ProblemSolver Plants for Dry Sun - Perennials

Achillea 'Moonshine'
Yarrow

Yarrows make attractive plants for full sun areas with their carpet of fern-like green leaves and flower spikes rising to 1-2 feet above the foliage. Some support may be needed to prevent flopping in rainstorms or windy areas. Yarrows come in a range of colors.

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Asclepias tuberosa
Butterfly weed

A very tough plant once established. the bright yellow-orange flowers are not only eye-catching, they also attract monarch and other butterflies. Butterfly weed does not transplant well due to its deep taproot, and is probably best left undisturbed once established. The species is native to Missouri.

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Baptisia australis
Blue false indigo

Another plant native to Missouri, blue false indigo is spectacular in spring bloom. It prefers a deep, rich soil but is deep-rooted and once established can tolerate some dryness. Clumps will grow to 3-4 feet tall and wide.

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Callirhoe involucrata
Purple poppy mallow

Purple poppy mallow is a mat-forming, Missouri native perennial which grows well in dryish, rocky soils in prairies, fields and along roadsides. Plants typically form a low foliage mound from 6-9" tall and spread to 3' wide. Flowers in May and June
Coreopsis verticillata 'Moonbeam'
Threadleaf coreopsis

Covered with bright yellow flowers this mounding plant grows to 2 feet tall is a joy in full-flower in May-June. If cut back after flowering, a fall bloom can also be expected. Clumps will expand in time and benefit from being divided every 2-3 years to keep plants young and vigorous.

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Echinacea purpurea
Purple coneflower

Who doesn't love this Missouri native and now with so many cultivars and hybrids available (crosses with other species) the color choices are broad from purple to white to yellow, orange and red. An adaptable plant that is tolerant of drought, heat, humidity and poor soil. Divide clumps when they become overcrowded (about every 4 years).

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Glandularia canadensis
Rose verbena

This Missouri native typically occurs in prairies, fields, pastures, rocky glades, roadsides and waste areas in the central and southern parts of Missouri. Its sprawling habit makes it a good ground cover for hot, dry areas. Flowers late spring to late summer.

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Heliopsis helianthoides var. scabra 'Sommersonne' SUMMER SUN
Ox eye

This bright yellow sunflower-like plant will shine in the sun. It prefers even moisture but will tolerate some drought. The species grows 3-4 feet tall but this cultivar grows only 2-3 feet tall and spreads to about 2 feet. Flowers June to August and attracts butterflies.

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Hylotelephium 'Herbstfreude' AUTUMN JOY
Stonecrop


Stonecrops, both the sedums and hylotelephiums, are very tolerant of hot, dry locations in full sun. AUTUMN JOY is an older cultivar but it is still a good choice for its rosy pink buds that turn to red on 2 foot mounds of green foliage. Other cultivars now expand the color range.

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Iberis sempervirens
Candytuft

For a lovely mound of clear white flowers completely covering a low growing ground cover in early to late spring, it is hard to beat candytuft. Tolerant of hot, dry conditions and native to southern Europe it does very well in Missouri soils given excellent drainage.

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Kniphofia uvaria
Red-hot poker

Red-hot poker or torch lily is an upright, clump-forming perennial that is native to South Africa. Striking flower spikes grow 3-4 feet above semi-evergreen, bluish-green foliage. Flowers late spring to early summer. Established clumps are best left undisturbed.

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Lavandula angustifolia 'Munstead'
English lavender

'Munstead’ was first introduced into commerce in 1916 and is still a good lavender to try. Lavender needs excellent drainage, especially in winter, but does well in full sun. It is a semi-woody perennial that typically grows 12-18” tall and wide. Lavender blue flowers appear in terminal spikes in late spring well into summer.

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Leucanthemum × superbum 'Becky'
Shasta daisy

'Becky' is larger than most other Shasta daisy cultivars, growing 3-4' tall on rigid stems and does not require staking. It has a long bloom period of July through September and makes an excellent, long-lasting fresh cut flower.

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Liatris pycnostachya
Prairie blazing star

Prairie blazing star is an upright, clump-forming, Missouri native perennial which commonly occurs in prairies, open woods, meadows and along railroad tracks and roads. It typically growing 2-4' tall and flowers from the top down, which is somewhat unusual. Flowers July to August.

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Monarda bradburiana
Eastern beebalm

As the common name implies monarda is loved by bees. This species is native to Missouri and occurs statewide in dryish, acidic soils in open, rocky woods and glade margins. It is well adapted to dry sunny locations. It grows 1-2 feet tall and flowers May into June.

