Xeriscaping Plants

When most people envision xeriscaping plants it brings up images of cacti and rocks and a boring landscape with no colour. There are in fact hundreds of drought tolerant plants that fall into the low water xeriscape classification full of colour and character. As the need for smart landscaping options increases it will be more common for water thirsty natural lawns to be replaced with climate appropriate plants and waterless alternatives like artificial grass

xeriscaping plants

Whether you want a ground cover for erosion prevention, ornamental grass for contrast against landscape rock, a shooting vine for a perimeter fence, shrub for privacy or a tree for shade in the summer months the options are plenty. You may even want to hand pick your xeriscaping plants for fragrance, hummingbird viewing, pest resistance and even consumption. It's common for residents of the Okanagan to choose xeriscaping that's deer resistant due to the overlap of deer habitat and outlying rural neighbourhoods. 

With an estimated reduction in water usage of up to 80% when switching to xeric plants it's not surprising that some municipalities are offering financial incentives. City water departments in California, USA are already offering conservation rebates to residential and business owners that replace traditional lawns with xeriscaping. This means that in addition to receiving grants from their municipality they'll be reducing their water bills and helping conserve water.


30 Best Xeriscaping Plants List

Xeriscaping plants come in all shapes, sizes and colours and can be used in any type of yard whether it's providing shade or preventing soil erosion on a steep hill. The best xeriscaping plants are ones native to your local area because you can be absolutely certain they will survive in the local climate which includes rainfall, temperature extremes, frost-free days and soil composition. The plant hardiness zones in Canada are a great resource for choosing plants that will survive and thrive based on several climatic factors. 

  1. Perennials
  2. Shrubs
  3. Trees
  4. Ground Covers
  5. Vines
  6. Ornamental Grasses

1.  Xeriscape Perennials

Perennial xeriscaping plants are among the most colourful and vibrant plants you can add to your yard. The misconception that xeriscaping needs to look brown and drab is really not accurate when you consider the list of hundreds of low water perennials each with their own distinct colour and style. While the definition of a perennial flower is one that lives more than two to three years, in most cases you can count on a much longer life-span than that. 

Cushion Spurge

Latin name:
Foliage:
Height:
Spread:
Light:
Water:
Zone:

Euphorbia polychroma  
Green
16"
20"
Full sun or Part sun
Low
2a

The cushion spurge features bouquets of vibrant yellow flowers that signal the start of spring in late April and into May. They can be cut back to display bright green foliage the rest of the summer. As a self spreader and being deer resistant they are a great addition to your xeriscaping design as a resilient ground cover. 

cushion spurgeCushion Spurge

German Iris

Latin name:
Foliage:
Height:
Spread:
Light:
Water:
Zone:

Iris germanica  
Green
5-45"
6-25"
Full sun 
Low
3a

The german iris is capable of thriving with no supplemental water making it the ideal xeriscaping perennial plant. It blooms in almost any colour ranging from white to gold and black or mixed colours. It's fragrance attracts hummingbirds while also being deer resistant. 

german irisGerman Iris

Moss Phlox

Latin name:
Foliage:
Height:
Spread:
Light:
Water:
Zone:

Phlox douglasii  
Green
2-4"
10-12"
Full sun 
Low
2a

The moss phlox is a low growing perennial xeriscaping plant that's very hardy while featuring pink, red and purple flowers in April and May. It's fast creeping dense foliage is deer resistant and will attract hummingbirds and pollinators. An excellent way to combine colour with a ground cover for landscape beds. 

moss phloxMoss Phlox

Ostrich Fern

Latin name:
Foliage:
Height:
Spread:
Light:
Water:
Zone:

Matteucia struthiopteris  
Green
36-48"
16-38"
Full sun or Part sun
Low
2a

The ostrich fern is the most drought tolerant xeriscaping fern that features bright green foliage. It's deer resistant and even native to the Okanagan often found growing in large clusters. It produces edible fiddleheads that are rich in nutrients and popular as a cooked dish as an added bonus. 

