Sure, Chicago summers can get hot with average temperatures between 78 degrees and 92 degrees Fahrenheit, heat radiating off of concrete surfaces, air conditioning blasting, sweat dripping off your brow the moment you walk outside. You get the picture.

But fearing dry, hot weather is no reason to let your commercial landscape become bland and unattractive. You can still have a nice array of summer colors and textures to dress up your property despite the heat – and not only near entryways or high-visibility areas, but also near parking lots and in your toughest, high-traffic areas.

Since a commercial facility is a busy, hectic place, your plants have to maintain the pace at these sites. Whether you manage an office park, a retail center, an industrial property, an educational facility or a hospital, you still want your landscape to look good no matter how hot and dry the summer can get.

This is why landscape design for hot weather matters on Chicago commercial sites.

Let’s look at some drought-tolerant trees and drought-tolerant shrubs that you can rely on for a professional and polished look all summer long.

10 Best Drought-Tolerant Landscape Plants For Commercial Landscapes in Chicago

When it comes to landscape design for hot weather, plant selection is crucial to ensure success. Otherwise, your property can start to look pretty dry, wilted, and rundown.

When choosing plants, remember to consider site location, sun exposure, soil condition, irrigation availability, and traffic. Plant sun-loving plants in areas that receive 6-plus hours of sun and shade-loving plants in those that receive less than 4 hours of direct sunlight. There are similar rules for each plant on soil moisture and type.

The following varieties are great for Chicago commercial facilities and make great additions when landscaping for drought.

1. Hackberry, Celtis occidentalis

The hackberry tree can reach 40- to 70-feet tall. Its adaptability to various soil types and environmental conditions, coupled with its resistance to pollution and disease, makes it a reliable and low-maintenance, drought-tolerant tree for Chicago commercial landscapes.

One of the standout features of the hackberry tree is its distinctive bark, which is marked by corky ridges, giving it a unique and rugged appearance. Hackberry flowers are typically greenish in color and appear in clusters.

Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) CC

The tree’s leaves are simple and serrated, providing a lush, green canopy in the spring and summer before turning yellow in the fall. The hackberry also produces small, dark purple fruits that are great for birds.

The hackberry’s root system also helps prevent soil erosion, making it an environmentally beneficial addition to any commercial landscape.

2. Purple Beautyberry, Callicarpa dichotoma

The Purple Beautyberry is a drought-tolerant shrub with eye-catching berries that add pops of color to a commercial landscape.

This shrub grows about 3 to 4 feet high, making it great for borders or standing with other plants in an entryway bed.

Callicarpa americana (american beautyberry) CC

In the spring and summer, the Purple Beautyberry has small, delicate pink or lavender flowers that attract butterflies. Then, in the fall, the leaves begin to turn yellow and drop, and clusters of vivid, metallic-purple berries emerge. These berries persist into winter, providing visual interest.

3. Red Twig Dogwood, Cornus sericea

This versatile deciduous, drought-tolerant shrub brings year-round beauty to Chicago commercial landscapes. Best known for its striking red twigs in winter, this hardy, low-maintenance shrub thrives in many conditions, making it adaptable to most locations on your property.

red twig dogwood (CC)

The red twig dogwood can grow 7 to 9 feet tall and wide, forming a dense, multi-stemmed shrub that offers structure.

In the spring and summer, the Red Twig Dogwood showcases lush green foliage and clusters of small white flowers, which give way to white or blue-tinged berries that attract birds. Come autumn, the leaves transition to a warm, reddish-purple hue before falling, revealing the shrub’s signature bright red stems.

4. Big Bluestem, Andropogon gerardi

This native grass can fit well in drought-tolerant landscapes with its tall, slender stems of bluish-green foliage and turns a rich, reddish-bronze in the fall.

Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) CC

Its distinctive seed heads resemble turkey feet, which add a unique ornamental feature. Plant this hardy, perennial grass in full sun and well-drained soil for a low-maintenance grass that can reach up to 4 to 6 feet tall.

5. Side-oats Grama, Bouteloua curtipendula

Landscaping for drought can be elevated with this hardy, native perennial grass.

This plant gets its name from its oat-like seed spikes that hang on one side of its slender stems. This grass can grow 2 to 2.5 feet in height with blue-green foliage that turns a striking reddish-brown in fall.

Side-Oats Grama (Bouteloua curtipendula) CC

The extensive root system of this grass can also help stabilize soil to help with erosion control.

6. Rock Cotoneaster, Cotoneaster horizontalis

This versatile, attractive, drought-tolerant landscape addition is adorned with small, glossy leaves that turn vibrant shades of red and orange in fall.

In spring, Rock cotoneaster produces tiny, pinkish-white flowers that give way to bright, red berries in fall that persist into winter, adding some color during those dreary months.

Cotoneaster horizontalis CC

Requiring minimal pruning and care, this plant is often used as a groundcover.

7. Yarrow

Yarrow is known for its feathery, fern-like leaves and clusters of tiny flowers that bloom in whites, yellows, pinks, and reds. You’ll see the blooms in late spring to early fall.

Yarrow - Achillea millefolium CC

As a great part of a drought-tolerant landscape, yarrow is a perennial that grows 1 to 2 feet in height and thrives in full sun and well-drained soil.

8. Blue False Indigo, Baptisia australis

Landscape designs for hot weather can also include this native perennial. 

Blue False Indigo is valued for its showy, pea-like flowers that appear in late spring to early summer. The blooms are rich, deep blue, but you can also find them in violet and indigo shades.

Blue False Indigo (Baptisia australis) CC

Reaching 3- to 4-feet tall, this plant's blue-green foliage and attractive, black seed pods add interest to any commercial landscape.

9. Purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea

Color is an important part of drought-tolerant landscapes, and purple coneflower delivers with daisy-like flowers that have purple-pink petals surrounding spiky, orange-brown centers..

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) CC

Blooming from early summer to fall, purple coneflower is resilient, growing to 2 to 4 feet in height. It’s a favorite of birds as well. Once established, this perennial can withstand heat and humidity.

10. Bundleflower, Desmanthus illinoensis

This drought-tolerant landscape perennial has unique flower clusters that look like whitish pink fuzzy balls that bloom in early to mid summer.

Bundleflower (Desmanthus illinoensis) CC

The flowers are followed by distinctive seed pods that resemble beads on a string. Plant this in full sun or partial shade, and it’ll handle most soil types. It’s also a favorite of birds and wildlife.

Landscaping for Drought Can Make Your Commercial Property Shine in Summer

These best plants for drought-tolerant landscapes can be both beautiful and resistant to summer weather conditions.

Choosing the right drought-tolerant trees and drought-tolerant shrubs can be challenging. If you pick the wrong plant, you could waste time dealing with poor aesthetics and even replacing it later.

We get it. KD Landscape can help. We know what plants work best in Greater Chicago. Let us help you get your property looking its best in summer.

Want to learn more about how to choose the best drought-tolerant plants for your Greater Chicago commercial property? Get started today with an on-site consultation. We’ll review your options together, so you can make a great choice.

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Image Sources | Hackberry, Beautyberry, Red Twig Dogwood, Big Bluestem, Side-Oats Grama, Cotoneaster, Yarrow, Baptisia, Coneflower, Bundleflower