Ten easy flowering shrubs that flourish with little water

Cistaceae family (Photo by Linda McMahan)
This drought-tolerant shrub with showy flowers belongs to the Cistaceae family. (Photo by Linda McMahan)
Last Updated: 
May 31, 2013

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Flowering shrubs can add beauty to your landscape. Choosing the right shrubs can help save money on your water bill, too.

Linda McMahan, a horticulturist with the Oregon State University Extension Service, embraces a concept known as "waterwise gardening" that conserves water by using drought-tolerant plants in your yard.

"About one-third to one-half of our municipal water supply is used for landscape irrigation," McMahan said. "It's been said that any water conservation strategy must address landscape irrigation to be effective. I agree with that."

She said Northwest gardeners should consider changing their gardening style to design landscapes with a Mediterranean climate in mind.

"We need to initiate a shift in thinking about what we do," McMahan said. "Let's develop our own style of gardening and take ownership over what we do in our gardens. We shouldn't copy somebody else's gardening style."

Plants develop special adaptations to tolerate drought conditions, she said. They become semi-dormant in summer. Many feature small gray, hairy or waxy leaves designed to resist sunlight and retain moisture.

McMahan recommends these 10 easy shrubs that are beautiful and drought-tolerant. All these shrubs need about two or three years to become established to effectively tolerate drought conditions. She said the listed shrubs as of now do not yet seem to have potential to become invasive.

  1. Ceanothus thysiflorus – McMahan suggests the cultivar called "Victoria," which has deep blue flowers. This evergreen shrub's common name is blueblossom or California lilac.
  2. Cistus species and cultivars from the Mediterranean, which feature showy petals ranging from white to purple to dark pink.
  3. Philadelphus lewisii – Also known as Lewis's mock-orange, it is native to western North America. Despite the orange in the name, its petals are actually white.
  4. Berberis aquifolium – Common name: Oregon grape. Small yellowish-green flowers.
  5. Pieris japonica – Common name: andromeda. Many cultivars available. Small white flowers.
  6. Brachyglottis greyii – Common name: daisy bush. Abundant bright yellow flowers.
  7. Fallugia paradoxa – Common name: Apache plume. Well-suited to eastern Oregon. White, rose-like flower when first blossoming.
  8. Potentilla fruticosa – Common name: bush cinquefoil. Yellow buttercup flowers. Native forms available, too.
  9. Ribes aureum – Common name: golden currant. Native to eastern Oregon, this shrub grows well in eastern or western Oregon. Golden yellow flowers that may also appear with shades of cream to reddish.

10.  Syringa meyeri – Also known as Meyer lilac, its flowers are pink to pale purple.

For a list of water-efficient plants, see this Extension guide. If you're interested in learning more about "waterwise" gardening, McMahan teaches an online course offered by OSU's Professional and Noncredit Education unit called Choosing the Right Plants

Author: Denise Ruttan
Source: Linda McMahan