Skip to Content

15 Drought-Tolerant Vegetables for Your Summer Garden

Feel free to share

The Best Drought-Tolerant Vegetables for Dry Conditions

With water scarcity becoming an increasingly pressing issue worldwide, it’s essential to grow vegetable plants that can withstand prolonged periods of drought conditions without compromising their productivity or taste. That’s why many gardeners facing dry conditions choose the best drought-tolerant vegetables for their gardens

Read on to learn more about the top drought-tolerant vegetables renowned for their ability to thrive in arid conditions. Then discover some practical tips and insights you can use to grow a bountiful and sustainable garden even during dry summers.

1. Beans

There are a variety of different types of green beans that can handle a dry climate. Pole beans are a vine vegetable that like to climb up trellises, teepees, or freestanding poles.

Related: Everything You Need to Know to Start a Thriving Garden Today

They have a short growing season and are known for providing a bounty of beans. Not only can you enjoy these beans fresh, but they’re also great for freezing or canning so you can keep on having them after your growing season has ended.

Best varieties for dry areas:

2. Cowpeas

Cowpeas are a type of legume that include black-eyed peas and pink-eyed purple-hull peas. They’re hearty, rich in protein, and perfect for soups, salads, and sauces.

Studies have also shown that cowpeas may help fight high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, and inflammation. Not only are they good for you, but they’re also good for your garden.

Related: The Best Organic Fertilizers for a Healthy Garden and Safer Food

They help reduce erosion, increase your soil’s organic matter content by adding nitrogen, suppress weeds, and attract beneficial bacteria.

Best varieties for dry areas:

3. Peppers

Red and Yellow Blend Biquinho Chile Pepper Seeds

Peppers are an excellent choice for your drought-resistant garden because these plants love the sun and the heat — especially hot peppers. In fact, for most plants, the drier the conditions, the hotter the peppers will be.

While peppers can survive in dry conditions, it’s important to keep in mind that a consistent lack of moisture will result in a smaller yield. Therefore, using a watering method like drip irrigation can benefit these plants.

Best varieties for dry areas:

4. Swiss Chard

Five Color Silverbeet Swiss Chard Seeds

Swiss chard is an outstanding vegetable plant for summer gardens because it can really take the heat. This dark leafy green grows deep roots that help it reach water well below the surface.

The young, tender leaves are perfect for salads, while the mature, hearty leaves are excellent in a stir fry or sauteed with garlic for a side dish.

Swiss chard is also a nutritional powerhouse. The leaves are rich in iron, potassium, and vitamins C, K, and A. Additionally, the colorful stems are packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that can help fight cancer and lower blood pressure.

Best varieties for dry areas:

5. Arugula

Arugula/Rocket Seeds

Unlike most varieties of lettuce, which are shallow-rooted plants that require a good amount of water to grow properly, arugula is a drought-resistant vegetable that’s pretty easy to grow and can tolerate periods of dryness.

It’s also one of the fastest-growing vegetables, so if you’re looking for something that you can start harvesting just a few weeks after planting, this one is for you.

Related: Amazingly Versatile Vegetable Plants That Grow Great in Pots

It’s important to note that during extended periods of drought, arugula leaves will be smaller and develop an even more peppery taste.

Best varieties for dry areas:

6. Mustard Greens

Florida Broadleaf Mustard Seeds

While mustard greens prefer cool weather, they can handle extended periods with little rain. The key to growing drought-tolerant mustard greens is to avoid short but frequent waterings that make the roots become shallow.

Instead, give them less frequent but more thorough waterings. This way the roots will grow deeper and help the plant become more established and able to sustain dry periods.

If you decide to grow some mustard greens, remember that baby greens are less spicy than more mature greens. Therefore, if you prefer milder greens, be sure to harvest them when they’re younger.

Best varieties for dry areas:

7. Okra

Red Burgundy Okra Seeds

Okra is so drought tolerant it won’t even grow without a lot of heat! It thrives in warm, sunny weather and needs soil above 70˚F.

Not only does this make the plant ideal for a drought-prone region, but it’s also perfect for growing in the South and mid-Atlantic regions of the U.S.

Additionally, okra plants produce beautiful flowers that look lovely and that bees and other pollinators love.

While certain ways of cooking okra aren’t exactly healthy (we’re looking at you, fried okra) it’s still a hearty and vitamin-rich pod vegetable that’s packed with vitamins K and C. Okra also contains polyphenols, which is an antioxidant group that can improve memory, cognition, and protect your brain from symptoms of aging.

