6 Steps: How to Propagate a Pothos Plant

how to propagate pothos plants

Pothos plants are beautiful, easy-to-care-for additions to any home. So if you’re looking for a way to add more greenery to your living space without wasting your time and energy, propagating pothos plants is the answer! 

We’ll show you how to propagate pothos plants so that you can create more plants and enjoy their beauty for many years to come.

Understand the Basics of Pothos Propagation

Propagating pothos plants is a great way to increase the size of your indoor garden with minimal effort. All you need is some cuttings, soil, and water to start.

The first step in propagating pothos is to take cuttings from an existing plant. Choose stems at least 6 inches long with several leaves on them. 

Remove the leaves from the bottom half of the cutting, as these will be planted in soil.

Once you have your cuttings ready, fill a pot about 2/3 full with fresh potting soil and start placing the cuttings around the edges of the pot, adding soil as necessary to keep them firmly in place. 

Water the soil, so it’s moist but not soggy, and place it in indirect sunlight or a bright window sill.

Keep an eye on your cuttings for signs of root development over time. When roots begin to form, you can transplant them into individual pots or mix them into other containers with similar-sized plants. 

Make sure to keep the soil moist but not soggy at all times while they’re growing! With a bit of patience and care, propagating pothos plants can be an easy and rewarding experience!

Choose a Healthy Pothos Plant

Choosing a healthy pothos plant for propagation is essential in growing new plants. 

When selecting, it is crucial to look for stems that have at least three leaves and are free from disease or stress. 

Cut the stem just below the roots using a clean and sterile cutting tool. Once you have your healthy cutting, you can propagate it in water or soil. 

Place the cutting into a jar of water for water propagation and wait until roots form. For soil propagation, prepare a pot with houseplant soil mix and insert the cutting so that only two-thirds of it is below the surface of the soil. 

Make sure to keep both methods consistently moist and in indirect sunlight while they root. With enough patience and care, you will soon see your pothos plant start to thrive!

Tip: Use Sharp Pruning Shears

Using a sharp pair of pruning shears is essential. Pruning shears help you shape your plant and keep it neat while allowing you to propagate new plants from the cuttings. 

Pruning shears should be sharp enough to make clean cuts on the stem but not too sharp so that they can damage the leaves or cause any harm to the plant. 

It’s vital to use disinfected pruning shears before each use to ensure that no disease or pests are spread during pruning. More on that is below.

Once you have your supplies ready, trim off any excess vines or stems with your pruning shears, making sure to make clean cuts close to the nodes so you can propagate easily.

Before Starting: Clean Your Tools with Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is an essential tool when it comes to cleaning your gardening tools. Not only does it help kill off any fungal spores that may have found their way onto your tools, but it also ensures that you’re not transferring bacteria or other organisms from one plant to another. 

To properly clean your gardening tools with rubbing alcohol, follow these steps:

  1. Mix 1 part rubbing alcohol with 9 parts clean water in a spray bottle.
  2. Thoroughly spray the blade and handle of each tool with the mixture and let sit for at least 3 minutes.
  3. Wipe down the blades and handles with a clean cloth or paper towel to remove any debris or dirt particles that may be present.
  4. Allow the tools to air dry before using them again on plants or pots.

Rubbing alcohol is an excellent choice for cleaning gardening tools because it is non-toxic and has antifungal properties, so you can rest assured that no harm will come to your plants.

1.) Cut Stems at a 45 Degree Angle

Cutting stems at a 45-degree angle is crucial in propagating pothos plants. Using sharp and sanitized scissors, cut the stem just below a node. 

A node is a spot where a stem is connected and looks like tiny bumps on the vine. 

Cutting at an angle will provide more surface area for rooting hormone and water, which will help promote healthy root growth for your new pothos plant cutting. 

When taking cuttings from the parent plant, choose a 3- to a 6-inch-long piece from a healthy portion of the stem. This will help ensure that your new cutting has all the necessary components to thrive and grow.

2.) Place Cuttings in Water Immediately

If you’re looking for an easy and fast way to propagate your pothos plant, cuttings in water is the way to go. This propagation method is simple, fast, and can be done with just a few supplies.

To start:

  1. Gather your supplies. You’ll need a sharp pair of scissors or pruners, an old glass or jelly jar, and some tap water (preferably room temperature).
  2. Once you have these items ready, determine where to make the cut on the main plant.
  3. Make sure it’s a healthy stem with at least two leaves.
  4. Cut the stem below the second set of leaves, ensuring each cutting has at least two leaves attached.

Once you’ve snipped off all your cuttings, fill your jar with water and place them inside, resting them on the side of the jar if needed. 

Place this jar out of direct sunlight and watch as new roots form over time! If you have a heating mat available, it will help speed up root formation for your pothos plant

3.) Change Water Regularly

Water is essential for keeping plants healthy, and it’s essential for pothos plants. Pothos are easy to propagate in water, but they need to have the water changed regularly to stay healthy.

