Beat the hosepipe ban – water wise plants

After an unseasonably dry winter and a hosepipe ban declared for much of the South East of England, clearly there’s a need to become more water wise.

So how can we deal with this in our gardens? Choosing the right plants to cope with dry conditions is a good place to start.

Small and front of border plants

Alchemilla mollis

A beautiful and useful perennial. Alchemilla mollis has scalloped fresh green leaves that catch droplets of water. From June to September it produces a frothy mass of zesty yellow flowers. Useful in a gravel garden or for edging paths. Once established its drought tolerant.

Lavandula angustifolia ‘Munstead’

A compact Lavender named after Gertrude Jekyll’s garden at Munstead Wood. It has slender aromatic grey green leaves and dense spikes of fragrant blue / purple flowers. It works well in a gravel garden, clipped into a sphere for a more formal look, or for edging pathways. The flowers are highly attractive to bees and pollinating insects.

Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’

Named after the famous arts and crafts garden in Gloucestershire of the same name, Hidcote is a wonderful lavender for edging paths and borders as the aromatic foliage fills the air if you brush against it. It produces dense spikes of deep violet flowers which are attractive to bees and pollinating insects. It works well in a gravel garden or clipped into a sphere for a contemporary look.

Salvia nemorosa ‘Amethyst’

This salvia is perfect for adding an upright accent of colour to the front of a herbaceous border or as part of a gravel garden. Its slender spikes of violet purple flowers appear from July to September and are a magnet for bees and butterflies.

Salvia nemorosa ‘Ostfriesland’

This salvia has intense violet blue flowers from July to September above wrinkled mid green leaves. As with ‘Amethyst’ its useful at the front of a border or in a gravel garden and its attractive to pollinators.

Sedum spectabile

This ice plant looks great planted in drifts towards the front of a sunny border. It flowers from August to October and its flat pink flower heads are hugely attractive to bees and butterflies and the dried flower heads also provide structure and colour in the winter garden.

Stachys byzantina ‘Big Ears’

This variety of Stachys has oval jade green leaves with a woolly texture. It also bears spikes of pink / purple flowers from June to September. Its useful as ground cover for sites in full sun and is drought tolerant.

Stipa tenuissima

This grass is wonderful for adding movement to a planting scheme and is a perfect addition to a gravel garden or new perennial border. Its short height lends itself well to being positioned at the front of a border or combined amongst drifts of perennials.

Medium and mid border plants

Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’

This echinacea is perfectly at home in a prairie style planting scheme or a mixed border. The petals of this variety are more horizontal than others and its dark orange centres are particularly striking. It has a long flowering season and is also particularly attractive to bees and butterflies.

Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’

This long flowering wallflower produces spires of deep mauve flowers and adds vivid colour to a sunny border. It looks good in a gravel garden and tolerates dry conditions.

Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’

This catmint looks attractive planted in drifts through a gravel garden or sunny courtyard border. It bears clusters of upright stems of lavender blue flowers from June to July, and these are loved by bees.

Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’

This is a wonderful addition to the late summer border. In August and September tiny violet blue flowers appear on silver grey spikes, above grey green leaves. Perovskia looks great planted in drifts, amongst other late summer perennials or alongside silver leaved plants.

Phlomis fruticosa

The Jerusalem Sage has whorls of golden yellow flowers strung at intervals along its stems. It flowers in June and July but its dramatic seed heads provide an architectural presence in the autumn and winter garden. It thrives in hot sunny positions and will cope with drought once established.

Rosmarinus officinalis

Rosemary is useful as an evergreen structural presence in the garden and its upright spikes also bear purple blue flowers from mid spring to summer. Of course its also a particularly useful herb.

Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurascens’

Another herb, purple sage thrives in a sunny position and is ideal in a gravel garden or herb garden.

Tall and back of border plants

Choisya ternata

A rounded medium size evergreen shrub that will be at home in a sunny border. Its scented stars of white flowers appear in late spring amongst its glossy green leaves.

Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’

This deciduous shrub has magnificent dark purple oval leaves that turn scarlet in autumn. This is eye catching specimen plant for a sunny or mixed border.

Stipa gigantea

This large evergreen grass is an excellent specimen plant for a hot sunny spot or as part of a new perennial border. It has arching stems of golden oat like flower heads that shimmer in the sun.

Verbena bonariensis

This stylish perennial has clusters of lilac purple flowers on tall, upright, branched stems. Its perfect for a sunny border and its transparent quality allows it to be used towards the front or in the middle of a border despite its height.


  • Plants with aromatic leaves typically like sunny conditions.
  • Fleshy, succulent leaves store water for dry spells.
  • Grey and silver leaves are usually an indicator of a drought resistance.
  • Long narrow leaves are adapted to lose little water.
  • Hairy leaved plants help to keep these plants cool as do leaves with spikes.
  • Small leaves shed heat and lose little water.

By looking for plants with one or more of these characteristics they are likely to be plants that like dry conditions and are thus well equipped to survive any spell of drought.

3 more tips to be water wise.

1. Mulch. Applying a mulch around plants will help to retain moisture in the soil.

2. Establish plants as early in the growing season as possible so they can develop strong growth before the height of summer.

3. Invest in a water butt to collect rainwater for use in the garden.

4. Water sensibly. Water in the mornings or evenings and direct water to the base of plants with a watering can.

5. Ignore the lawn. Mow the lawn less often and allow it to grow a little longer.


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