ostrich fernOstrich Fern

Oriental Poppy

Latin name:
Foliage:
Height:
Spread:
Light:
Water:
Zone:

Papaver orientale  
Green
20-38"
16-26"
Full sun 
Low
2a

One of the most drought tolerant xeriscaping plants, this perennial has stunning blooms of red, pink, scarlet, orange, violet, white and mixed colours in May and June that last 3 to 4 weeks. It's deer resistant and a self spreader in the right growing conditions.


oriental poppyOriental Poppy

2.  Xeriscape Shrubs

Xeric shrubs provide the most versatility when it comes to landscape design and are often utilized in todays modern xeriscaping ideas. They can be a great standalone accent with some varieties growing up to 20 feet tall. A drought resistant shrub is an excellent property border that will provide wind and sound protection as well as privacy and security. This list of of xeriscaping shrubs includes plants that have very low water requirements, deer resistance and will even provide erosion control. 

Beauty Bush

Latin name:
Foliage:
Height:
Spread:
Light:
Water:
Zone:

Kolkwitzia amabilis  
Green
6-12'
4-8'
Full sun or Part sun
Low
5a

The beauty bush comes by its name honestly due to the robust light pink flowers that bloom in May. Hummingbirds love it while being resistant to deer making it ideal for most neighbourhoods in Kelowna. Prune to create a low growing bush or to reach heights of up to 12 feet. 

beauty bushBeauty Bush

Caragana

Latin name:
Foliage:
Height:
Spread:
Light:
Water:
Zone:

Caragana  
Green
3-15'
2-10'
Full sun or Part sun
Low
3a

Xeriscaping plants are known for being hardy and the caragana definitely fits that description. It's an aggressive spreading thorny bush that will provide erosion control through seeding and suckering. It features bright yellow blooms in June and also available in many different colour varieties. 

caraganaCaragana

Hansa Rugosa Rose

Latin name:
Foliage:
Height:
Spread:
Light:
Water:
Zone:

Rosa rugosa  
Green
4-8'
4-10'
Full sun or Part sun
Low
3b

The Hans rugosa rose is a rare xeriscaping rose bush that blooms May through September in Kelowna. The dark pink roses attract pollinators, are very fragrant and even edible. Once established it very drought tolerant especially in heavy soils. It will spread by suckering and is also great for erosion control. 

hansa rugosa roseHansa Rugosa Rose

Mugo Pine

Latin name:
Foliage:
Height:
Spread:
Light:
Water:
Zone:

Pinus mugo  
Green
8-15'
6-12'
Full sun or Part sun
Low
3b

The mugo pine is a favourite in Kelowna because of the many varieties and unique appearances. It's incredibly hardy and some varieties can grow to be 15 feet tall. They are a distinctive deer resistant xeriscaping plant and is a great addition to just about any landscape design. 

mugo pineMugo Pine

Smooth Sumac

Latin name:
Foliage:
Height:
Spread:
Light:
Water:
Zone:

Rhus glabra 
Green
3-10'
3-10'
Full sun 
Low
3b

The smooth sumac shrub makes our xeriscaping plants list because of its hardiness, vibrant colour and deer resistance in addition to looking great. It's native to Kelowna and surrounding Okanagan and can be easily identified by its red leaves in the Fall months.


smooth sumacSmooth Sumac

3.  Xeriscape Trees

When it comes to xeriscaping plants, trees that require very little water are an important part of a water smart yard. Trees provide shade and an overall cooling effect which in turn lowers water requirements providing a more comfortable place to enjoy being outside. They are also great for providing protection from wind, increasing privacy or reducing noise pollution from adjacent busy roads. Native trees to your area are best and you should always consider space requirements of mature trees as well as resistance to pests including deer. 