To change the water for your pothos plant, first, gather the supplies you need:

  • A healthy pothos plant.
  • A pair of sterile scissors or gardening shears.
  • Tap water.
  • A small clear container such as a Mason jar or glass vase.

Then, use the scissors or shears to make several one-inch cuts from the main stem of your pothos plant. 

Place these cuttings into the jar with fresh tap water on its side so it can take root properly. Place the jar in a sunny spot and regularly check to add or replace water.

It’s important to remember that you should change out the water every one to two weeks because oxygen does run out of it over time. If you want your pothos cuttings to keep growing and healthy, give them clean, fresh water regularly!

Rooting Hormone May Help

Rooting hormone is a plant growth regulator that helps stimulate root growth in cuttings. This can be an excellent tool for propagating plants, as it can help increase the success rate of cuttings by providing the necessary nutrients and hormones to promote root formation.

 It’s especially beneficial for more difficult-to-propagate plants like pothos, as it can help speed up the process and increase the chance of success. 

The use of rooting hormone is optional for all plants, however. Easy growers like pothos will often root just fine without it. Dip the cutting ends into a powdered or liquid solution to use rooting hormone before planting in a soil medium or water. 

This will provide extra nutrients and hormones that stimulate root formation and ensure your cuttings take off quickly.

Wait for Roots to Grow Long Enough 

Rooting and propagating pothos plants can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. 

All you need to do is wait for the roots of the cuttings to grow long enough before you can transplant them into soil. This process is usually done by keeping the soil moist and waiting for roots to form, which typically takes just a few weeks. 

If your pothos cuttings are not rooting, it may be due to cold water or incorrect season. 

Remember that warmer water is critical for successful propagation, and wait until the roots are at least 2 inches long before transferring your cutting into the soil. 

With patience and care, you will soon have healthy pothos plants growing in no time.

4.) Plant New Cuttings in Potting Soil   

Newly cut pothos plant cuttings can easily be propagated in potting soil. To get started, fill a pot about two-thirds full with a mix of potting soil, coconut coir, and perlite to ensure good drainage. 

Then, remove the first leaf above the cutting’s end and dip it in the rooting hormone for optimal growth. 

Place the cuttings around the edges of the pot and add more soil as needed to keep them standing upright. 

Water thoroughly and place them in an area with bright indirect light for several weeks until new leaves grow on the stems. 

With patience, you’ll soon have beautiful pothos plants that you can enjoy for years!

5.) Place in Bright, Indirect Sunlight                     

Pothos plants need bright, indirect sunlight to thrive. If you are growing your plant indoors, the best place to put it is near a window that doesn’t get direct sunlight. 

You can also use artificial lighting if necessary. The important thing is that the light should be bright and indirect.

If you are propagating pothos cuttings in water, you should place them in a container and set them in a spot with bright, indirect sunlight. Avoid putting the cuttings too close to the light, which could lead to burned foliage.

If your potted cuttings are planted in soil, ensure they receive plenty of bright, indirect light and water them well. 

Monitor the soil’s moisture levels regularly and keep it evenly moist for optimal growth.

6.) Keep Soil Moist, Not Saturated       

Watering your pothos plant is integral to keeping it healthy and thriving. 

Keeping the soil moist but not saturated is key. The best way to achieve this is to water your pothos when the top inch of soil feels dry. 

It’s also a good idea to poke a few holes in the surface of the potting mix so that excess water can drain out and keep air circulating around the roots. 

Use room temperature or slightly warmer water when watering, as cold water can shock and damage the plant’s delicate roots. 

Finally, never let your pothos sit in standing water, as this can cause root rot. Following these simple steps will ensure that your pothos remains healthy.

  – Consider Using Fertilizer for Growth and Color

Fertilizer can be a great way to help your pothos plants grow and produce vibrant colors. 

When using fertilizer to help your pothos plants reach their full potential, it’s essential to use a high-quality liquid fertilizer that is balanced and applied every 2-3 months. 

Don’t forget to keep pests at bay as well! Once your plant’s roots reach two inches long, you can either place them directly into soil or continue to grow them hydroponically. 

Place the cutting near indirect natural light to stay cool and dry. With proper care and feeding, your pothos will soon be thriving.

  – Avoid Direct Sunlight and Drafts

When caring for pothos plants, avoiding direct sunlight and drafts is best. Instead, pothos should be placed in an area with bright, indirect sunlight and warm temperatures. 

Filtered bright light works best for this plant, as the direct, intense sun can cause damage. 

It is also essential to keep the growing medium well aerated and allow the plants to dry out slightly between waterings. 

The ideal spot for a pothos plant is near a window that receives bright indirect light away from cold drafts.

Conclusion

Propagating pothos is a great way to multiply your single plant and have more beautiful plants in your home. 

There are three main methods for propagating pothos: layering, water propagation, and stem cuttings. 

Layering is the simplest method and requires the least amount of effort. All you need to do is choose an offshoot from the mother plant, lower its aerial roots into a pot filled with soil, and then cover them with soil. 

