43 Plants That Can Take the Heat in Your Drought-Resistant Garden

Over the past century, the world has gone through changes that may have been too fast for everyone to keep up. Skyscrapers rose almost overnight from flat and barren land. Row after row of houses were built to accommodate our ever-growing population.

Trees are cut down to make way for a multitude of construction projects to build roads, office buildings, restaurants, and shopping malls.

cactus

These changes come with a consequence that humankind may have realized too late. We are taking away from the world more resources than it can rebuild and as a result, our environment is suffering.

Seasons are longer and harsher, the winter biting and excruciating, the summer burning and relentless. Our lack of awareness with our environment means that most people never think to prepare for a critical climate condition known as drought.

It’s a good idea to prepare for drought because the reality is that it can happen in your area. Parts of the United States, particularly California, have already experienced drought. In the late 1980s, California suffered through a three-year drought.

In the 1950’s, 244 out of 254 Texas counties declared a state of emergency during a five-year drought period. During these droughts, people had to spend more just to get their basic needs met.

As heat beats down on the earth, plants suffer, crops wilt and die before they can be harvested. This leads to severe depletion of available food and can eventually lead to starvation of mass numbers of people.

Although that’s the big picture of drought, the micro level looks at the average person and his or her garden. Drought depletes resources over time.

Men will want nothing more than to keep providing their family the food they deserve to survive another day. But in a SHTF situation wherein water could be even further compromised, what options are there?

The answer is simple. Consider planting crops that can survive the drought as one way to constantly replenish your food stockpile.

Are you looking for some plants that can take the heat? I was stuck for ideas on what to plant that would hold up well to the heat of the summer – I did some research on plants that can take the heat, and this is what I found.

These plants that can take the heat will also conserve water because your garden won’t be filled with water guzzling plants vying for it.

Plants Versus Heat

In order to wisely select plants to help you survive a potential drought, it’s crucial that you understand what happens to plants during extreme hot, dry weather conditions. Normally, plants love the sun.

But when temperatures go above 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29 Celsius) and hold there, they begin to suffer a condition known as heat stress.

Plants cope with the heat by conserving whatever water they have access to. Thus, if the heat is too much and there’s not enough of a nutrient source to keep the plant healthy, some plants will wilt, shed their leaves, or even entire branches just to make sure their integral parts get whatever nutrients the soil has available.

Wilting is the first and most important sign of heat stress. If you want to have a garden that can survive the drought, you will have to be observant enough to spot it before it’s too late. Some plants will dry up and the leaves will look wrinkly. Heat stress can also manifest in the form of crunchy leaves and fragile branches.

Aside from the shedding of foliage, there’s actually a way for you to pinpoint plants that don’t stand a chance against the heat by determining which of them have shallow roots.

The deeper the roots of a plant go, the more it has access to the natural moisture that is available deeper underground. So deep roots can help plants survive extended extreme heat.

Shallow-rooted plants can only pull water that has drizzled down from the surface of the ground or has found its way close to the plant’s roots. So these plants will have no choice but to resort to wilting or shedding to conserve water.

They don’t stand a chance under extended drought conditions. Thus, when planning your drought-resistant garden, you will have to take several things into consideration.

Starting a Drought-Resistant Garden

To help you get started on your garden, here are a few tips that you can remember to increase the survival chances of your heat-tolerant plants:

Start with the Soil

The condition of your soil is crucial when planning a drought-resistant garden. Even heat-tolerant plants will have a tough time if your soil conditions are wrong. If the ground you’ll be planting on cannot trap moisture, then your garden is doomed to fail.

Prepare your soil by adding rich compost that can trap moisture well and will encourage plants to grow deep roots. Top your soil off with a thick carpet of mulch to limit evaporation and water runoff and prevent the growth of weeds that can compete with your plants.

Layout

Though row style planting is aesthetically pleasing, it’s not water efficient. A more practical garden design is the block style layout. Position your plants on raised beds of soil equal distance apart from each other.

Not only does this make any watering you do easier, it allows the plants to take the nutrients they need without competing with each other.

Artificial Shade

Choose a material that you can use to create some artificial shade for your garden. It doesn’t have to be store-bought. You just need to choose a material that can protect the plants from the heat without making it worse.

Materials made of steel or aluminum will only magnify the heat. Instead, use paper or cloth, hung above the designated area where you want to plant your garden.

Observe and Respond

Always be on the lookout for signs of heat stress. Although the heat-tolerant plants have increased chances of surviving the drought, it will all be for naught if you forget to water them at least once or twice a day.

In all likelihood, if you’ve prepared your garden correctly, they won’t need much water, just enough for the soil to trap it and keep it as a reserve for when the plants need more.