Best varieties for dry areas:

8. Zucchini

Costata Romanesco Summer Squash Seeds

Zucchini can handle dry periods because it has a deep, spreading root system that lets the plant search far and wide for water. Keep in mind that zucchinis require a lot of space to grow, so you’ll need to plan your garden layout accordingly.

While the Dark Star variety was specifically created in California for improved drought tolerance, other varieties can also handle times of water shortage.

Best varieties for dry areas:

9. Tomatoes

Black Krim Pole Tomato Seeds

Tomatoes are an outstanding plant for beginner gardeners because they can take some abuse and neglect and keep on growing. This also makes different varieties good for times when they’ll receive little water.

The key to growing tomato plants in dry regions is selecting types that can tolerate periods of drought.

Related: Easy-to-Grow Vegetable Plants That Are Perfect for a Children’s Garden

This typically means you need to stick with smaller fruited varieties. When water is scarce, tomato plant roots dig deep into the soil and the plant focuses more of its energy on producing fruit. While this means the fruits are smaller, it also means they’re more flavorful.

If you’d rather have larger varieties of tomatoes, options like Cherokee Purple and Beefsteak are drought-tolerant and only require about an inch of water per week.

Best varieties for dry areas:

10. Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes freshly dug up from ground

Sweet potatoes are a nutrient-dense superfood that you can cook in a variety of different ways. They can withstand dry soil and some drought.

When conditions get dry, their leaves might shrivel and become brown. However, they typically bounce back when they receive some water.

Plus, you can easily grow more sweet potatoes from your harvest by simply saving a few to make sweet potato slips.

For best results, look for varieties that have been bred specifically for the sub-Saharan climate of Africa.

11. Edible Amaranth

Burgundy Amaranth Seeds

Amaranth is a plant that a lot of people don’t think about when they’re planning their garden. However, it’s an ancient grain that humans have been consuming for around 8,000 years. It’s also one way we can feed the world when climate change threatens so many other crops.

In addition to harvesting the seeds for a hearty and delicious grain, you can also use the young leaves in salads and stir-fry.

The leaves are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer and support your immune system. The grains are packed with magnesium, phosphorus, and more than your daily need of manganese.

Best varieties for dry areas:

12. Jerusalem Artichokes

Just like globe artichokes, Jerusalem artichokes are easy to grow and need very little maintenance. However, don’t be fooled by the name. Jerusalem artichokes, also known as sunchokes, look and taste more like potatoes than artichokes.

They’re a member of the sunflower family and produce lovely, tall yellow flowers. Yet like potatoes, the part we want to eat grows beneath the soil.

The potato-like tubers taste mildly sweet and nutty. They’re great roasted, pureed for a soup, or tossed in a salad.

Plus, unlike potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes have a low glycemic index, which makes them ideal for people with diabetes.

13. New Zealand Spinach

New Zealand Spinach Seeds

Spinach prefers growing in cooler temperatures, so it’s not something you would typically expect to see on a list of the best drought-tolerant vegetables. However, New Zealand spinach can handle the heat because it’s not a true spinach.

It got its name because this leafy green has similar-shaped leaves and a spinach flavor. It’s also known as perpetual spinach because it’s a perennial in warmer regions and produces abundantly throughout the year.

Want even more reasons why you should be growing New Zealand spinach? In addition to being drought tolerant once established, pretty much no insects will bother it, including snails and slugs! It’s also noted for its high vitamin content — especially vitamin C.

I’ve had great success growing New Zealand spinach in my Florida garden. It has been able to withstand our warm, dry weather, and I love harvesting fresh leaves for our salads throughout the year.

14. Many Fruit Trees and Bushes

Although this is a list of drought-tolerant vegetables, we have to include fruit trees and bushes because once established, they can typically handle drought conditions. Mature fruit trees and bushes have deep root systems and are rarely affected by a lack of water.

Fruit trees will often provide an abundant harvest that you can eat fresh or preserve. You can check out this list for some of the easiest fruit trees to grow in your yard.

Do you think you can’t go grow fruit trees because you have a small yard? Don’t despair! Instead, take a look at this list of the best dwarf fruit trees for a variety of excellent options that do very well in tiny spaces.

Don’t forget, you can also grow a variety of fruit trees inside, so you don’t have to worry about dry conditions outside!