For water propagation, take 3-4 stem cuttings with at least one node each, put them in a glass jar filled halfway with room temperature water, and keep changing it every few days. 

For stem cuttings, snip off stems at a 45-degree angle below the node so that they contain one or two nodes each. Then, place the cuttings in soil or water and wait for roots to appear before transplanting them into separate pots. 

Experiment to find which method suits you best, and you’ll be a pro in no time!

References

A Horticulture Information article from the Wisconsin Master Gardener website, posted 15 Jan 2007PDF

Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) Diseases: Identification and Control in Commercial Greenhouse ProductionPDF

Epipremnum aureum – FL – PDF

How to Propagate Pothos – Beginner Guide – Link

Rhaphidophora Decursiva Care & Propagation Guide + 6 Common Problems 

Rhaphidophora decursiva is a rare houseplant that has been making waves among collectors since 2020. Its glossy, fenestrated leaves can add a veritable touch of exotic elegance to any home. And although it’s difficult to find, this tropical vining plant is just as easy to care for as its more common relatives, like pothos or monstera. 

In this houseplant care guide, we’ll reveal our top tips on how to help this coveted beauty thrive in your home. We’ll also discuss the best way to propagate this rare species and dispel some common misconceptions about it.

1857 Orgin & Ever-Changing Names

Rhaphidophora decursiva is a tropical plant belonging to the Araceae family. It is a climbing vine with glossy green leaves that have a smooth, leathery feel.

What’s truly fascinating about this species is how the leaves change shape as they mature. When the plant is young, the leaves are small and oval-shaped. But when the plant starts using its aerial roots to climb, it will enter its mature form, and the leaves will develop deeply-cut fenestrations that resemble the fronds of a palm tree. 

This aroid is native to the tropical forests of China, India, and Southeast Asia. Rhaphidophora decursiva in the wild a mature plant can grow to an impressive height of 66 feet (20 meters), with split leaves almost 2 feet (60 cm) long. When grown indoors, it usually reaches a height of 7 feet (2.1 meters), with large, monstera-like foliage.  

Scientists first identified this plant in 1857, and since then, they have changed its name several times. R. decursiva was once known as:

  • Monstera decursiva
  • Pothos decursiva
  • Scindapsus decursiva

Today, there still needs to be more clarity surrounding this plant. Due to its foliage and growth habit, it’s often mistaken for a monstera or philodendron species. 

Some sellers list it under the common name of Dragon Tail plant, which is also used for a species of pothos, the Epipremnum pinnatum’ dragon tail’

But whatever you decide to call it, there’s no denying that this trendy indoor plant will make a fantastic addition to your indoor jungle. 

Rhaphidophora Decursiva Care Guide

This unpretentious tropical houseplant can quickly adapt to the average indoor growing conditions. It prefers bright indirect light, well-draining soil, regular feeding, watering, and high humidity if your home can provide it. 

Most importantly, it will require support to climb on to develop mature, fenestrated leaves. So let’s take a closer look. 

Light 

Rhaphidophora decursiva needs bright indirect light to thrive. If your home is too dark, the lack of light can cause leggy growth and the leaves to get smaller. However, direct sunlight exposure can burn the plant’s leaves.

Try keeping it in an east or west-facing room, about 2 – 3 feet away from the window. In a south-facing room, you can use sheer curtains to block the intense sun and provide the plant with filtered light.  

Soil 

The ideal soil mix for this plant should be rich in organic matter, well-draining, and moisture-retentive.

If the soil dries out too fast, this can result in underwatering issues and curling, yellowing leaves. However, if the soil doesn’t have sufficient drainage, it can become waterlogged and can cause problems such as root rot.

You can use a pre-made aroid potting mix or make your own at home. Here’s an excellent soil recipe you can try:

  • 50% peat moss
  • 20% perlite or pumice
  • 20% orchid bark
  • 10% horticultural charcoal.

Water 

The Rhaphidophora plant has moderate watering needs. Keep the soil moist, but avoid watering it too often. 

This plant doesn’t like having ‘wet feet,’ and the excess water can cause root rot, which may prove fatal (mushy stems are an indicator).

Water your decursiva when the top 2 inches (5 cm) of the soil feel dry to the touch. Always use the soak-and-drain watering method for this plant. 

This ensures that the soil gets evenly moist, and also helps flush out excess fertilizer salts and minerals. 

Temperature 

This tropical plant grows best in temperatures ranging from 65°F to 82°F (18°C to 28°C). Avoid exposing it to temperatures below 59°F (15°C), as this can stunt its growth and can lead to root damage. 

You can grow it outdoors if you live in USDA hardiness zones 10 to 12. In cooler climates, you can keep the plant outside throughout summer, then bring it inside when night-time temperatures drop too low. 

Humidity 

This plant can tolerate average household humidity levels. But if you want to help it thrive, try to increase the humidity levels in your home to at least 60%. The easiest way to achieve this is by using a humidifier or keeping the plant in a naturally more humid room, such as a bathroom. 