Weeds

Weeds that are allowed to grow unchecked are a huge threat to a garden at any time but especially so during an extended drought. Keep the weeds in your garden under control or they will compete with your plants for the limited amount of moisture in the soil.

32 Fruits and Veggies That Can Survive the Heat

The list below is by no means complete and factors like your location and climate have to be taken into consideration, but here are a few fruits and vegetables that can help you get started on your drought-resistant garden. Don’t worry, everything is edible.

1. Beans

There are several kinds of beans you can grow in your heat-tolerant garden, including black-eyed peas, snap beans, Tepary beans, pole beans, and Lima beans.

Even good old fashioned green beans (pole or bush) grow well in the heat. You’ll want to choose those that are listed as being heat-tolerant, though.

2. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are obvious choices for a heat-tolerant garden. Both tomatoes and tomatillos (along with other southern species) can be grown in a warmer climate.

You should rely heavily on tomato varieties that grow in the deep south when you’re choosing your seeds. Some good options include Tropic VFN, Neptune, and Ozark Pink VF.

3. Cactus

Here’s an edible plant you likely haven’t thought of yet – you can eat cactus fruits! Low prickly pair and other edible fruits and leaf pads of Opuntia humifusa are native to the southeastern United States.

It is the only cactus found in this region, in fact, and can be transplanted into your garden so that you can harvest the tasty fruits.

4. Rhubarb

Rhubarb is best suited to cold climates – usually, zones 3 to 7. They have to have a cold-induced period of rest. However, as long as you provide these plants with a bit of a respite each winter, you’ll find that mature rhubarb plants do just fine during the summer months.

5. Melons

You can grow just about any kind of melon in a hot climate – in fact, they tend to not do well in colder areas. Make sure you give your melons plenty of room to sprawl or choose a bush variety that will stay more compact.

Some good varieties of melons to grow include strawberry watermelon, Crimson Sweet watermelon, Missouri Gold, Sweet Passion, Top Mark, Kansas, and Edisto 47.

From watermelon to honeydew, cantaloupe and everything in between, melons are a great choice for the heat-loving garden.

6. Winter Squash

Pretty much any kind of squash can take the heat, including both summer and winter squash (more on summer squash below!).

7. Okra

Okra is a favorite plant among southern gardners. It not only loves the heat but is also adaptable in dry conditions. You should harvest pods every other day to keep your production high.

8. Eggplant

Although most members of the solanaceae family of crops (tomatoes, potatoes, etc) grow well in the heat, eggplant is perhaps the best hot weather producer. You can grow either globe-shaped Mediterranena types or elongated Asian ones.

9. Peppers

Most peppers can take the heat but if you really want to take things up a notch, grow hot peppers. These tend to grow and produce their best crops during the late spring into the early fall months.

Some larger kinds of peppers slow down their production as things heat up, but not hot peppers! They’ll keep growing right on through the dog days of summer.

10. Cucumbers

Cukes are classic summer veggies! As long as you maintain consistent soil moisture (and excellent fertility), you shouldn’t have any troubles growing all the cucumbres you need with just a few plants. Don’t forget – you can pickle them, too!

11. Pumpkin

Though a winter squash, pumpkins actually do some of their best growth when the weather is hot. The key? You just want to make sure your plants stay well-watered.

12. Rosemary

Rosemary, like most other culinary herbs, is native to the Mediterranean. Therefore, it performs quite well in hot, dry conditions.

13. Lemons

Although lemons – and other citrus trees – can occasionally be grown as dwarf varieties indoors, for northern gardeners, the reality is that they are native to hotter climates. These subtropical plants do well in hot, dry conditions that are typically found in hardiness zones 9 to 11.

14. Zucchini

Zucchini, a type of summer squash, grows quite well in the intense heat. If heat-loving pests like squash vine borers are an issue, you can simply start seeds indoors and then transplant into the garden in early July.

15. Basil

Basil is an herb that loves hot, dry weather. Plant it in full sun for best results.

16. Amaranth

Amaranth is a heat-loving grain that can be used in several ways. You can eat the salad greens raw or cooked – and you can harvest the mature grain to be stored for long term use. You can even grow amaranth for ornamental purposes – its rosy red appearance is to die for.

17. Broccoli (Sun King Hybrid)

Although broccoli is notorious for being a cold weather crop, you can grow broccoli in hot weather as long as you choose the right variety. The Sun King hybrid is one example – it offers attractive bluish green heads that are ready to harvest even during the heat of the summer

18. Garlic

Garlic can be grown in the heat, too, but you’ll need to refrigerate your planting stock ahead of time. That’s because garlic grows best in temperatures of around 40 to 50 degrees.

