limited water availability

Water-Wise Botanicals

Planning a water-saving landscape does not mean it will be dull or devoid of color. You can use many colorful drought-tolerant plants and Utah flora to beautify your water-wise landscape, including drought-tolerant flowers and flowering plants. Explore our list of water-wise plants below.

Full Sun Drought-Tolerant Perennials

Many full-sun drought-tolerant plants thrive in Utah’s arid climate. Below we’ve listed a few of our favorite full-sun drought-tolerant perennials, which grow back every year in the spring:

Blue Star | Full Sun Drought Tolerant Perennial

Blue Star

Also known as Amsonia schistosum, Blue Star are native plants to the Midwest and have blue, purple, or white flowers in the spring and beautiful colors in the fall.

Red Hot Poker | Full Sun Drought Tolerant Perennial

Red Hot Poker

Red hot pokers are hardy, showstopping flowers known for their tall spiky flowers in fiery reds, oranges, and yellows.

Hummingbird’s Trumpet | Full Sun Drought Tolerant Perennial

Hummingbird’s Trumpet

Also known as Zauscheria or orange carpet, Hummingbird’s Trumpets are excellent groundcover plants with small, striking red and orange tubular flowers attracting hummingbirds, butterflies, and moths and are good for erosion control.

Daylily | Full Sun Drought Tolerant Perennial


Daylilies are rugged and adaptable flowers that require little care to thrive. They come in various sizes and colors and resemble lilies, though they are not actually lilies.

Tulip | Full Sun Drought Tolerant Perennial


Tulips are perennials and will return and bloom for 3-5 years. They are low-water plants whose bulbs will rot if exposed to too much water in the summer.

Drought-Tolerant Perennials for Shaded Areas

These drought-tolerant flowering plants love the shade and will thrive in shady, water-wise gardens.

Columbine | Drought Tolerant Perennial for Shaded Areas


There are dozens of different species and colors of Columbine, and many love the dappled shade. They are also alpine plants that will grow as wildflowers in sunny meadows in higher altitudes.

Bergenia | Drought Tolerant Perennial for Shaded Areas


Heartleaf Bergenia is known for its hardiness. It forms in clumps. In early spring, it grows large, glossy, heart-shaped leaves with thick red stems and clusters of red, white, and deep-pink flowers.

Yellow Corydalis | Drought Tolerant Perennial for Shaded Areas

Yellow Corydalis

Yellow Corydalis blooms tiny, yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers and has fern-like leaves. This plant loves full shade and will bloom in late spring to early fall.

Cranesbill Geranium | Drought Tolerant Perennial for Shaded Areas

Cranesbill Geranium

These beautiful, hardy geraniums have long bloom seasons and come in a variety of colors, including blue, pink, purple, and white.

Coral Bells | Drought Tolerant Perennial for Shaded Areas

Coral Bells

Coral Bells are a great plant selection that offers beauty and variety to water-wise gardens. They are known best for their striking foliage throughout the summer and fall.

Utah’s Sustainable Landscape Design Experts

If you’re planning on creating your own drought-free oasis or a low-maintenance drought-tolerant front yard, trust the experts at Think Architecture. Our award-winning Utah landscape architects create innovative urban landscapes. These environmentally conscious landscape designs feature drought-tolerant plants that are native to Utah to ensure long-term sustainability. Contact us today to get started on your landscape design.

Drought Tolerant Landscaping FAQs

What are drought resistant plants?

What is the scientific drought resistance definition? Technically speaking, drought resistance is a broad term for a feature that allows a plant to tolerate and thrive in environments with little to no water over a certain period of time. Drought-tolerant plants maintain their biomass in arid conditions and naturally adapt to dry environments.

Are boxwoods drought tolerant?

As a staple in many landscape designs around the country, boxwoods are incredibly drought-resistant and resilient evergreen shrubs. Once established, they need very little water to survive. With many different types of boxwoods available, they’re easy to incorporate into many different landscape designs.

What are water-wise plants?

Water-wise plants are types of plants that are adapted to thrive in areas with limited water supply or are capable of conserving water efficiently. These plants have specific characteristics that allow them to survive in an arid climate and require less water than other plants. They conserve water, are relatively easy to maintain, and continue to flower and flourish even under limited water availability.

Some common traits of water-wise plants include:

Drought tolerance: These plants have adaptations that allow them to survive extended periods of drought, such as deep root systems, succulent leaves or stems, or the ability to go dormant during dry spells.

Water conservation: Water-wise plants often have thick, waxy leaves that reduce water loss through transpiration, or they may have small leaves that help to minimize water loss. Additionally, many water-wise plants have adaptations that allow them to capture and store water, such as specialized stems or leaves.

Adaptability: Many water-wise plants are highly adaptable and can tolerate a wide range of soil types, pH levels, and temperatures. This makes them ideal for use in areas with fluctuating environmental conditions.

Examples of water-wise plants include cacti, succulents, yuccas, agaves, lavender, and rosemary. Planting water-wise plants in your garden or landscaping can help to conserve water and create a beautiful, low-maintenance landscape.

What is water-wise landscaping?

Water-wise landscaping, also known as xeriscaping or drought-tolerant landscaping, is a landscaping approach that focuses on conserving water and creating beautiful, sustainable landscapes that are well-adapted to the local climate. Water-wise landscaping is particularly important in areas with limited water resources or drought-prone areas like desert landscapes.

Water-wise landscaping involves several vital principles, including:

Designing for the local climate: Water-wise landscapes are designed to be well adapted to the local climate, taking into account factors such as average temperature, rainfall, and soil type. This helps to ensure that plants and other landscaping elements thrive with minimal irrigation systems.

Plant selection: Selecting drought-tolerant and drought-resistant plants that are well adapted to the local climate is a key component of water-wise landscaping. These plants require less water, are more resilient to drought, and require less maintenance than water-intensive plants.

Soil improvement: Improving soil quality is an important component of water-wise landscaping. By adding organic matter, such as compost, to the soil, water retention is increased, which helps to reduce water needs.

Efficient irrigation: Water-wise landscaping often involves the use of efficient irrigation systems, such as drip irrigation, which deliver water directly to the plant roots with minimal evaporation or runoff.

Mulching: The use of mulch, such as wood chips or shredded leaves, helps to retain moisture in the soil and reduce evaporation, which in turn reduces the need for watering.

Water-wise landscaping is an environmentally responsible and cost-effective approach to landscaping that can help to conserve water, reduce maintenance costs, and create beautiful and sustainable outdoor spaces.