How to choose drought tolerant plants

It’s easy to think planting for drought is just a matter of planting a garden full of “set and forget” New Zealand plants. But if you really want to be waterwise in your garden design, there are a number of other things to consider when choosing drought tolerant plants.

digging tool

Where are you planting?

What you choose depends on your local climate and soil type. Knowing how hot (and cold) it gets around your place can help define what sorts of plants are more likely to survive a drought your garden. The types of soils you have with can also make a big difference. Some plants thrive in light, sandy soils that drain well but can’t hold water or nutrients. Others love the heavy clay soils that hold water near the roots. There are some plants that can only cope in a perfect loamy soil that doesn’t drain too fast or too slow.

If you’re unsure of what type of soil you’ve got, dig up a sample and take it in to the nursery with you.


Local natives

It makes sense that the plants native to your area will be best suited to your area’s conditions and soils. Your local nursery can be a great place to find out more. It’s also worth searching online for “indigenous plants” for your local area.
plants and pots

Exotic species

Just because plants come from overseas doesn’t mean they can’t cope with our conditions. Certain areas of the Mediterranean, California, Mexico and South Africa have climates very similar to ours. The best test for what works is to look at what has worked before. Take a look around at your neighbours’ gardens. Maybe pop your head over the fence and ask a few questions.
compost bin

Feed and protect your plants

The best way to make sure you’ve got drought tolerant plants is to feed them regularly so that they are strong and healthy. You should also protect them with a generous layer of mulch. Organic fertilisers such as blood and bone and seaweed concentrate, plus good, old fashioned compost not only feed your plants, they also help improve your soil’s structure and capacity to hold water. Using an organic mulch such as pea straw reduces evaporation from the soil and supresses the growth of weeds. As an added bonus, strong and healthy plants are also more resistant to disease and insect attack.
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