19. Onions

There’s a caveat here. Although onions are long-growing plants that require a long season (including the heat of summer) to grow, you also need to be careful about growing them in too much heat. The tops will wilt and flop over.

The key to growing onions in a warm climate is to make sure they are surrounded with a thick layer of light-colored mulch, like straw. This will keep the soil cool and also help retain moisture.

20. Sweet Potatoes

There are more than 400 different kinds of sweet potatoes – unfortunately, they are not all created equal. Which variety is best for you will depend on personal taste but the good news is that most sweet potato varieties prefer hot climates, ideally those with long days and warm temperatures both during the day and at night.

21. Arugula

Arugula is a vegetable that germinates easily in warm soil – even soil as warm as 85 to 90 degrees. It grows quickly in hot weather as long as you keep it moist.

22. Asian Greens

Asian greens can also be grown in hot climates. THe key to growing these cold-loving plants is to wait to plant until the middle to end of summer. That way, they’ll do most of their growing in the hot temperatures but you won’t harvest until things cool down in the fall. This can avoid you having to eat greens that are spicy and tough.

23. Asparagus

Asparagus is another vegetable that is best suited for cool weather, but it can be grown in hot climates with a bit of attention to its care.

You’ll harvest the spears earlier in the season – sometimes as early as February or March – rather than in April or May. Mulch is essential for getting your plants through the hottest days of summer, too!

24. Chinese Cabbages

Chinese cabbages can easily be grown in hot weather, despite the fact that they like to be kept in cool climates.

The key to planting Chinese cabbage is that you should grow it either in the cool temperatures of spring or autumn, or plant it in a bit of shade. It will only take around 50 days in warm weather to reach maturity.

25. Cowpeas

Cowpeas, also known as southern peas, are incredibly versatile. You can eat them like snap beans when the pods are young or you can eat them as green shelled peas.

Of course, once they are dry and mature, you can store them up easily (they’ll last for months!) and use them as dry beans – they cook up much faster than dry beans, too.

Another more specific kind of cowpea you can grow is the Yard long bean. This is a long-podded cowpea that is generally grown for fresh eating. Also known as asparagus beans, these taste sweet and nutty – and are extremely productive.

26. Sunflowers

Lots of gardeners don’t view sunflowers as edible crops, but don’t forget about the value of the seeds! Sunflower seeds are extremely nutrient dense and can be dried to last for months on end. Plus, they can provide a valuable source of food for livestock like chickens.

27. Malabar Spinach

Spinach isn’t known for loving the heat – in fact, it will bolt (go to seed) once temperatures rise above 70 degrees or so. However, there is one kind of spinach that thrives in hot temperatures – Malabar spinach. This vining plant produces foliage that is great for cooking and salads and can reliably be grown where temperatures frequently rise above 90 degrees.

28. Corn

Corn is another popular summer vegetable. A low maintenance plant, it can be used in so many ways. Just keep the ears well watered for a tasty harvest!

29. Swiss Chard

Swiss chard is another leafy green that can handle the heat. Although many greens, like spinach and sometimes lettuce, bolt and get bitter when the temperatures rise, that’s not the case for Swiss chard. YOu can use it in place of spinach or harvest it for use in salads. The choice is yours!

30. New Zealand Spinach

If you’re still looking for an alternative to traditional spinach and Malabar spinach doesn’t do it for you, consider growing New Zealand spinach. This plant offers a hefty dose of nutrients and is uniquely pest- and disease-free.

The only caveat to growing New Zealand spinach is that the seeds can be tough to germinate – you may want to pre soak them so you get the right number of plants.

31. Peanuts

A lot of people forget about growing peanuts in their garden, but you can easily grow peanuts by starting with fresh, raw, uncooked peanuts still in the shell. You can sprout them in moist potting soil and they’ll grow quickly, offering a fresh harvest of long lasting nuts for your survival pantry.

32. Soybeans

You can even grow soybeans! These plants require warm soil to germinate, so you’ll wait until early summer to plant in a hot climate. In fact, although they can be grown in zones 2-11, gardeners in northern zones may find that they have to presprout or wait to plant their soybeans until the weather warms up a bit.

11 Heat and Drought-Tolerant Medicinal Plants and Herbs

Another thing that gets compromised during the heat is our energy to do anything. The drugstore may be too far away or drugs might originate from another country experiencing a drought and therefore be less effective than expected.

During a drought, you might also experience dry skin which makes you more susceptible to injuries. Medicinal plants can prevent infection resulting from open and bleeding cuts, colds, flu, skin irritations, and other inflictions, such as headaches and common cold symptoms.

