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10 Drought Tolerant Plants That Grow Well In The Heat of Sacramento (Zone 9)

drought tolerant plants zone 9
The ivy-covered, palm tree adorned Montano center in El Dorado Hills

If you've bought a home in the beautiful Sacramento area, or maybe in a suburb like El Dorado Hills or Loomis, you may have started to look around and wonder why the landscaping looks different - especially if you're used to rolling green grasses and tons of flowers.

Well, even though Sacramento enjoys 300 sunny days a year (on average), some of those days are really, really hot and dry.

So, many of the beautiful flowering shrubs and bushes you'll see in cooler climates simply won't last a whole summer in this area.

That can make updating your landscaping, such as your front yard or back yard, difficult in this area, especially if you would like to have a lush, secret garden escape. But, it's not impossible, either. There are many beautiful landscape choices that you can plant here that will grow really well.

Let's take a look at some of your options for plants, trees and shrubs that love to grow in the Sacramento heat.

Sacramento Hardiness Zone:

If you're shopping for landscape online or even in-person, make sure you know that Sacramento and the surrounding areas are considered a zone 9, which means long, hot summers, less rain and lots of growing time.

We have ignored the hardiness zone recommendations when planting and those were the plants that didn't survive, so now we pay close attention to the recommendations for zone 9.

Non-Flowering Shrubs & Trees:

Looking for something green, without the hassle of flowers, to liven up your space? Consider these options, which are perfect for the climate in the Sacramento area.

1. Majesty Palms:

drought tolerant plants zone 9
Baby Majesty Palms ready to grow!

These majesty palms are adorable when planted and grow to a width of 4-18 feet. They thrive in tropical and subtropical areas, such as zones 9 to 11.

Ideally, they are planted in moist soil and have some shade in the afternoon, but they do well in the Sacramento climate. They can handle cold tolerance down to 40 degrees, which is great in California, where most places don't dip any lower than that in the winter.

2. English Boxwoods:

drought tolerant plants zone 9
The soft, petal-like leaf shapes make the English Boxwood a great choice.

If you love the look of an English garden, this one is for you! English Boxwoods can thrive in zone 9 and create a lovely green hedge or can be shaped into round bushes. They add a ton of charm to a space, with plenty of greenery, without any falling leaves or flower petals to clean up.

The leaf shape also has a soft, petal-like design, which makes them attractive close up, too, in contrast to some hedges that have more brittle, needle style leaves.

3. Photinias:

drought tolerant plants zone 9
Grow Photinias side-by-side for a red hedge.

You'll see these beautiful evergreen shrubs all over the area, because of their ability to grow quickly, even with little water and full sun. You can place them close to each other to create a large hedge or individually to add some color in between trees.

When healthy, they can grow to 10-15 feet tall at a clip of 1-3 feet of growth per year. Caring for the is easy and low maintenance, too, which is perfect for the busy family.

Something you'll love about Photinias is the seasonal change in colors. The bright red blooms add so much color and life to a landscape.

4. Italian Cypress:

drought tolerant plants zone 9
Baby Italian Cypress ready to be planted.

No doubt about it, houses are built closer together in California than other places in the country. While older neighborhoods may still have generously sized yards, you'll definitely see a lot of newer neighborhoods that are very close together. So, how exactly do you create some privacy in your backyard?

Italian Cypress to the rescue! These fast growing privacy trees will quickly help you create a private enclave in your backyard. Plant them 3 feet deep and give them 5 times the width of the plant at planting and then stand back and watch as your privacy hedge grows before your eyes at a rate of 3 feet per year and up to 60 feet. Plant a row of them along a fence to block out a neighbor's house or create a ton of shade.

5. Thuja Green Giant:

drought tolerant plants zone 9
Thuja Green Giants have a rounder, softer appearance.

Another fast growing privacy tree is the Thuja Green Giant, which has a similar profile to the Italian Cypress, but grows a bit slower and has a thicker, fluffier appearance. They look great when planted in groups of threes or in a row to create a distinct line.

While it says online that the Thuja is one of the fastest growing trees with over 5 feet of growth a year, we have seen them grow a bit slower in our area. This could be that we have less water or rainfall in the winter, but regardless, the Thuja is a drought tolerant, sun tolerant, fast growing, evergreen tree that will add so much beauty to your landscape.

Flowering Plants:

You don't have to give up your dreams of blooming flowers everywhere when you move here, you just have to pick the flowers that will be hardy enough to survive the summer. These are just a few of the flowering plants and shrubs that will add so much color and beauty to your space, while still able to handle the heat.

1. The Chinese Peony:

drought tolerant plants zone 9
Chinese Peonies are beautiful and can handle the heat.

It's no secret that some peony bushes would wither underneath the blast of the Sacramento sun, but that doesn't mean your dreams of beautiful peonies are gone for good. The Chinese Peony is a particular type of peony, with a slightly different look, but that does very well in this climate.

In fact, we've planted some of these in our own yard and not only did they bloom almost immediately - and were so beautiful - but they've grown consistently through the seasons.

2. Hydrangeas:

drought tolerant plants zone 9
Hydrangeas take awhile to grow, but are worth the effort.

While some Hydrangeas do best with more water and less sun than we have here, there are varieties of hydrangeas, such as the Oakleaf Hydrangea, that are more drought tolerant and thrive in this heat. Your local Green Acres store should be able to guide you to the right varieties for this area and they will do very well.

While Hydrangeas start out small and adorable, be sure to plant them with plenty of space, because they can grow to 6 feet wide and 6 feet tall! It can take them 2-4 years to reach full size, so enjoy watching them grow up to 25 inches or more per year.

3. The Tea Rose:

drought tolerant plants zone 9
Climbing tea roses are grown all over the Sacramento area.

Many rose bushes and climbing roses do very well in this zone, but you'll see a lot of tea roses in the area and in people's yards. The delicate blooms are beautiful and make for great and easy floral arrangements at home. Some of the buildings in El Dorado Hills have climbing tea roses crawling up the walls and entwining pillars for a showstopping look.

While roses are going to attract more bees than a non-flowering shrub, it's well worth the extra effort to prune them. Plant them in the spring, so the roots have plenty of time to get established before going dormant through the heat of the summer. When thriving they'll give you plenty of flowers to admire.

4. Rugosa Rose Bush:

drought tolerant plants zone 9
The Rugosa Rose Bush is a showstopper that is easy to care for.

Another rose variety you'll see around town is the Rugosa Rose bush. This compact rose bush gives you the best of both worlds with the compact, evergreen shrub and the fragrant rose blooms.

They can be planted fairly close together to create a border as well and they can grow up to 4-6 feet wide. In our area, they tend to stay smaller, around 3 feet wide. You can find them in several pretty colors and they'll produce flowers for quite a few months of the year, even when in full sun and high heat.

5. Lavender:

drought tolerant plants zone 9
Lavender looks and smells amazing.

If you're not afraid of bees, lavender is a great shrub to plant that gets 1-3 feet wide very quickly. Unlike many other plants, lavender loves full sun and will show off with its long, purple blooms.

Just know that lavender really attracts bees, especially in Sacramento, so you may want to plant them away from where children play or you'll be putting outdoor furniture for relaxing.


We hope this list gives you a lot of ideas for how to bring your landscape to life, even in the hot, dry Sacramento area.

For many of our clients who are relocating to the area, they can be surprised by the drought tolerant landscapes used in many front yards and the challenge of finding landscape that will survive in the full heat of summer.

But, you don't have to give up your dreams of a welcoming and lush backyard, especially if you know exactly what will thrive in zone 9.

If you're interested in selling, buying, or investing in real estate in the Sacramento area, give us a call at 916.524.9733.

Russell Enyart and the Enyart Real Estate Group are top real estate agents serving serving West Sacramento, Folsom, El Dorado Hills, Granite Bay, Loomis, Rocklin, Roseville, and Sacramento County, Placer County, and El Dorado County.


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