If your home has very low humidity, you may notice that the leaves will start curling or develop brown, crispy tips.  

Fertilizer 

Rhaphidophora decursiva requires regular fertilizer applications to support its fast growth. Feed it with a balanced houseplant fertilizer from early spring until mid-fall. 

A fertilizer with an N-P-K nutrient ratio of 20-20-20 works best for monthly applications. For example, if you’re using a fertilizer with a 10-10-10 ratio, you can apply it once every two weeks.  Micracle-Grow also sells liquid fertilizer that can also be an option.

Support

The Rhaphidophora plant is a natural climber. So also, the only way to help it reach maturity and develop split, fenestrated leaves is to give it something to climb on. 

A sphagnum moss pole would be ideal, but you can also use a coco coir pole or even a simple trellis. 

Pruning & Maintenance

Prune your R. decursiva in spring or summer. Removing the dried or yellowing leaves will maintain its looks and encourage the plant to spend its energy on new growth. 

If the vines are becoming too long, you can trim them down to about half the length and use the cuttings for propagation.

Once every one or two weeks, use a damp cloth or a microfiber glove to wipe the leaves. Dust and grime can block sunlight and clog the stomata in the leaves, reducing the plant’s ability to photosynthesize. 

Repotting 

You will need to repot your plant once every two years. Rhaphidophora has a rapid growth rate and can quickly outgrow its container. 

If you can see the roots come out through the drainage holes, transplant it into a pot that’s two inches wider or one size bigger than its current pot. 

Rhaphidophora Decursiva Propagation Guide

The easiest method for propagating Rhaphidophora plants is rooting stem cuttings in water. This method works best if you use it in spring and summer when the plant is actively growing. 

Here’s our simple step-by-step propagation guide.

  1. Take a pair of sharp scissors and disinfect the blades with rubbing alcohol.
  2. Find a stem that’s at least one foot long, and cut it between two nodes. For best results, use single-node cuttings with one growth node and one leaf. If the cutting has two or more leaves, it will take longer to grow roots. 
  3. Fill a glass or plastic container with water, and put the cutting in it. The water level should cover the node but not the leaf.
  4. Keep the container in a warm, sunny room, away from direct sunlight.
  5. Change the water once every 5 – 7 days. This will prevent algae from growing inside the container and reduce the risk of water-borne diseases leading to stem rot.
  6. The cutting should take between 3 and 6 weeks to grow roots. Wait until the roots are at least 2 inches long (5 cm) before transplanting.
  7. When the roots are long enough, fill a nursery pot with a well-draining potting mix and transplant your cutting.
  8. Water the new plant regularly and monitor its development for the next month to ensure it has successfully transitioned from water to soil.

Alternatively, you can root cuttings in sphagnum moss, perlite, or vermiculite. 

Soil propagation is also an option, but keep in mind that the roots will develop slower. Also, the cutting is more susceptible to stem rot if you use this method. 

Can You Grow Rhaphidophora Decursiva From Seed?

You can grow a Rhaphidophora plant from seeds. However, this propagation method is rarely feasible for indoor gardeners because it requires freshly harvested seeds. 

To be successful, you must wait for your plant to flower, then manually pollinate it. After pollination, your plant will produce small, round berries. Once the berries are ripe, you can remove the seeds from the fruit and plant them as soon as possible. 

The main problem with this propagation method is that R. decursiva rarely flowers indoors. Also, the seeds last only a short time after you harvest them. And once they dry, their germination rate drops dramatically.

As tempting as it is, never buy Rhaphidophora seeds online. Most of them are too old and dry, and they will not sprout after you plant them. 

Common Problems

This low-maintenance plant rarely suffers from any serious problems. However, here are a few things to keep an eye out for.

Pests

Common Rhaphidophora decursiva pests include thrips, mealybugs, spider mites, and scale. These pests can cause leaf discoloration and stunted growth; in severe cases, they can kill your plant. 

You can use a neem oil solution to prevent severe pest infestations. 

Use an insecticidal soap solution or a mix of distilled water and isopropyl alcohol to treat scale, mealybugs, and spider mites. 

If you’re dealing with thrips, prune the damaged leaves, then spray the plant with a systemic pesticide. 

Yellow Leaves

Yellowing leaves are usually a sign of giving your plant too much or too little water. In severe cases, watering issues can lead to root rot, and leaf discoloration is the first symptom that your plant’s roots are dying.  

Other causes for yellowing leaves include low light, nutrient deficiency, low humidity, and pest infestations.  

Leaves Curling

Curling leaves are a defense mechanism used by the plant to preserve moisture. This could indicate that your plant is thirsty, that the air in your home is too dry, or that the plant is sitting too close to a heating vent.

Leggy Growth 

The main culprit is low light if your R. decursiva has a long stem with no leaves. In a dark room, the plant will spend its energy trying to find a light source, which will result in bare, leggy stems. Move your plant to a brighter location or use a grow light, especially if your home has very little natural light.  