Blue Spruce

Latin name:
Foliage:
Height:
Spread:
Light:
Water:
Zone:

Picea pungens 
Evergreen
60-80'
20-25'
Full sun 
Low
2a

The "Colorado" blue spruce is the most popular evergreen tree in Kelowna and Okanagan Valley. It has attractive blue needles that grow right to the ground are unmistakable. It's very hardy and can handle variety of growing conditions. 

blue spruceColorado Blue Spruce

Douglas Fir

Latin name:
Foliage:
Height:
Spread:
Light:
Water:
Zone:

Pseudotsuga menziesii
Evergreen
60'
25-30'
Full sun or Part sun
Low
4a

The douglas fir is notorious for producing great Christmas trees because of its thick foliage and fast growing properties. It's native to the Okanagan and once established requires very little maintenance to stay looking great for many years. 

douglas firDouglas Fir

Lodgepole Pine

Latin name:
Foliage:
Height:
Spread:
Light:
Water:
Zone:

Pinus contorta latifolia
Evergreen
60-80'
20'
Full sun
Low
1a

The lodgepole pine can handle drought, cold, shade and poor soil conditions. It's one of the hardiest conifers and is known for its rapid growth. As an added bonus its deer resistant and provides food for birds throughout the year. 

lodgepole pineLodgepole Pine

Ponderosa Pine

Latin name:
Foliage:
Height:
Spread:
Light:
Water:
Zone:

Pinus ponderosa
Evergreen
60-90'
25-30'
Full sun
Low
3a

The ponderosa pine is a very hardy tree that's native to the Okanagan. It provides food for birds and produces a fragrant odour especially in the heat of summer. It's susceptible to pine beetles and produces pollen in the spring. 

ponderosa pinePonderosa Pine

Rocky Mountain Juniper

Latin name:
Foliage:
Height:
Spread:
Light:
Water:
Zone:

Juniperus scopulorum
Evergreen
10-30''
10-20'
Full sun
Low
3a

The silver hue of the rocky mountain juniper makes it attractive as an accent tree but are also commonly used as a deer proof hedge around property borders and fences. They provide protection, privacy and are hardy in the Okanagan growing zone.


rocky mountain juniperRocky Mountain Juniper

4.  Xeriscape Ground Covers  

Xeriscape ground cover plants are some of hardiest and most drought tolerant low growing plants you will find and can be used in a number of different ways. They are great as an alternative to high water lawns where you want to keep colour throughout the year without the high water consumption. A native climate appropriate ground cover will often require no supplemental water once established and can provide habitat for local insects and wildlife, erosion control and some even have medicinal benefits. 

Bearberry 

Latin name:
Foliage:
Height:
Spread:
Light:
Water:
Zone:

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
Green 
6"
3'
Full sun or Part sun
Low
1b

The bearberry is a xeriscape ground cover that looks great and produces edible red berries. It will attract hummingbirds, butterflies and bees and boasts medical benefits via extraction of the leaves while being one of the hardiest xeriscaping plants. 

bearberryBearberry

Hens and Chicks

Latin name:
Foliage:
Height:
Spread:
Light:
Water:
Zone:

Sempervivum
Green 
1-4"
6-2"
Full sun or Part sun
Low
1a

Hens and chicks or sempervivum are a very common ground cover that have become one of the most popular xeriscaping plants because of the many unique colours and varieties available to local residents. They can tolerate full sun and extreme temperatures while requiring little or no water. 

hens and chicksHens and Chicks

Mother of Thyme

Latin name:
Foliage:
Height:
Spread:
Light:
Water:
Zone:

Thymus praecox
Green 
8"
24"
Full sun 
Low
2a

A hardy ground cover, mother of thyme boasts a thick foliage that blooms through June with colours of red, pink, white and purple. It's fragrant blooms attracts pollinators and since it's deer resistant it's ideal for the British Columbia interior region. 

mother of thymeMother of Thyme

Stonecrop

Latin name:
Foliage:
Height:
Spread:
Light:
Water:
Zone:

Sedum
Green 
Multiple
Multiple
Full sun or Part sun
Low
Multiple

Stonecrop is arguably the most popular and versatile xeriscaping ground cover in the interior. It can be found in colours ranging from neon pink to turquoise making it ideal for creating an incredibly unique xeric garden that's hardy and low maintenance.

