Utah Drought Tolerant Plants

Having a successful garden is all about planting the right plant in the right place. The arid, desert conditions that make Utah unique can also make maintaining a thriving garden a challenge. A thirsty garden means more work and more resource consumption, which is terrible for you and not good for the planet.

Your Utah garden should be composed of plants that serve your practical and design purposes and that tolerate drought conditions. While native Utah plants are a good idea, many non-native plants can also thrive in a dry Utah garden. Here is a list of 10 drought-tolerant plants that are perfect for Utah gardeners.

Plantain yucca (Yucca baccata)

Banana yucca, the state flower of New Mexico, is an excellent landscape plant for dry gardens in Utah. Their evergreen leaves have sharp tips that make them excellent barrier plants against unwanted animals.

Of the 40 different species of yucca, Banana Yucca is one of the few that produces delicious, succulent fruits. The pulp was traditionally roasted, the seeds removed, pounded into pulp and shaped into sweet, nutritious cakes that were dried in the sun.

Desert zinnia (Zinnia grandiflora)


This flowering perennial is a member of the daisy family (Asteraceae) that thrives in the drought-prone sandy, gravelly soils common in Utah gardens. They make an excellent ground cover due to their almost bushy appearance and can be easily propagated by division.

This Zinnia, although not native to Utah, is a common wildflower in nearby Colorado and New Mexico. It is very tolerant of bright, direct, scorching sun and cold desert winters. Its huge golden yellow flowers offer nectar to pollinators such as butterflies, moths and bees. Zinnias are not drought tolerant, but the soil is best when it is dry.

Indian rice (Acnatherum hymenoides)


Indian Ricegrass is a water-saving grass that grows natively in the western United States. Its stems grow one to two feet tall and form wavy clumps that are tolerant of drought, cold, and wind.

Native Americans used this species of grass as a basic or complementary crop. Its seeds fall out easily when tapped with a paddle and can be ground and baked to make bread or cooked to make porridge. Additionally, uncollected seeds are nutritious for birds and will self-propagate, forming more plants.

Snake broom (Gutierrezia sarothrae)


The second member of the Asteraceae (daisy) family on this list is a Utah native plant that adapts well to the dry, sandy soils of Utah gardens. It produces thin, thread-like leaves and clusters of small yellow flowers from August to November.

Broom Snakeweed is an excellent addition to rock gardens and any other sandy or drought-prone garden conditions. Grazing animals stay away from it, so you won’t have to worry about local wildlife nibbling on it.

Mesa Verde Ice Plant (Delosperma kelaides)


A natural mutation of Delosperma cooperi at the Denver Botanic Garden caused it to produce coral-colored flowers instead of the usual purple. Over time, this mutation stuck and evolved into its own species, the Mesa Verde Ice Plant.

This low-growing terrain covers perennials that spread naturally over rocky soils. The more established they are, the more drought tolerant they become. This makes Delosperma keliades perfect for rock gardens and the sandy conditions common in all Utah gardens.

Lydia Broom (Genista lydia)


Lydia broom is a perennial shrub native to southeastern Europe, where soil conditions are similar to Utah landscapes. It produces small yellow flowers that are similar to sweet pea flowers and rubbery green leaves.

It makes an excellent ground cover, growing a little over a foot tall and two to three feet wide. Plant it in well-draining soil in direct sun or partial shade. It tolerates desert conditions such as drought and heat and is resistant to deer grazing.

Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia)


This is the second member of the yucca family on this list, and while it grows to the size of a tree, it is like a yucca plant in all other respects. It prefers high elevations and loose, rocky soil, making it a perfect piece for a large Utah garden.

It grows slowly, so you will have to be patient, but it is worth it. Once established, the Joshua tree can grow up to 20 to 40 feet tall, tolerates extreme cold and heat, and needs almost no water. About 25 species of birds are known to nest in Joshua trees, and moths pollinate the greenish-white flowers.

Golden moss (Sedum acre)


Also sometimes known as Utah Sedum, this succulent loves rock gardens and sandy soils like those often found in Utah gardens. It loves full sun or partial shade and spreads up to 24 inches with minimal care. It produces beautiful yellow flowers in tight clusters.

Goldmoss self-seeds and can be propagated with stem cuttings. Like most succulents, young plants need a little more water to get established. However, mature plants are mostly self-sufficient and can tolerate drought conditions well.

Desert marshmallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua)


Desert Globemallow is a plant native to the deserts of Utah, meaning it is a perfect way to add a hardy pop of apricot color to your Utah garden. This perennial plant can grow about a meter tall and produces huge flowers at the ends of its long stems.

It blooms almost year-round with huge orange-red flowers that attract bees and other pollinators from February to November. This perennial only lasts a few seasons, but it self-seeds in the fall, germinates in the winter, and proliferates in the spring.

Blue Sage (Salvia Pachyphylla)


Also sometimes known as Mountain Sage, this plant is native to the southwestern United States, particularly California, Nevada, and Arizona. Blue Sage is a drought-tolerant alpine shrub that does best at elevations above 5,000 feet.

This beautiful plant blooms all year round in blue and purple flowers. The leaves can be used in cooking, just like sage in the spice aisle of the supermarket.

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