Related: The Best Vegetable Plants to Grow Indoors

Best varieties for dry areas:

15. Most Herbs

True Greek Oregano Seeds

Once established, there are a variety of herbs that require little maintenance and can survive dry conditions. Not only can most herbs tolerate some drought, but they’re also very easy to grow.

Best of all, many herbs taste great and have medicinal properties. This means they can season your meals AND help out with certain pains and illnesses.

Plus, like fruit trees, there are a variety of herbs you can grow indoors to avoid drought complications.

Best varieties for dry areas:

How to Grow Vegetables During a Drought

Picture of person using small tiller to dig around lettuce in the garden

Now that you know more about some of the drought-tolerant plants you should choose, here are a few tips on growing vegetables in a drought that will help those plants produce when there’s little rainfall.

Spread Mulch

Spreading a 3-4 inch layer of mulch around your plants can cut the need for watering in half. There are a variety of organic materials you can use for mulch, including compost, dried leaves, straw, pine needles, or shredded bark.

Not only does mulch keep the soil cooler and reduce water evaporation, but as it breaks down it also helps improve the soil structure.

Consider Companion Planting

Companion planting is a method of grouping crops together so they can help each other. One popular companion planting method is known as the “Three Sisters.”

This Native American method groups corn, beans, and squash together. The corn gives the beans something to climb, the beans pull nitrogen that the plants need to grow into the soil, and the large leaves of the squash plants provide enough shade to keep the soil cool.

Related: Make Your Lettuce Taste Better With These Amazing Companion Plants

You can also consider planting low-growing sweet alyssum around your drought-tolerant crops. This fragrant flowering plant reduces water loss from the soil and helps to attract important pollinators and other beneficial insects to your garden.

Use a Drip Irrigation System

Watering your plants overhead from a hose simply isn’t efficient. A lot of the water just evaporates off of the leaves before it ever reaches the plant’s roots.

You need to use the water that you have efficiently. A soaker hose or a drip system will let water slowly seep onto the ground and directly to the plant’s roots. These types of systems are very efficient and use less of your water resources.

It’s also very important to have some type of rainwater collection system in place, such as a rain barrel, that you can use if there are water restrictions in place.

When you’re watering by hand, try to water directly at the base of the plant and give each one a good soak.

Additionally, when you water is just as important as how you water during a drought. If you water during the heat of the day, much of the water will again be lost through evaporation.

The best time to water your vegetable patch is first thing in the morning before the sun reaches your plants. If you can’t water first thing in the morning, the next best time is in the evening as the sun is starting to set.

Use a Shade Cloth

Once the intense summer heat hits my Florida garden, I always have to put up a shade cloth to protect my plants. This is also a useful tool for growing drought-tolerant vegetable varieties.

Using a shade cloth to give your plants some shade can reduce the amount of water lost and, therefore, cut down on the amount of water they need.

Growing Drought-Tolerant Vegetables in Your Garden

Creating a garden filled with drought-tolerant vegetables not only ensures a sustainable and resilient approach to gardening but also allows us to conserve precious water resources in times of increasing drought.

By choosing the right plant varieties and implementing efficient water conservation techniques, you can create a thriving garden that withstands dry spells without sacrificing the quality or quantity of your harvests.

Whether you live in a region prone to droughts, or you simply wish to adopt a more sustainable gardening approach, these resilient drought-tolerant vegetables are sure to help feed you and your family even in the driest of times.

More Helpful Gardening Tips

Did you enjoy learning more about the best drought-tolerant vegetables? Interested in helping your garden thrive with even more useful tips? Then please be sure to take a look at some of our other popular posts:

Get updates on the latest posts and more from Earth Friendly Tips straight to your inbox.

* indicates required

Please select all the ways you would like to hear from Earth Friendly Tips:

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit our website.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Learn more about Mailchimp’s privacy practices here.</a>

Picture of woman kneeling in garden with basket of fresh vegetables with text overlay 15 Best Drought-Tolerant Vegetables You Must Have in Your Garden

Picture collage of different garden vegetables with text overlay The Best Drought-Tolerant Vegetables You Should Grow in Your Garden Feed Your Family No Matter How Dry it Gets

Picture of garden cultivator digging soil around lettuce plant with text overlay Worried About a Drought? 15 Vegetables That Can Still Grow Even When Conditions Are Dry