Drought Tolerant Plants: a quick guide

26th April 2024

In today’s world, where climate change poses significant challenges, landscapers and gardeners are stewards of the environment, shaping spaces that not only captivate the eye but also harmonize with nature and save valuable resources. One of the most powerful tools in our arsenal is the integration of drought tolerant plants.


Why Drought Tolerant Plants?

Drought tolerant plants are not just a trend; they’re a necessity in our changing climate. Here’s why they should be a cornerstone of every landscape or garden design:


Water Conservation

In many UK regions, water scarcity is a pressing issue. By incorporating drought-tolerant plants, landscapers and gardeners reduce the demand for irrigation, easing the strain on precious water resources. This not only benefits the environment but also conserves our clients’ budgets by lowering water bills.



Drought tolerant plants are champions of resilience. They have evolved to thrive in challenging conditions, exhibiting robustness against drought, heat, and fluctuating weather patterns. In landscapes where water availability is unpredictable, these plants usually offer peace of mind, ensuring greenery even during dry spells.


Versatility in Design

Contrary to popular belief, drought tolerant landscapes need not be barren or uninspiring. These plants come in a vast array of colours, textures, and forms, offering endless creative possibilities.


Choosing Alternative Drought Tolerant Plants

The need for drought tolerant alternatives to some of the most commonly used trees or shrubs in our landscapes and gardens is something that we come up against every week at The Big Green Plant Centre.  Popular planting in the South East of England is increasingly becoming difficult to grow successfully in years where we now experience periods of hot and dry weather.  Here are three of the most common swaps we suggest:


Acer Campestre for Ginkgo Biloba

Acer Campestre, commonly known as the Field Maple or Hedge Maple, is a versatile and resilient tree species native to much of Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia. Despite being a native species, Acer Campestre really struggled in the hot summers of 2020 and 2021.

Ginkgo Biloba, often referred to as a ‘living fossil’ can provide an attractive drought resistant alternative.  Although mature trees will grow taller than the Acer Campestre, its leaves colour in the autumn in a similar way and can provide a beautiful and hardy substitute to survive hotter summers.


Clematis Armandii for Trachelospermum Jasminoides

Clematis Armandii, is a popular evergreen climber but they prefer moist soil, and it can be difficult to maintain sufficient watering during summer.

The evergreen Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum Jasminoides) is a beautiful shrub that is a fabulous drought tolerant alternative.  It has glossy green leaves, offset in summer by its delicate, white starry flowers that carry a divine fragrance. During the colder months, the leaves can turn striking shades of bronze and red, also adding winter colour to the garden.  It will need to be well watered before planting but will withstand periods of dry and hot weather better than the more delicate Clematis.


Hydrangea for Cistus

Hydrangeas are cherished by UK gardeners and landscapers for their beauty, versatility, and ease of cultivation. Whether planted in traditional cottage gardens, contemporary landscapes, or urban courtyards, hydrangeas continue to captivate and delight with their abundant blooms and timeless charm.

Hydrangeas generally prefer moist soil, but they don’t necessarily need lots of water. The water needs of hydrangeas can vary depending on factors such as the specific cultivar, climate, and soil conditions. However, they do require consistent moisture, especially during periods of hot weather or drought and so many have suffered during the recent periods of hot weather we have experienced.

When it comes to evergreen shrubs, Cistus, with their dainty tissue-paper-like flowers, are among the most drought tolerant of shrubs. This, and their ability to thrive in poor, stony soil, makes them an ideal alternative to Hydrangeas.


Embracing Drought-Tolerant Plants

Incorporating drought-tolerant plants into our landscape designs is not just good for the environment but can add diversity in planting and save time and money. By embracing these resilient beauties, we not only create stunning outdoor spaces but also contribute to water conservation, biodiversity, and climate resilience.


If you’d like to explore the drought tolerant species in stock at the Big Green Plant Centre or ask us for a drought tolerant swap for your landscaping or gardening needs, contact us at enquiries@thebiggreenplantcentre.co.uk or call 01895 834834.


The Big Green Plant Centre

Oxford Road



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