Plant Not Growing

If your plant is not producing any new leaves or stems, it needs more light, nutrients, or a bigger pot. Keep the plant in a room with bright indirect light, fertilize it regularly during the growing season, and repot it in fresh soil at least once every two years.

Growing Smaller Leaves

The amount of light your Rhaphidophora plant receives plays an essential role in leaf shape and size. 

If the new leaves are smaller than the older ones, you need to move your plant to a brighter location. 

Also, consider giving the plant something to climb on. If kept as a hanging plant, R. decursiva will maintain its juvenile shape, and its leaves will get smaller with each passing month. 

FAQ

Is this plant pet safe?

This plant is toxic to cats and dogs. All parts of the plant contain small, needle-shaped calcium oxalate crystals called raphides. They can cause painful skin irritations and, if ingested, can cause swelling of the lips and mouth, difficulty breathing, nausea, excessive drooling, and other gastrointestinal problems. 

Always keep this plant away from pets and small children. 

Is Rhaphidophora Decursiva Rare?

Rhaphidophora decursiva is relatively rare. It became a houseplant sensation in 2020; back then, it was pretty expensive. 

Since 2021, it has become cheaper and easier to find, thanks to tissue culture propagation. But only a few sellers stock it and, depending on where you live, the price for a small plant can range from $15 to more than $60.   

Is it a crawler?

No, it is a species of climbing aroid. You can grow it as a hanging or trailing plant, but to encourage large, fenestrated leaves, it’s best to grow it on a trellis or a moss pole.

Is Rhaphidophora Decursiva a Philodendron?

No. Although some sources call it the Creeping Philodendron, Rhaphidophora decursiva is neither a creeping plant nor a philodendron species. 

Instead, it belongs to the genus Rhaphidophora which, admittedly, does bear some similarities to philodendron and monstera plants regarding leaf shape and growth pattern.

This article was produced by Nature of Home.  

Drought-Tolerant Plants For Every Landscape & Plant Type

drought tolerant plants in a front yard

This article was initially published on natureofhome.com. We’ve republished it because a part of healing water is reducing the amount of water that is used on landscape irrigation. Drought-tolerant native plants are the key to making this work, along with many other benefits. Plus, they’re beautiful and require less maintenance. Enjoy! I hope it inspires you to plant drought-tolerant plants and help save our water supply.

Drought sounds like a gardener’s worst nightmare. But despite the common association of gardening with watering cans or hoses, many plants can tolerate periods of drought once they are established. 

So many that it would be impossible to survey them all here. Instead, we’ll go over a few of our favorite drought-tolerant plants. Plus, we’ll offer some tips for additional ways to make your plants more drought-tolerant.

A Quick Definition

Before we dig into specific types, let’s start with a quick definition to define the meaning of drought-tolerant plants.

A drought-tolerant plant is any plant that can survive long periods without water. You can identify many of these plants by the appearance of visible characteristics that help them resist drought and harsh sun rays. 

Some plants use a silver leaf color to reflect harsh sun rays. By reflecting sunlight, this foliage reduces the water loss that would otherwise occur via transpiration. 

On other plants, fine hairs protect stems and leaves. These hairs help trap moisture at points of delicate plant tissues. They also function as a physical barrier that limits air movement across the leaves, thus reducing transpiration. 

Succulent leaves and taproots store water, helping plants to tolerate dry spells. 

Drought-Tolerant vs. Drought-Resistant

While preparing your gardens for harsh summer weather, you’ll probably come across the term drought-resistant. Drought-resistant and drought-tolerant do not indicate the same thing, even though people use the terms interchangeably. 

Drought-tolerant plants will survive on minimal rainfall for short periods. Drought-resistant plants can survive without water for long periods. 

You might also come across the term xeriscape or xeriscaping (PDF). These terms refer to a landscaping style that deliberately uses drought-tolerant plants to achieve water conservation goals. 

Similarly, water-wise indicates gardening that incorporates sensible water usage techniques. This strategy and associated gardening practices can also be called a dry garden, dry landscaping, water-smart, water-conservation, and desert landscaping. 

Drought-Tolerant vs. Heat-Tolerant

These two terms reflect often related conditions. However, they don’t refer to the same kind of tolerance. Remember: droughts can occur in the winter as well in the summer. The word drought simply refers to an extended period without moisture. 

Heat tolerance refers to a plant’s ability to endure heat stress rather than water scarcity. (Even under intense heat, heat-tolerant plants can sustain vital leaf gas exchange.) So, while many heat-tolerant plants are also drought-tolerant, the terms should not be regarded as interchangeable. 

Drought-Tolerant Plants For Pots

Potted plants typically require more water than bedded plants because there is less available moisture in the soil. It also means less space for roots to spread, limiting their ability to capture what moisture is available. The soil in pots has a higher temperature than ground soil, meaning it dries out faster. 