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Nepeta racemosa 'Walker's Low'
Catmint

'Walker's Low' will tolerate drought well and grows 24-30 inches tall. Blooms in spring with almost continuous rebloom into fall under optimum growing conditions and proper shearing of spent flower spikes. A great plant for dry sun.

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Penstemon digitalis 'Husker Red'
Beardtongue

Noted for its purplish foliage this penstemon cultivar is a clump-forming perennial which typically grows 2-3' tall. Flowers bloom mid-spring to early summer. Penstemon is sometimes commonly called beard tongue because the sterile stamen has a tuft of small hairs.

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Perovskia atriplicifolia 'Little Spire'
Russian sage

'Little Spire' is a compact Russian sage cultivar which typically grows to 2' tall (species typically grows to 3-4'). It features finely-dissected, aromatic, gray-green foliage and whorls of violet-blue flowers. Flowers June to frost. Silvery foliage can provide good winter interest in warm winter climates.

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Phlox subulata
Moss phlox

Growing 6 inches tall, moss phlox is a vigorous, spreading, mat-forming ground cover that will spread to 24” wide. It is noted for it creeping habit, its linear to awl-shaped leaves (which retain some green in winter) and its profuse carpet of mid-spring flowers with notched flower petals. Loose clusters of fragrant, tubular flowers bloom April-May. Many cultivars of this plant are available in commerce featuring flower colors of blue/purple, pink, red and white.

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Pycnanthemum muticum
Mountain mint

This densely leaved mountain mint features dark green leaves which have a strong mint-like (spearmint) aroma when crushed. Plant foliage is topped in mid to late summer by a bloom of pink flowers being subtended and highlighted by a pair of showy leaf-like bracts. When planted in groups or massed, the silvery bracts give the entire planting the appearance of being dusted by a white powdery snow.
Rudbeckia fulgida
Black-eyed Susan

Native to Missouri this coneflower occurs in both dry and moist soils in open woods, glades and thickets. It likes moist soil but will tolerate some drought. It typically grows to 3' tall and has a prolific bloom production over a long mid-summer to fall bloom period.

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Salvia × sylvestris 'Mainacht' MAY NIGHT
Wood sage

MAY NIGHT is a clump-forming, compact salvia that features numerous, dense, upright, spike-like racemes of tiny, two-lipped, deep violet-blue flowers.  It grows 18-24 inches tall and blooms in May and June and may rebloom sporadically into late summer if faded flowers are promptly cut back. Excellent fresh cut flower.

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Sedum kamtschaticum var. ellacombeanum
Orange stonecrop

Growing only 6 inches tall, this stonecrop is a compact, spreading perennial that makes a good ground cover for dry sun. Pale lime-green leaves form a loose, open mat of foliage.  Clusters of star-shaped yellow flowers appear in late spring.

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Solidago sphacelata 'Golden Fleece'
Goldenrod

Full sun in fall brings on a host of goldenrods. 'Golden Fleece' is particularly attractive with its compact, spreading habit and tiny, bright yellow flowers borne in dense, plume-like panicles on the ends of stiff 15-18 inch stems. Late summer to fall bloom period.

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Stachys byzantina 'Big Ears'
Lamb's ears

Noted for its silver-green foliage 'Big Ears' forms an attractive ground cover. Dense rosettes of thick, soft, velvety, silver-green leaves (to 8" long) form a mat approximately 8" off the ground. Flowering stems are rare. Leaves are evergreen in warm climates, but will depreciate considerably in harsh winters.

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Symphyotrichum oblongifolium
Aromatic aster

Native to Missouri aromatic aster typically occurs on limestone glades, slopes, prairies and dry open ground. It is well adapted to dry, sunny locations. It typically grows 1-2 feet tall and features small, daisy-like flowers with violet blue rays and yellow center disks. Leaves are fragrant when crushed. Attractive to butterflies.

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Tanacetum vulgare
Tansy

Some gardeners consider tansy to be invasive, and it is aggressive, but in a dry location it may be a good choice for a drought tolerant plant that needs little care. It features  aromatic, fern-like foliage and  typically grows 1-3’ tall. Yellow flowers bloom July to August. Shear off spent flowers immediately after bloom in order to control any unwanted self-seeding.

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Thymus serpyllum 'Pink Chintz'
Thyme

For a very low-growing ground cover try thyme. 'Pink Chintz' has more attractive flowers than the species but giving several thymes a try might be in order. Flowers bloom June - July and are attractive to bees. Leaves may be used for culinary purposes, however strength and taste will vary according to habitat and season.

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