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 it challenging to keep a garden thriving. A thirsty garden means more work and more resource consumption, which is terrible for you and not great for the planet.
Your Utah garden should be composed of plants that serve your practical and design purposes and tolerate drought conditions. While native Utah plants are a good idea, plenty of non-native plants can thrive in a dry Utah garden as well. Here’s a list of 10 drought-tolerant plants that are perfect for gardeners in Utah.
Banana Yucca (Yucca baccata)
The Banana Yucca, the state flower of New Mexico, is an excellent landscape plant for dry gardens in Utah. Their evergreen leaves have sharp leaf tips that make them great barrier plants against unwanted animals.
Of the 40 different species of yucca, the Banana Yucca is one of the few that produces delicious, succulent fruits. The flesh was traditionally roasted, deseeded, pounded into a pulp, and formed into sweet, nutritious cakes that dried in the sun.
Desert Zinnia (Zinnia grandiflora)
This flowering perennial plant is a member of the daisy (Asteraceae) family that thrives in the drought-prone, sandy, and gravelly soils common in Utah gardens. They make an excellent ground cover due to their almost shrublike appearance and can be propagated easily by division.
This Zinnia, though not native to Utah, is a common wildflower in nearby Colorado and New Mexico. It’s highly tolerant to bright, direct, scorching sun and cold desert winters. Its massive, golden-yellow blooms offer nectar to pollinators like butterflies, moths, and bees. Zinnias aren’t drought-tolerant, but the soil is better when dry.
Indian Ricegrass (Acnatherum hymenoides)
Indian Ricegrass is a water-wise grass that grows natively in the western United States. Its stalks grow one to two feet tall, forming undulating clumps that are drought-, cold-, and wind tolerant.
Indigenous Americans used this species of grass as a staple or supplement crop. Its seeds fall off easily when beaten with a paddle and can be ground and baked into bread or cooked into porridge. In addition, uncollected seeds are nutritious for birds and will self-propagate, forming more plants.
Broom Snakeweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae)
The second member of the Asteraceae (daisy) family on this list is a Utah native plant well suited to Utah gardens’ dry, sandy soils. It produces thin, thread-like leaves and clusters of tiny yellow flowers from August through November.
Broom Snakeweed makes an excellent addition to rock gardens and any other drought-prone or sandy garden conditions. Grazing animals steer clear of it, so you won’t have to worry about it getting nibbled on by local wildlife.
Mesa Verde Ice Plant (Delosperma kelaides)
A natural mutation of the Delosperma cooperi at the Denver Botanical Garden caused it to produce coral-colored flowers rather than the usual purple. Over time, this mutation sustained itself and became its own species, the Mesa Verde Ice Plant.
This low-growing ground covers perennial spreads naturally across 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)
The Lydia Broom is a perennial shrub native to southeast Europe, where the soil conditions are similar to the landscapes of Utah. 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’s like a yucca plant in every other way. It prefers high elevations and loose, rocky soils, making it a perfect statement piece for a big Utah garden.
It grows slowly, so you’ll have to have patience, but it’s worth it. Once established, the Joshua Tree can grow up to 20 feet tall, tolerate extreme cold and heat, and needs almost no water. Around 25 species of birds are known to nest in Joshua Trees, and moths pollinate the greenish-white flowers.
Goldmoss (Sedum acre)
Also sometimes known as the Utah Sedum, this succulent loves rock gardens and sandy soils like those often found in Utah gardens. It loves full sun to 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 extra water to get established. However, mature plants are mainly self-sufficient and can tolerate drought conditions well.
Desert Globemallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua)
Desert Globemallow is a native plant to the Utah deserts, which means it’s a perfect way to add a hardy pop of apricot color to your Utah garden. This perennial can grow around three feet tall and produces enormous 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 through November. This perennial only lasts a few seasons, but it self-seeds in the fall, germinates in the winter, and proliferates in spring.
Blue Sage (Salvia Pachyphylla)
Also sometimes known as Mountain Sage, this plant grows native in the South West 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 gorgeous plant flowers year-round in blue and purple flowers. The leaves can be used culinary, the same as the sage in your grocery store spice aisle.