stonecropStonecrop

Sweet Woodruff

Latin name:
Foliage:
Height:
Spread:
Light:
Water:
Zone:

Galium odoratum
Green 
8"
12-36"
Part sun or Shade
Low
3a

Sweet woodruff is unique for being a one of a few ground cover xeriscaping plants that grows will in the shade. This makes it ideal as an attractive cover under trees or areas shaded by a building or fence. It's a fragrant aggressive spreader and self-seeder that's also deer resistant.


sweet woodruffSweet Woodruff

5.  Xeriscape Vines

The xeriscape vines listed below all require very little water and will thrive in the high temperatures experienced in Kelowna. They are great as accent plants and can transform a yard in as little as a few years with some varieties being very fast growing and resilient. Xeric plants that self-seed are considered invasive so be sure to plan ahead if you don't want the plant to spread into other areas. Add colour and fragrance with a deer resistant xeriscape vine that after a few years will require very little care and maintenance. 

Honeysuckle Vine

Latin name:
Foliage:
Height:
Spread:
Light:
Water:
Zone:

Lonicera periclymenum
Green
8-14'
4-6'
Full sun, Part sun or Shade 
Low
4b

The honeysuckle vine blooms with vibrant colours in the springtime in full sun. It can grow as an standalone shrub or vining on a fence, trellis or wall. A healthy layer of mulch will ensure substantial rooting and lead to a very drought tolerant and hardy plant for your xeriscaping landscape. 

honeysuckle vineHoneysuckle Vine

Jackmanii Clematis Vine

Latin name:
Foliage:
Height:
Spread:
Light:
Water:
Zone:

Clematis Jackmanii
Green
10-20'
5-10'
Full sun or Part sun
Low
3b

The jackmanii clematis vine is a popular xeriscaping plant because it's hardy, fast growing and is covered with velvety dark purple flowers that fade to violet over time. It's ideal for walls, fences or arbors and grows in part shade or sun. This award winning plant blooms in early to late summer.  

jackmanii clematis vineJackmanii Clematis

Silver Lace Vine

Latin name:
Foliage:
Height:
Spread:
Light:
Water:
Zone:

Polygonum aubertii
Green
35''
20-40'
Full sun or Part sun
Low
4b

The silver lace vine is a versatile option that's also great as a ground cover xeriscaping plant in Kelowna. It spreads aggressively with its attractive foliage and blooms making it great for erosion control and weed suppression. 

silver lace vineSilver Lace Vine

Trumpet Vine

Latin name:
Foliage:
Height:
Spread:
Light:
Water:
Zone:

Campsis radicans
Green
20-50'
20-50'
Full sun or Part sun
Low
4b

The trumpet vine is an a fast spreading, invasive, suckering creeper vine that features bright orange or yellow blooms in July and August. It will attract hummingbirds once established and will grow just about anywhere whether its a fence, pergola or house exterior wall. 

trumpet vineTrumpet Vine

Virginia Creeper Vine

Latin name:
Foliage:
Height:
Spread:
Light:
Water:
Zone:

Parthenocissus quinuefolia
Green
50'
20-50'
Full sun or Part sun
Low
3a

The aggressive spreading virginia creeper vine makes our list of the best xeriscaping plants for Kelowna because of it hardiness and attractive appearance. In the right application this xeriscaping vine can we a great addition. The sap found the leaves can irritate skin in some individuals.


virginia creeperVirginia Creeper

6.  Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental grasses are ideal for xeriscaping because they not only require little or no water, they thrive in heat and full sun found in Kelowna. The uniqueness and texture they can bring to any ordinary landscape is unmatched and their hardiness means you don't need to worry about maintaining them other than a trim in the fall. Xeric grasses can be planted as a standalone or in groups to provide an ultra low water consumption ground cover. You may even want to consider a wild rye if you want to experiment with an edible ornamental grass. 

Blue Gramma Grass

Latin name:
Foliage:
Height:
Spread:
Light:
Water:
Zone:

Bouteloua gracilis
Green
18"
12"
Full sun 
Low
3a

The blue gramma is one of the most versatile xeriscaping plants and can be used as a ground cover low traffic grass for a natural lawn or as a mounding cluster ornament grass in a landscape garden. It blooms between June and August and very hardy during the winter months after it's been trimmed. 

blue grammaBlue Gramma Grass

Blue Lyme Grass

Latin name:
Foliage:
Height:
Spread:
Light:
Water:
Zone:

Leymus arenarius
Green
36"
48"
Full sun or Part Sun 
Low
4a

Blue lyme grass is another ornamental grass that can be used as an attractive ground cover that requires little or no water. It will spread in ideal conditions and great for erosion control on steep slopes. This wild rye can even be harvested for consumption.

blue lyme grassBlue Lyme Grass

Golden Tufted Hair Grass

Latin name:
Foliage:
Height:
Spread:
Light:
Water:
Zone:

Deschampsia flexuosa
Chartreuse Green
10-18"
12"
Full sun, Part Sun or Shade
Low
4a

Golden tufted hair grass is a great way to add a vibrant golden green accent to your xeriscape landscape in the Fall. It's hardy and drought resistant including being deer resistant. It self-seeds, will spread in ideal conditions and has light requirements ranging from shade to full sun. 

golden tufted hair grassGolden Tufted Hair Grass

Mexican Feather Grass

Latin name:
Foliage:
Height:
Spread:
Light:
Water:
Zone:

Nassella tenuissima
Chartreuse green
12-18"
12-18"
Full sun
Low
6a

Mexican feather grass is a relatively hardy ornamental grass that looks great in most applications. It blooms in July and August with tan flowers and is hardy to growing zone 6a. It's ideal as a single accent or a small cluster with other perennial xeriscaping plants for colour and contrast. 

mexican feather grassMexican Feather Grass

Ribbon Grass

Latin name:
Foliage:
Height:
Spread:
Light:
Water:
Zone:

Phalaris arundinacea
Green and white
24-36"
36-60"
Part sun and Shade
Low
3a

Ribbon grass is one the xeriscaping plants that growing in popularity because of it's incredible hardiness and low water requirements. It will spread to provide ground cover and does well in both shade and part sun. It will bloom in June and July and can be cut back before the winter months. 

ribbon grassRibbon Grass

A xerophyte plant has natural adaptations that allows it to survive in environments with very little available water. They are found in desert or snow and ice covered climatic regions of the world and include succulents, bromeliads, cacti and even pineapples. They possess a water storage adaptation that allows them to survive for prolonged periods with no precipitation. The pineapple utilizes a special xerophytic process that closes their pores during the day to minimize water loss through evaporation. 



Xeriscaping Shade Plants 

Xeriscaping plants that grow in the shade are ideal for areas that receive little or no sunlight due to obstructions like trees, fences or structures like a house or shed. They are a great way to add colour or contrast where normally you'd have difficulty growing anything. The combination of low water consumption and shade is hard to find but we've put together a list of shade xeriscaping plants ideal for the interior of British Columbia. 

  • Beacon Silver Creeping Lamium
  • Blue Moor Grass
  • Blue Sedge
  • Bugleweed
  • Chequers Creeping Lamium
  • Golden Tufted Hair Grass
  • Lungwort
  • Ostrich Fern
  • Red Barrenwort
  • Ribbon Grass
  • Sweet Woodruff
  • White Nancy Creeping Lamium
  • Yellow Barrenwort

We hope you enjoyed learning about xeriscaping plants including our list of popular plants that have proven themselves as great additions to gardens across Canada. Most of these plants can be found at local nurseries or ordered online from a grower in seed or seedling form. A complete list of the best xeriscaping plants can be found by visiting okanaganxeriscape.org or contacting us for more information. 


Duralawn > Xeriscaping



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