“Where drinking water is scarce, it doesn’t make sense to use so much of it on our lawns and flowers,” says landscape designer Nicole Lopez, who works in drought-prone Santa Monica. “You need to match plants to the climate that you live in. It just doesn’t work the other way around.”
The annuals in this gallery are excellent choices for low-water gardening. Plant information is provided for each, including climate zone information, which links to our Hardiness Zone Map.
Dusty Miller (Centaurea cineraria)
Woolly, silvery-grey, filigreed foliage; grows 8 to 24 inches tall; prefers rich, well-drained soil, full sun; hardy to 0 degrees F; USDA Hardiness Zones 8 to 10.
Common Zinnia (Zinnia elegans)
Festive hot-colored flowers as well as whites, pale pink, cream, and green; grows 6 to 48 inches tall; prefers full sun; prefers well-drained soil; hardy to -30 degrees F; USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 10.
Marigold (Tagetes spp.)
Orange, yellow, white, mahogany, maroon, or creamy yellow flowers; grows 6 to 36 inches high; prefers full sun or afternoon shade in hot areas and well-drained soil; hardy to +10 degrees F; USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 10.
Cosmos (Cosmos spp.)
Pink, maroon, white, and sometimes yellow daisylike flowers with yellow or red-brown centers and feathery leaves; grow 1 to 6 feet high; prefers full sun, well-draining to dry soil; hardy to 0 degrees F; USDA Hardiness Zones 8 to 10.
Moss Rose (Portulaca grandiflora)
Bright-colored rose-like flowers and short, flat, soft “needlelike” leaves; grows 4 to 8 inches; prefers full sun and dry, sandy soil; hardy to -10 degrees F; USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 8.
Common Geranium (Pelargonium x hortorum)
Succulent-stemmed plants with fuzzy, rounded leaves and large, round flower clusters; grows to 3 feet high; prefers full sun or light shade and neutral or slightly alkaline soil; hardy to +30 degrees F; USDA Hardiness Zones 9 to 10.
Looking for more in gardening? Check out our in-depth guides on trees: