Top 5 Drought Tolerant Plants in the South of France

Andrew Guck

Living in the South of France is a dream for many people like myself. The last 10 years living here has given me an opportunity to learn quite a lot about gardening. It is one of my favourite pastimes and in the last few years, I’ve planted over 100 varieties of flowers, plants, trees, and shrubs with well over 300 in my Mediterranean garden. Not all of them made it.

This year was a real test to see what plants would survive given that June-August 2022 was the Northern Hemisphere’s second-hottest meteorological summer on record and there were several areas with water restrictions in place.

Many homeowners leave on holiday for the month of August or if you’re one of the many ex-pats who own a holiday home, it’s important to know which plants can live for weeks at a time without watering. There are the obvious ones such as succulents or cacti, but I’m here to tell you which of my top 5 favourite plants survived the summer of 2022 without the need for watering.

5 – Red Valerian Plants (Centranthus Ruber)

This gorgeous wildflower is ubiquitous in the Mediterranean. You’ll even see it growing out of rocks or walls where you may wonder “how is that even possible without soil?” It’s a tall perennial wildflower that will bloom for many months usually starting around May. I’ve seen it in shades of light pink to a deep luxurious red. This 60-90cm flower is great on a border and attracts many bees.

4 – Russian Sage (Perovskia Atriplicifolia)

Another easy plant to care for in dry climates is Russian Sage. This stunning perennial blooms late in the summer and flowers even into late October or early November. Ranging from pale blues to dark violet, this beautiful plant can grow up to a metre or higher. Simply cut it back in the autumn and it will return the following year.

3 – Texas Sage (Leucophyllum frutescens)

This delightfully attractive shrub is one of my favourites. It’s not very well known around here and as the name implies, it’s native to Texas, making it another great choice for a drought-tolerant garden. This one blooms a bit late in August and September. This year it’s still flowering in my garden into late October. What’s makes this plant special is that it’s also a great barometer. It will typically start to flower a few hours before a rainstorm.

2 – Scorpion Senna (Coronilla Emerus)

You’ll know that spring has finally arrived when I begin to see this hardy shrub with its generous crown-shaped flowers with a bright yellow bloom. Great for rock gardens and extremely hardy, this pretty plant will flower from early March and late into April and can grow up to 1.5 to 2m in height.

1 – Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo)

Native to the Mediterranean region, this tree is well known for its fruits resembling a strawberry, and is one of my favourites. I’ve planted over a dozen in my garden and once they have taken root, I’ve never once needed to water them. The flowers are a pretty white and they begin to ripen around Christmas and I’ve made jam out of the fruits on several occasions.

If you’re looking to have a beautiful garden without the need to constantly water, I highly recommend growing a few of these 5 beautiful plants in your garden. Be sure to plant in late autumn for best results.