Nevertheless, if you want to grow a container garden, you have many options for drought-tolerant plants. Here are a few favorites: 

Annuals


Blue Marguerite Daisy

Genus Name:Felicia amelloides
Zone:10-11
Features:Spring & Summer Blooms
Height:1-3′
Width:1-2′
Light:Part to Full Sun
Propagation:Stem Cuttings and Seed

Lantana

Genus Name:Lantana
Zone:8-11
Features:Summer & Fall Blooms
Height:6-12″, 1-3′, 3-8′
Width:16″-4′
Light:Full Sun
Propagation:Stem Cuttings and Seed

Morning Glory

This flower is a cottage garden classic. Loved for its trumpet-shaped flowers that blossom from summer to fall. Available in a range of colors, some also feature variegated foliage.

Grows well in warmer weather with structures such as trellises, arbors, and fences.

Genus Name:Ipomoea mauritiana
Zone:10-11
Features:Summer & Fall Blooms
Height:3-8′, 8-20′
Width:5-20′
Light:Full Sun
Propagation:Stem Cuttings and Seed

Zinnia

Zinnia is one tough annual and comes in various sizes and colors. Pollinators also love them. Use low-growing Zinnias for landscape or garden borders. And tall varieties for fresh cut flowers. Plus, they are deer-resistant.

Genus Name:Zinnia
Zone:2-11
Features:Summer & Fall Blooms
Height:3-8′, 1-3′
Width:12-18″
Light:Full Sun
Propagation:Stem Cuttings and Seed

Perennials


Geranium

Geranium’s often get confused with annuals (genus Pelargonium), but there are more than 300 varieties of perennial Geraniums. So, you can find one that will work with practically any spot in your landscape.

Genus Name:Geranium sp.
Zone:3-9
Features:Spring Through Fall Blooms
Height:6-12″, 1-3′, 3-8′
Width:6″ – 4′
Light:Shade, Part Sun, Full Sun
Propagation:Division and Seed

Periwinkle

Works great as a ground cover or in a container. Features shiny evergreen leaves with blue flowers

Genus Name:Vinca
Zone:4-9
Features:Spring Through Fall Blooms, Evergreen in Winter
Height:6-12″, 1-3′
Width:Indefinite
Light:Shade, Part Sun, Full Sun
Propagation:Stem Cuttings and Division

Salvia

Salvia is a relative of mint and features long blooms. Available in a range of colors and sizes. Make for excellent drought-tolerant planting that hummingbirds will love (along with pollinators).

Genus Name:Salvia
Zone:3-10
Features:Spring Through Fall Blooms
Height:1-3′, 3-8′
Width:1-3′
Light:Part Sun, Full Sun
Propagation:Stem Cuttings, Division and Seed

Herbs


Calendula

Also known as pot marigolds, the calendula resembles daisies and features great fall blooms. It is also a drought-tolerant edible plant, as you can eat the blossoms.

Genus Name:Calendula
Zone:2-11
Features:Spring & Fall Blooms
Height:1-3′
Width:1-2′
Light:Part Sun, Full Sun
Propagation:Seed

Catmint

Catmint is easy to grow and versatile. It features deep purple blooms that blossom at the beginning of summer.

Genus Name:Nepeta
Zone:3-9
Features:Summer & Fall Blooms
Height:6-12″, 1-3′, 3-8′
Width:12-36″
Light:Part Sun, Full Sun
Propagation:Seed, Division & Stem Cuttings

Lavender

Lavender will delight with its aromatic oils. For more flavor and scent, choose darker flowers.

Genus Name:Lavandula spp.
Zone:5-10
Features:Summer Blooms
Height:1-3′
Width:1-3′
Light:Full Sun
Propagation:Seed & Stem Cuttings

Rosemary

Genus Name:Rosmarinus officinalis
Zone:8-10
Features:Spring & Summer Blooms
Height:1-3′, 3-8′
Width:2-4′
Light:Full Sun
Propagation:Seed & Stem Cuttings

Thyme

This is also another drought-tolerant edible plant. Thyme is perfect for adding some additional flavor to food while also adding texture to the landscape. Some people even use thyme as a lawn substitute.

Genus Name:Thymus
Zone:4-9
Features:Spring Blooms
Height:Less than 6″, 6-12″
Width:1-18″
Light:Full Sun
Propagation:Seed, Layering, Division & Stem Cuttings

Grasses & Ferns


Big Bluestem

When people think of big bluestem grass, they think of vast parries in the midwest. This grass will add color to your landscape year-round.

Genus Name:Andropogon gerardii
Zone:4-9
Features:Fall & Spring Blooms
Height:3-8′
Width:2-3′
Light:Full Sun
Propagation:Seed, Division

Foxtail Fern

Genus Name:Asparagus densiflorus
Zone:9-11
Features:Attracts Birds
Height:1-3′
Width:18″-3′
Light:Full Sun
Propagation:Seed, Division

Maiden Grass

Genus Name:Miscanthus
Zone:4-9
Features:Summer & Fall Bloom, Colorful
Height:3-8′
Width:2-6′
Light:Part Sun, Full Sun
Propagation:Seed, Division

Mondo Grass 

Many gardeners use mondo grass as a drought-resistant turf replacement in shady areas.

