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Drought Tolerant Herbs For Dry Climates

A thriving herb garden doesn’t have to mean excessive water use. Whether you’re an eco-conscious gardener, living in an arid region, or simply seeking low-maintenance plants, these drought-tolerant herbs are an excellent choice for any herb garden.

Drought-tolerant herbs are plants adapted to thrive in conditions with limited water availability. These resilient species have developed various mechanisms to conserve water, such as deep root systems, waxy or hairy leaves, and efficient metabolic processes.

These herbs offer multiple benefits: they require less maintenance, are more likely to survive periods of neglect (they’re perfect for beginners!), and often produce more concentrated essential oils with less watering, resulting in better fragrance and flavor!

Drought resistant herbs rosemary and sage.

1. Rosemary

Highly drought-tolerant, rosemary thrives in hot, dry conditions. Its needle-like leaves and woody stems are adaptations that help it conserve water. In dry climates, plant rosemary in well-draining soil and full sun. Once established, it requires minimal watering, making it ideal for xeriscaping.

This herb loves sunlight. It needs at least six hours of sun each day. Plant it in well-drained soil.

2. Thyme

Thyme growing in a terracotta pot.

Another herb with excellent drought tolerance, thyme prefers dry, sandy soil and full sun. Its small leaves and low-growing habit help it conserve moisture.

In arid regions, thyme can be grown in rock gardens or between pavers. It’s also a great choice for container gardening. Water sparingly, as overwatering can lead to root rot.

3. Lavender

Lavender is not only beautiful but also tough. It can handle poor soil conditions and, once established, it requires minimal maintenance.

It doesn’t need a lot of water, and thrives in hot, dry climates, making it an excellent choice for drought-prone areas.

In arid regions, space lavender plants generously to allow for good air circulation. Avoid overwatering, as lavender is susceptible to fungal diseases in damp conditions.

4. Sage

Sage growing in a pot indoors from seed

With its fuzzy, grey-green leaves, sage is well-adapted to dry conditions. It’s highly drought-tolerant once established.

Plant sage in full sun and well-draining soil. This herb can grow in lots of places, including rocky and sandy soil.

5. Oregano

Oregano is a hardy herb that thrives even in tough conditions. Once established, its requirements are minimal, and it can survive droughts. This makes it a perfect choice for areas with low rainfall.

It can be grown as a ground cover or in rock gardens. Water deeply but infrequently to encourage deep root growth.

6. Marjoram

While slightly less drought-tolerant than its cousin oregano, marjoram still performs well in dry conditions. It prefers full sun and well-draining soil. In arid climates, provide some afternoon shade and mulch to help retain soil moisture.

7. Chives

Chives grown from seed in a wooden pot

Chives are moderately drought-tolerant once they are established. They can adapt to dry conditions but perform best with regular watering.

In arid climates, plant chives in partial shade and mulch to help retain soil moisture. They can be grown in containers to better control soil moisture. Regular trimming encourages new growth and keeps the plant healthy.

8. Tarragon

Moderately drought-tolerant, tarragon can thrive in dry conditions with minimal care. It prefers full sun to partial shade and well-draining soil. In arid climates, mulching can help retain soil moisture. French tarragon is generally more drought-resistant than Russian tarragon.

9. Bay Laurel

A small bay leaf tree in a pot.

Bay Laurel thrives in well-drained soil and needs full sun. Once it’s established, this herb doesn’t need much water. It’s perfect for dry climates.

Bay is also low maintenance. It doesn’t need much fertilizer or special care. Just water it occasionally and trim it as needed.

10. Savory

Both summer and winter savory are quite drought-tolerant, with winter savory being more resistant. They prefer full sun and well-draining soil. In dry climates, savory can be grown in rock gardens or as border plants. Water sparingly, as they’re prone to root rot in overly wet conditions.

11. Fennel

With its deep taproot, fennel displays good drought tolerance once established. It prefers full sun and well-draining soil.

In dry climates, fennel can grow quite tall, so provide support if necessary. Water deeply but infrequently to encourage deep root growth.

Tips for growing drought-tolerant herbs

  • Avoid over-fertilizing, as too many nutrients can make herbs more water-dependent.
  • Even drought-resistant herbs need water, especially when young. The key is deep, infrequent watering. This encourages roots to grow deeper, making plants more resilient during drought.
  • Avoid overhead sprinklers, as they waste water and can promote disease.
  • During extremely dry periods, water more frequently but continue to water deeply.