12 Best Drought Tolerant Vines (Top Species)

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Climbing plant around tree
There are many vines that can be surprisingly competitive in dry environments and can therefore be planted in areas of the garden that tend to fully dry out. Old Photo Profile / CC BY 2.0

If you reside in a region that experiences seasonal droughts, it would be wise to cultivate plants with a tolerance for porous substrates, irregular moisture conditions, and a general preference for soil dryness. Unless you are an experienced horticulturist or have access to a greenhouse, growing tropical or water-loving species in arid or temperate locations may render your efforts fruitless.

Droughts are some of the trickiest natural events to deal with as they can cause many plants to die back completely. Even well-established natural screens or hedges may lose their leaves and become parched if their roots are unable to access moisture for more than a few days to weeks. Fortunately, there are a handful of perennials that are known for being able to survive through dry spells.

Many trailing plants, which tend to produce specialized roots along their shoots, are surprisingly competitive in dry environments. These vines can be relied upon to give your fence, wall, trellis, or arbor the coverage it needs through summer. You may situate them in parts of the garden that tend to dry out completely in between rain showers and scheduled watering sessions. Nonetheless, keep in mind that they will undoubtedly be more productive when given supplementary moisture.

1) Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea spp.)

Bougainvillea plant on wall
Bougainvillea thrives in areas that are hot and moisture-poor, such as the coastal slopes of the Mediterranean. Axel Cotón Gutiérrez, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to South America

Bougainvillea vines are grown in many tropical to subtropical zones around the world for their ease of care and their eye-catching features. These plants are well-adapted to hot and moisture-poor climates, such as those found in the coastal slopes of the Mediterranean and the popular tourist hotspots of Miami and San Diego. Hardy to USDA zones 10 – 11, they thrive in the warm temperatures of lengthy summers.

Set apart by the vivid hues of their modified leaves, bougainvillea vines can look completely different during their bloom period. Their clusters of tiny blooms are surrounded by up to six deep-pink, peach, red, white, purple, yellow, or orange bracts. These papery bracts draw pollinators to their otherwise inconspicuous flowers. When they are present in the hundreds or thousands, they may completely mask the evergreen leaves.

Excellent for landscapes experiencing seasonal droughts, bougainvillea produces scrambling stems that boast lengths of up to 12 meters (39 feet). These stems wind around supporting structures and the shoots of other plants. Covered in sharp thorns, they are great for creating natural, grazer-proof fences. As they are usually more productive in dry soils, they may respond poorly to an abundance of moisture.

2) Climbing snapdragon (Maurandya antirrhiniflora)

Climbing snapdragon in bloom
Climbing snapdragon’s blooming period can last from February to December if the temperatures are warm enough! En el nido (Nest), CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to Mexico, California, and Texas

In the wild, the climbing snapdragon produces stems that trail over shrubs, rocky bluffs, and calcareous substrates. It naturally favors dry conditions, particularly those found in dunes, sloping woodlands, and limestone-rich hillsides. As a vine, it is relatively diminutive. Its stems grow to a maximum length of about 10 feet (3 meters) in optimal environments. Despite their limited spread, they can effectively be grown as textural ground cover in small gardens.

Also known as “roving sailor”, the climbing snapdragon produces triangle-shaped leaves. These are distinctly veined and have smooth margins, much like those of the more popular ivy vines. During its bloom period, which may last from February to December in warm areas, it produces red, pink, blue, or violet tube-shaped flowers. On mature plants, these may be abundant enough to attract many native moths and butterflies. They may also draw desert tortoises to your garden.

3) Mexican flamevine (Pseudogynoxys chenopodioides)

Mexican flamevine flowers
Mexican flamevine produces bright orange to red, unique-looking flowers from spring to fall. Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0 US, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to Central America and the West Indies

The perfect accent vine for trellises in semi-arid to arid gardens, the Mexican flamevine can make an unforgettable statement with its fiery blooms. This fast-growing, evergreen vine produces smooth stems that measure up to 16 feet (5 meters) long. These can effortlessly scramble over vertical structures, completely veiling them in fleshy, arrow-shaped leaves. From spring to fall, the deep green foliage is contrasted by clusters of orange to bright red flowers.

In mild or warm climates, this species (synonymous with Senecio confusus) may have more than one bloom period in a single year. It attracts bees and monarch butterflies, which pollinate the blooms and trigger the development of seed puffs. When these are transported into disturbed or dry areas, they may germinate and quickly develop into self-seeding clusters.

Pest-resistant, the Mexican flamevine is an ideal, drought-tolerant vine for inexperienced gardeners that require a fuss-free perennial. In cooler areas, it can be cultivated as an annual plant.

4) Arizona grape ivy (Cissus trifoliata)

Arizona grape ivy
If grown in areas with partial shade and in well-draining substrate, the Arizona grape ivy can tolerate brief periods of drought. Dinesh Valke from Thane, India, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to the southern US, Central America, Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador

Grown as a garden vine in tropical to temperate locations, the Arizona grape ivy has a wealth of ornamental features. Its climbing stems, which can twine around vertical structures, grow up to 30 feet (9 meters) long in optimal conditions. They bear deep-green, palmate-shaped leaves with distinct venation, a semi-succulent appearance, and ridged margins. From June to July, mature stems produce clusters of tiny, greenish blooms. Once these are pollinated, they develop into inedible, deep-purple berries.

Hardy to USDA zones 6 – 10, the Arizona grape ivy favors a wide range of habitats. It can easily become well-established in canyons, dry outcrops, woodlands, river banks, and disturbed environments. Provided with light shade and well-draining substrates, this ivy’s tough, pungent, and tuberous roots can tolerate brief droughts. The leafy stems can create ample coverage over a mesh fence, trellis, pergola, arbor, or wall. Note that they can be quite difficult to remove.

5) Japanese wisteria (Wisteria floribunda)

Japanese wisteria flowers
Japanese wisteria’s drooping inflorescences make this plant look great hanging from the upper section of a fence, wall, or trellis. TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋) / CC BY 2.0

Native to Japan

A member of the Fabaceae or pea family, the Japanese wisteria is undoubtedly one of the finest choices for a fairytale garden. This stunning climber is a deciduous species with durable, increasingly woody stems. An absolute show-stopper in late spring to early summer, it produces masses of drooping inflorescences that look best from the upper levels of a fence, trellis, or wall. These racemes have clusters of fragrant, pea-like flowers. Under full sun, they boast lavender to blue-violet hues.

Drought-tolerant in fertile soils, Japanese wisteria can grow quickly and compete with plants outside of its native range. Invasive in some parts of the US due to its tendency to smother host trees and shrubs, it must be cultivated with caution. Regular pruning is required to keep its spread in check. This should also promote flowering rates and aid in maintaining the overall health of the stems.

6) Silver lace vine (Fallopia aubertii)

Silver lace vine flowers
Silver lace vine produces charming white blooms that attract butterflies, birds, and beetles. hedera.baltica / CC BY-SA 2.0

Native to Tibet and China

The silver lace vine can prove to be quite vigorous in xeriscapes. This liana is also known as the Chinese fleecevine and silvervine fleeceflower. It may be referred to as the “mile-a-minute” vine due to its tendency to grow exceedingly fast. Able to spread via networks of drought-tolerant rhizomes, its stems can quickly twine over and climb chain-link fences, trellises, trees, and other forms of vertical support. Severe pruning can be done without irreversible consequences at pretty much any time of year.

When left to spread freely, the silver lace vine may develop a weed-like appearance. It can quickly colonize bare surfaces in developed areas – where pollutants may be rampant – or in coastal gardens. It will not require fertilization to produce profusions of its showy, white inflorescences. These look especially charming above a trellis, where they are most likely to attract birds, butterflies, and beetles.

7) Yellow orchid vine (Callaeum macropterum)

Yellow orchid vine in bloom
The yellow orchid vine is relatively low-maintenance once established, but more work is needed when dealing with new plants or seeds as they need time to germinate and develop a hardy root system. Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to Central and South America

Once the yellow orchid vine is well-established, it can persist through brief periods of dryness. This hardy vine can actually grow aggressively in well-draining and rapidly drying substrates. Its shoots can survive under-watering regimes that provide generous moisture just once or twice a month. Its new plants or seeds are more difficult to work with as they take time to germinate or develop hardy root systems. With ample care, the young stems should begin twining over all sorts of structures.

As this accent vine is heat-tolerant as well, it can be used to cover sun-exposed walls. Though its evergreen leaves may look delicate, they are borne on tough stems with adaptations for desert-like conditions. Cool temperatures and frost can damage them, but you can count on a quick recovery in spring. Lemon-yellow flowers contrast their smooth green leaves in summer.

8) Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans)

Trumpet vine flowers
Trumpet vine’s attractive flowers are a magnet for hummingbirds and other insects, such as bees, moths, and ants! Paucabot, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to eastern North America

This notably tough member of the Bignoniaceae family is popular as a flowering vine. A deciduous species, it looks particularly attractive during the warmest months of the year. Moderately high temperatures and full sun exposure trigger the development of its trumpet-shaped, red-orange flowers. These arise in vibrant groups of 6 – 12, dramatically contrasting their backdrop of compound, toothed leaves.

Cultivating the trumpet vine is a wise means of naturally attracting hummingbirds to the garden. Birds, moths, flies, bees, and ants are also drawn to the blooms and the highly-textural foliage. Able to attach itself to trees, walls, trellises, and fences, this liana can grow aggressively by sending out aerial rootlets. These latch onto accessible structures and eventually develop into woody stems. Even tough telephone poles and trees may eventually be overcome by their sheer rate of growth. Thus, regularly pruning this vine is a must.

9) Common grape vine (Vitis vinifera)

Common grape vine fruits
A number of common grape vine cultivars are drought-tolerant, especially the ones that are classified as French hybrids. H. Zell, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to the Mediterranean and western Asia

Now available in countless varieties due to their commercial significance for fruit and wine production, the common grape vine is one of the most well-known creeping plants. This tough perennial has a farming history that dates back thousands of years. Its appearance in the “Epic of Gilgamesh”, an ancient text, highlights its cultural importance. Fortunately for us, it comes in many low-maintenance, domesticated forms that can thrive in our very own gardens.

Many V. vinifera cultivars, particularly those which are classified as French hybrids, are drought-tolerant. Generally able to spread quickly and grow to lengths of over 12 meters (39 feet), the common grape vine is set apart by its palmate, alternately arranged leaves. Each having around 3 – 5 lobes, these have distinctly toothed margins. In April to May, mature vines tend to produce clusters of small and spritely, greenish-white flowers. Of course, once these are pollinated, they develop into juicy grapes.

10) Yuca vine (Distimake aureus)

Yuca vine in bloom
Yuca vine can usually be found in dry shrublands and deserts out in the wild, where their leaf coverage is rather sparse during the warmest times of the year. Thelmadatter, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to Baja, California

Grown as an ornamental plant in warm and sunny locations, the yuca vine is distinguished by its showy, short-lived blooms. Bright yellow, these last for but a single day. Fortunately, in the right conditions, the flowers can sprout all throughout the year. They open in the morning and await potential pollinators. Regardless of whether or not they are successfully visited by flies, beetles, or bees, they close at night. Those with fertilized ovaries develop into rounded fruit capsules.

Though the yuca vine’s roots and shoots are able to tolerate dry substrates, intensely hot conditions can cause the leaves to drop. In the wild, this species is typically found in dry shrublands and deserts, where it is likely to have sparse leaf coverage through the warmest parts of the year. Respite from the heat, however, can quickly trigger the production of new leaves and blooms.

11) Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

Virginia creeper leaves
The Virginia creeper is a drought-tolerant vine that can bring interest to your garden all year round. Sam Fraser-Smith from Brisbane, Australia, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to central and eastern North America

The Virginia creeper takes the cake for being one of the most prolific, drought-tolerant vines. Its roots and stems can aggressively grow on just about any type of stable surface, including drains and cracks in a home’s foundations. Its productive stems will continue to elongate until they find access to light and moisture, so it may require careful attention, timely pruning, and physical restrictions. With climbing stems boasting lengths of up to 100 feet (30 meters), it can even overburden trees.

When cultivated responsibly or in its native range, however, the Virginia creeper can be quite rewarding. Its woody shoots provide year-round interest and can transform bare surfaces into luxuriously lush vertical gardens. Its compound, palmate leaves boast vivid shades of crimson and burgundy in fall, which is also when its clusters of bluish-black berries may be present. After a cool winter, the new leaves emerge in striking shades of bronze and purple. Come summer, they become deep green and may be large enough to hide the inconspicuous inflorescences.

12) Common jasmine (Jasminum officinale)

Common jasmine flowers
Common jasmine’s essential oil, which is concentrated in its flowers, is highly valuable in the perfume industry! C T Johansson, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to the Caucasus, Himalayas, Pakistan, India, and western China

A stellar addition to wildlife gardens, common jasmine is a culturally important and pharmacologically valuable vine. This flowering plant bears a wealth of phytochemicals in its essential oil, which is known for having an intense fragrance. Concentrated in its summer blooms, the oil is highly valued in the perfume industry. This vine’s sweet scent is most noticeable at dusk, when its white, star-shaped flowers release their oils.

Though common jasmine prefers to be situated in sheltered parts of the garden, its roots are able to persist in well-draining and occasionally dry soils. Its woody shoots are able to grow at a rapid pace in USDA hardiness zones 7b – 10b. Note that, while this species is drought-tolerant, it grows most vigorously when it is regularly provided with moisture and soil enrichment.

Angeline L
About the author

Angeline L

I'm a passionate researcher and scuba diver with a keen interest in garden plants, marine life, and freshwater ecology. I think there’s nothing better than a day spent writing in nature. I have an academic and professional background in sustainable aquaculture, so I advocate for the responsible production of commercial fish, macroinvertebrates, and aquatic plants.

Read more about Pond Informer.

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