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Which Trees Require the Least Water?

The climate in New Zealand is, fortunately for us, one that is not too extreme. We do not have it as difficult as it is for other countries (e.g., Australia) which usually endure a never-ending drought and are subject to water restrictions. However, the effects of climate change are already being felt. We are experiencing more extremes of wet and dry weather, as well as longer periods of time without any rain than ever before. We need to take this into consideration when deciding what to plant and how we will garden. The good news is that breeders are helping the situation by developing plants that can better withstand drought.

When faced with any adversity, as per our professional arborist in Christchurch, the first step against it would be to choose plants that go well with your soil and climate, which is specifically important on sandy coastal sites and in areas where it can be difficult to water during the summer.

When a plant gets to consume less water, its cells shrivel up and die. This leads to slower growth of the plant and, more often than not, causes irreparable damage to the roots of the plant. As a result, the plant will wilt no matter how much it is watered and will be more susceptible to attacks from both pests and diseases.

This blog post lists different types of drought-loving plants and shrubs, broadly classified under certain categories depending on locations, soil usage, the area covered, all-rounders, etc. Let’s take a look.

Providing shade.

When starting a gardening project in a dry and windy location, it makes the most sense to begin by planting trees and shrubs. Once planted, they can survive much longer without needing to be watered in comparison to shallow-rooted, smaller plants, because their roots grow deeper into the soil where there is moisture. Shade from trees and shrubs helps protect your garden from evaporation.

Shade-providing trees and shrubs include Pohutukawa (Metrosideros), Pittosporum, Olearia, Corokia, Banksia, Coprosma, and Griselinia. Corokia also provides food and water.

If you need any assistance from a professional arborist in Christchurch for planting summer-friendly plants and shrubs, get in touch with us today! 

More coverage.

A hot day in the middle of summer can cause an exposed square metre of soil to lose about two litres of water to evaporation. Covering your soil is the most effective method for avoiding this problem. Organic mulch added every spring makes a big difference. You might want to consider planting a permanent “living mulch” using groundcover plants that can tolerate dry conditions.

The following species are considered to be groundcovers: Coprosma, Muehlenbeckia, Grevillea, Osteospermum (Cape Daisy), Ophiopgon (Mondo grass), Sedum, and Hemerocallis (daylily).

Drought-loving desert plants.

The most popular drought-friendly plants are those that evolved in desert environments, developing the ability to store water in their cells, thick waxy skins, or furry coats to protect against water loss. These desert-adapted species are the ones that love drought the most. In the world of plants, succulents are the equivalent of camels.

Examples of easily manageable succulents include Aeonium ‘Schwarzkopf’, Echeveria Elegans, Aloe, and Sedum.

Silvery wonders for your landscape.

Silver highlights are an essential component of any fully-developed dry garden. A dry-tolerant plant will almost invariably have silvery-looking foliage. Among the most popular silver groundcovers are Stachys lanata, also known as lamb’s ears, and Cerastium (also called snow-in-summer plants). Rapidly expanding Teucrium fruticans is one of the most popular options for shaping through trimming. The native Brachyglottis ‘Otari Cloud’ is a tolerant and showy little shrub that is underutilised far too frequently. It is recommended that this shrub be planted more frequently. The compact daisy known as Leucanthemum ‘Sparkles’ has leaves that are silvery and flowers that are strikingly white with yellow centres.

The following plants have silvery-looking foliage: Helichrysum, Brachyglottis, Cerastium, Dichondra ‘Silver Falls,’ Stachys, Teucrium, Santolina, and Pachystegia (Marlborough rock daisy).

Want to know which ones will work best for your yard? Contact a professional arborist in Christchurch today!

For more texture.

Grasses and flax are great additions to a planting scheme because they bring movement and excitement, and many of them are able to thrive in dry soils. They thrive in locations where it’s mostly windy.

Flaxes, grasses, and grass-like plants, including Cordyline, Lomandra, Phormium (also known as dwarf mountain flax), Libertia (also known as New Zealand iris), Carex Comans, and Carex Testacea (NZ tussock grasses), etc.


Plants that can survive in dry environments tend to originate in dry environments themselves, which is why Mediterranean herbs are excellent choices for growing in dry garden beds and containers.

Lavender, rosemary, thyme, sage, borage, oregano, marjoram, and French tarragon are some of the herbs that are native to the Mediterranean region.

Flower plants

Other plants can withstand surprisingly long periods of drought, despite their lavish appearance. These hardy summer bloomers include some of our most cherished container plants in the collection.

The following plants are ideal for growing in pots: Nicotiana, Pelargonium (geraniums), Petunia (and calibrachoa), Tagetes (marigold), and Verbena.

A hot summer flower border would consist of Achillea, Bergenia, Dianthus, Echinacea, Gaura, Kniphofia, Lychnis, Osteospermum, Penstemon, Phlomis, Sedum, Salvia, Sisyrinchium, and Verbena.

Tough all-rounders

Many drought-resistant plants cannot be grown in soils that are dry in the summer but wet and muddy in the winter because proper drainage is essential for their survival. It is possible to improve drainage in heavy clay soils by constructing raised beds or laying drainage. Clay soil can be improved over time by the addition of a large quantity of organic matter in the form of mulch and compost. In the meantime, we can plant sturdy all-rounders that are able to thrive despite a wide range of conditions in the soil. Given that clay has always been present in the soils of New Zealand, it should come as no surprise that many of our native plants have evolved to become “tough pioneers.”

Clay-resistant plants include Griselinia littoralis, Hoheria populnea (Lacebark), Sophora (Kowhai), Callistemon (Bottlebrush), Cistus (rock rose), Coprosma, Eriostemon (Wax Flower), Leptospermum (Manuka), Phormium (Flax), Flower Carpet roses, and Carex secta (NZ tussock).

How can you save water?

There are eight different approaches to water conservation.

  1. Cover your mulch with organic material (such as straw, granulated bark, and composted leaves).
  2. Train your plants to survive with less water by gradually extending the time between waterings. This will allow your plants to thrive in drier conditions.
  3. Repair any leaking faucets, hoses, or fittings.
  4. Grow more trees to serve as cover.
  5. Remove weeds.
  6. Water either very early in the morning or very late at night.
  7. Make use of a timer and a drip or trickle irrigation system.
  8. Pick plants that can survive in dry conditions.

Get in touch with a professional arborist in Christchurch to learn about summer-friendly plants that use the least amount of water in your yard.