The 17 Best Drought Tolerant Plants for Texas Landscapes

Ben Collinsworth

It wasn’t that long ago that Texas experienced one of its worst droughts.

But sometimes the worst droughts show us which plants do best during extreme bouts of heat and drought.

For many Texas commercial property managers, water conservation and low maintenance are prime motivators when choosing commercial landscape enhancements for their sustainable, thriving and aesthetically pleasing properties.

These unthirsty trees, succulents, flowers, ground covers and grasses will thrive with little water and care in Texas’ worst heat and drought.

Drought-Tolerant Trees

Desert WillowThe Texas ash is a handsome shade tree that is very drought tolerant once established. It has dark green leaves in summer and during fall the foliage has redder shades on the outside of the leaves and yellows on the inside, making the whole tree look like a flame.

Desert willow is another great water saver that is delicate, small and deciduous, as well as native to west Texas. Its long, narrow leaves resemble those of willows, though they aren’t related, and its flowers appear in showy clusters at the tips of branches starting in late spring and running through early fall.

There are several oaks that are also adaptive to drought, such as live oaks, red oaks and Chinquapin oaks. All of these have unique characteristics that can suit your needs while surviving low water conditions once established. For instance, the live oak’s leaves are smooth, glossy and dark green on top and pale and silvery white underneath. The tree can grow fairly large with a low, dense crown and twisting limbs.

Drought-Tolerant Shrubs

Something to consider when choosing shrubs is leaf size. Shrubs with smaller leaves tend to lose less water than shrubs with larger leaves, making them more suited for low-water conditions.

succulentsSucculents are also a great choice. Some examples include agave, yucca and Texas sotol. Yucca is an ornamental succulent with white flowers. Agave have tall, spiky blooms. The Texas sotall makes a great screen or hedge.

Bottlebrush is a leafy shrub that can grow quite tall and wide. It flowers in cycles from spring to early fall. Hummingbirds love the blooms.

Holly is another great drought-tolerant shrub that has deep green waxy leaves with dark red berries that appear later in the season.

Drought-Tolerant Flowers

The best way to get the beauty of flowers in a Texas landscape with the benefit of drought tolerance is to focus on flowering perennials over annuals.

best drought tolerant plants for TexasColumbine, a Texas native, has exotic, golden flowers and delicate foliage that bring a bit of sunshine to any Texas commercial property. Blackfoot daisy is extremely hardy in hot Texas summers and brings broad, white rays of petals surrounding small, yellow disks. Coreopsis has round, yellow, fuzzy flowers that bloom in late spring to summer.  

Drought-Tolerant Ground Covers

Lantana is a wonderful blooming ground cover that comes in several colors and not only blooms throughout the summer but does so with little water.

Trailing rosemary provides amazing texture in the landscape with grayish-green, fleshy, needle-like foliage and pale blue flowers that bloom in spring, summer, fall and even winter.

drought grassDrought-Tolerant Grasses

The delicate strands of Mexican feather grass’s wiry, slender, hair-like leaves combine well with other plants in Texas commercial landscapes and waves well in the wind, while also providing a sustainable landscape addition.

Maidengrass has narrow, arching, variegated foliage and silvery plumes that are enchanting when sunlight catches them just right.

Drought Tolerance Takes Time

Remember, even when using drought-tolerant plants, they need to become established for one year before they can start providing the most benefit in your Texas landscape. Setting up beds with drip irrigation is perfect for helping drought-tolerant species become well-established.

For all your drought-related landscape questions, contact Native Land Design at 512-918-2270 or fill out our contact form online today. We offer a free onsite consultation.


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Ben Collinsworth


Before Ben founded Native Land Design in 2001, he earned a Bachelor's degree in Horticulture and Landscape Architecture from Texas A&M University. He’s an active member of ASLA, HBA of Austin, NHBA, PLANET, and BOMA. Ben, his wife and their three children reside in the Cedar Park area.

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