Genus Name:Ophiopogon
Zone:6-10
Features:Summer Bloom
Height:Less than 6″, 6-12″, 1-3′
Width:1-12″
Light:Shade, Part Sun, Full Sun
Propagation:Seed, Division

If possible, move container plants out of direct sun during periods of extended dryness. Warm soil aids the evaporation process, so shading plants (i.e. keeping soil temperatures down) is an easy way to slow moisture evaporation. 

Glazed or nonporous pots will also help your plants survive droughts by preventing water evaporation through the container. The mass of a substantial pot will also help keep the soil cooler. 

Drought-Tolerant Plants For Beds 

Although the soil in garden beds will dry out less quickly than the soil in pots, you still need to make considerations for drought tolerance. You can move pots to shady positions, but once you’ve planted your beds those plants will have to endure any sun that shines on them. 

In addition to considering the position of your beds, also consider which flowers you plant. For the most part, any drought-tolerant flower you plant in a pot will also survive in a bed. (The same cannot always be said the other way around.) 

Annuals


California Poppy

Genus Name:Eschscholzia californica
Zone:2-11
Features:Spring, Summer & Fall Blooms
Height:6-12″
Width:Up to 12″
Light:Full Sun
Propagation:Seed

Cosmos

Genus Name:Cosmos
Zone:2-11
Features:Summer & Fall Blooms
Height:1-3′. 3-8′
Width:1-2′
Light:Full Sun
Propagation:Seed

Sweet Alyssum

Genus Name:Lobularia maritima
Zone:9-11
Features:Spring, Summer & Fall Blooms
Height:1-6″, 6-12″
Width:1-12″
Light:Part Sun, Full Sun
Propagation:Stem Cuttings, Seed

Perennials

Coneflower

Genus Name:Echinacea
Zone:3-9
Features:Summer & Fall Blooms
Height:1-3′
Width:1-2′
Light:Full Sun
Propagation:Seed, Division

Dusty Miller

Genus Name:Jacobaea maritima
Zone:7-10
Features: Fall Color
Height:6-12″, 1-3′
Width:1-2′
Light:Full Sun
Propagation:Stem Cuttings, Seed

Sedum

Genus Name:Sedum
Zone:3-10
Features:Fall & Summer Blooms
Height:1-6″, 6-12″, 1-3′
Width:6″ to many feet
Light:Part Sun, Full Sun
Propagation:Stem Cuttings, Seed & Division

You can also plant herbs, grasses, and ferns in beds. Just keep in mind that some herbs (mint comes to mind) will spread prolifically if not contained within a pot. 

Drought-Tolerant Succulents

There is a reason succulents have skyrocketed in house-plant popularity. In addition to their cute and varied appearances, succulents thrive on little water. (In fact, too much water can ‘drown’ your succulent.) 

A quick scroll through an Instagram Influencer’s profile will show you succulents in attractive ceramic pots and elaborate macrame. However, you don’t need to confine your succulents to indoor gardens.

Here are some drought-tolerant succulents that work well as shrubs or ground cover. 

Shrubs


Agave

Genus Name:Agave
Zone:5-11
Features:Summer Blooms
Height:1-3′, 3-8′, 8-20′, 20′ or Larger
Width:1-10′
Light:Full Sun
Propagation:Seed & Division

Aloe

Below is Aloe vera. Another excellent variety is Aloe Arborescens.

Genus Name:Aloe vera
Zone:10-11
Features:Drought Tolerant
Height:1-3′
Width:6-12″
Light:Full Sun
Propagation:Division

Jade Plant

Genus Name:Crassula
Zone:11
Features:Spring & Winter Blooms
Height:3-8′
Width:2-3′
Light:Full Sun
Propagation:Stem Cutting

Ground Cover


Lizard’s Tail

They are also known as Crassula muscosa.

Moss Rose

Genus Name:Portulaca spp.
Zone:10-11
Features:Summer & Fall Blooms
Height:Less Than 6″, 6-12″
Width:Up to 18″
Light:Full Sun
Propagation:Stem Cutting, Seed

Houseleek Sempervivums

In addition to their ability to tolerate dry weather, succulents also offer easy propagation – meaning you can take clippings from your flower beds to create a low-water indoor garden.   

Drought-Tolerant Shrubs

The key to successful shrub cultivation is to select shrubs based on specific growing areas. This selection pertains to your growing zone. But you should also base your decision on the soil quality and exposure of the precise location where you plan to plant your shrubs. (Also, be aware that many drought-tolerant shrubs are invasive plants.) 