If you have room to spare, here are a few drought-tolerant medicinal plants that you can include in your garden.

aloe ready to harvest (2 year old)
aloe ready to harvest (2 year old plant)

1. Aloe Vera

This plant is a versatile succulent that can survive just about any weather and offers a whole lot of benefits including being loaded with vitamins and minerals, ointment and treatment for minor things like cuts and burns.

2. Yarrow

Yarrow is sometimes viewed as a weed, but this plant has tons of benefits. It can treat sunburn and reduce stress and anxiety.

3. Evening primrose

Like the aloe vera, this plant boasts a wide range of medicinal properties including balancing your hormones to ease skin conditions like eczema. It also doesn’t hurt that everything, from the roots to the leaves, is edible.

4. Thyme

This plant is medicinal in the way that it can provide a calming and nostalgic aroma to any of your food while also attracting pollinators and repelling garden pests.

5. Echinacea

the plant has survived a long period of time because of its benefits that can help you recover from a cold or ward off flu while also boosting your immunity. Tea can be made from the leaves and flowers.

6. Lavender

than the pretty flowers and comforting fragrance, this plant can help relieve stress and anxiety, promote glowing skin and improve sleep quality. It can also be used in desserts and drinks.

7. Artemisia

Also known as wormwood, this drought-tolerant plant is not only ornamental, but also offers medicinal and culinary benefits. It’s cold-hardy as well as tolerant of warmer temperatures as well.

8. Bay Laurel

Bay laurel loves the heat, hardy through zone 8. While northern gardeners in cooler climates can grow it by bringing it inside for the winter, it’s best suited to hotter climates. The leaves are perfect for adding to soups and stews!

9. Catmint

Catmint is another cold hardy herb that is also extremely drought-tolerant. It is an alternative to catnip, so you’ll likely find some medicinal benefits for your favorite feline friends in this plant! It’s easy to care for and requires minimal attention (though it loves full sun).

10. Mexican Oregano

Although most varieties of oregano are best suited to colder climates, that is not the case with Mexican oregano. This plant is native to Mexico and is only hardy to zone 9. It tastes much like other kinds of oregano so you can use it in your cooking and for its antibacterial benefits.

11. Santolina

Santolina is an herb that is frequently referred to as lavender cotton – the name makes sense, once you behold these lavender-colored, cotton-like plants! It is hardy to zone 6 so it’s best grown in warmer climates.

Although it’s frequently grown as an ornamental plant, used for edging, it can also be used to repel pests.

Selecting Heat- and Drought-Tolerant Plants

When it comes to finding plants that will hold up well to intense heat and dry conditions, there are a few tips you can follow when selecting and planting heat and drought tolerant plants.

For one, take a look at the leaves of the plant.. Plants with smaller leaves (as well as those with more succulent leaves) tend to hold up well to hot, dry conditions. Large-leafed plants require additional water and shade in order to thrive.

If you’re growing plants that aren’t technically heat- and drought-tolerant in your garden, just plan ahead. Plant in partial shade or plant tall annuals, like sunflowers, nearby to shade smaller plants.

You can also use shade cloth or even cardboard to shade more sensitive plants should an unexpected heat wave threaten their health.

Water is key, too. Many plants thrive in the heat as long as they are given plenty of water – remove the water from the equation, and they’ll wilt quickly.

One final tip for choosing the right plants? Choose those that match your conditions. You will want to use plants that grow well under certain variations in a stie – while certain parts of your land might be prone to hot, dry weather, others might stay much cooler. Consider your plants’ needs as you select the planting site.

You can also consider ntive plants, or those that are well-acclimated to your area. These tend to offer a much better resistance and tolerance to the conditions in your area.

Remember, too, that although some plants might be listed as tolerant of drought and heat, that might not necessarily apply during the first year of growth. When plants are establishing their roots, they tend to be more sensitive to these sorts of conditions. Therefore you may need to water well or apply mulch in order to keep them healthy while they are getting used to their new homes.

Final Words

Now that you have a starting point for what to plant and how it can benefit you, don’t get complacent about your drought tolerant garden. Though most of the plants can and will survive extreme heat, your garden cannot survive all alone.

Proper watering is needed, and some plants, like tomatoes, require deep irrigation once a week. You will also have to check the shade every so often to make sure that it actually is working to block the heat from damaging your crops and not worsening the heat by trapping it over your plants.

The best way to create a garden that can survive the extended drought conditions is to know what you need and stick to it. Do not get overexcited and overcrowd your plants. Doing so will defeat the purpose of your layout and waste your time, energy, and water.

Once you have a crop that produces consistently, and if you feel you still have space to spare, then consider making your garden bigger. Otherwise, the golden rule of making a drought-tolerant garden is to ensure that you give no more attention and no less attention than what is needed.

updated 03/26/2021 by Rebekah

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