Remember, even the most drought-tolerant shrubs require sufficient watering while establishing their root systems. But once they have formed mature root systems, shrubs such as the following will use water efficiently: 

  • Evergreen Shrubs: Adam’s Needle, Eastern Arborvitae, Evergreen Sumac, Juniper
  • Flowering Shrubs: Bougainvillea, Butterfly Bush, Cistus, Forsythia, Lilac

Popular Mediterranean herbs rosemary and lavender will grow to shrub size if given adequate room. When not contained by a pot, lavender can grow over two feet tall and four feet wide. At maturity, certain types of rosemary can reach a height of up to six feet and a spread of eight feet. So don’t be afraid to release these herbs from their pots!

Drought-Tolerant Trees

When correctly selected, trees are an excellent addition to a drought-tolerant garden. Once established in the ground, they will require watering much less frequently than a potted perennial. 

Choosing native trees will ensure that these new additions to your backyard are already suited to your region’s soil and climate. 

Also, look for small-leafed trees over large-leafed trees as smaller leaves aid trees in more efficient water usage. 

Here are a few favorites: 

  • Deciduous: Bald Cypress, Hackberry, Hickory, Oak, Paperbark Maple
  • Evergreen: Holly, Shortleaf Pine, Snow Gum, Virginia Pine

Generally, thin leaves allow evergreen trees to tolerate drought better than deciduous trees. However, this is not always the case, so check local recommendations before purchasing enough pines to form a small Christmas tree farm. 

How to Help Your Plants Survive With Minimal Water

Now that you’ve planted drought-tolerant plants, check out these additional tips for maintaining a garden with minimal water: 

  • Apply mulch to help keep the soil cool. A two- to three-inch layer on the soil’s surface will protect the roots of your plants from harsh sunlight and help the surrounding soil retain moisture. Mulch also prevents soil crusting. This prevention is a crucial benefit as soil crusting reduces water’s ability to penetrate soil down to the root system. Unlike sand or clay soils which reflect light and heat back up to surrounding plants, dark mulch with an uneven surface will limit reflectivity.  
  • Use organic matter to improve moisture availability (as well as soil drainage). Add organic matter to the soil before you plant drought-tolerant plants. 
  • Avoid fertilizer. Adding fertilizer to your soil will encourage plants to grow rapidly. This excess growth will require extra watering to prevent it from flopping in summer. It will also be more susceptible to frost in cold months. 
  • Plant small specimens early in the growing season. This advanced planting will allow your plants to acclimate to their environment over time. This gradual development will give them a better chance at defense when harsh conditions occur.
  • Weed your borders, beds, or pots. Although weeding by hand can be a literal chore, weeds suck up precious moisture (and nutrients) from your cultivated plants.
  • Shade plants that are more vulnerable to drought conditions. When planning your garden layout, try to place drought-tolerant plants in areas that receive the most sun and exposure.
  • Prune sparingly during a drought. (Pruning can encourage growth, requiring additional water usage.)

Additionally, try conserving rainwater. For those gardeners who are really dedicated to water conservation, keep a bucket near the shower to collect water as you wait for your shower to heat up. 

Top Tip: Avoid the temptation to water your lawn as this will consume huge amounts of water. If your lawn is established, its root system will help it survive droughts. Even grass that has turned yellow or brown will recover upon the next rainfall. 

Prioritize Your Watering 

Climate change is making droughts and record-breaking heat more common. To curb water usage during drive spells, some municipalities impose water-hose bans, mandatory water rationing, or water-wise landscaping incentives. 

Whether you want to maintain your garden within these limitations or just want to lower your home’s water bill, try to prioritize which plants you water (and how you water them). 

Especially if you water your garden with a hose, it can be tempting to water your garden indiscriminately. However, not all plants require the same amount of water. Creating a summer watering plan is another way to reduce water usage during hot months. 

Hint: The occasional thorough watering is more beneficial than a more frequent but less-thorough watering. 

Here’s a quick rundown of how often you should water certain plants during a drought: 

  • Once a Day: seedings, young plants, cuttings, anything not yet established
  • Once a Week: shallow-rooted plants 
  • Once Every Two Weeks: shallow-rooted shrubs
  • Do Not Water: mature shrubs, hedges, trees, lawns

Try to narrow your irrigation system so that you only water areas that require moisture. Sprinkler systems might be easier to use than a watering can, but they are highly inefficient – especially when compared to drip irrigation systems. 

If possible, water your plants in the early morning. This time will allow water to travel down to the roots before the sun heats the soil, hydrating them before the heat of the day. 

Particularly when using water sparingly, water plants at the base so that it will travel to the roots. Watering plants at the leaves will encourage evaporation before the water even reaches the roots. 

Videos

The video below will show you 50 more drought-tolerant landscaping ideas:

When In Doubt, Survive Drought By Keeping It Local

Selecting plants that are well-suited to your garden’s growing conditions is one of the best ways to make your garden more environmentally beneficial. Not only do native plants help the local ecosystem thrive, but they also tend to be drought-tolerant. 

Want to cultivate an attractive garden while also conserving water? Contact local universities or garden centers to learn about drought-tolerant plants native to your region.