Plants That Need Little or No Water

Updated February 21, 2017

Water is essential to all life, and some people think that most plants need a great deal of water to survive. However, nature adapts to many different kinds of environmental conditions, even in areas that see little natural moisture, such as in the desert regions of the American Southwest. Several different varieties of plants thrive in deserts, where there is little water or no water available to them, or in areas that have long dry seasons.


As you would expect, cactus are high on the list of plants that survive well when there is little water available. Not all cacti require the same amount of water, but they generally have low or very low water needs.

The saguaro, Carnegiea gigantean, grows to 20 feet high and produces showy, white flowers in late spring, yet it needs very little water for survival. It has a columnar shape with branchings of smaller arms and bears long spines. Another type, the golden barrel cactus, or Echinocactus grusonii, is globe-shaped with long spines. It turns golden-yellow in the spring and thrives with very low amounts of moisture, according to the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association.


Succulents are another category of plants that require little or no water other than what they can extract from their native environments. Many species of agave fit into this classification. They vary in form, size and colour and often clump in groups. They prefer a full or partial sun location and are evergreen in all seasons. Yucca comes in a variety of species, some of which require no water at all other than what they can absorb from their environment. They can range from 3 to 15 feet tall and need a full-sun location.


Epiphytes are in a class of plant that do not have a root system as other plants do and do not grow in soil Instead, these plants have a type of root system that is used only to attach itself to other plants. It survives on very little water, generally only what lies on the surface of the host plant. Some epiphytes can even extract moisture from fog. Bromeliads and orchids are types of epiphyte plants found in tropical and subtropical climates, according to Mongabay.

Native Plants

Gardeners can save on water and time by planting native plants for landscaping and in gardens. Native plants are those that grow in your area naturally and need little additional water and maintenance, as opposed to plants that need coddling and constant watering. This is especially important in places like the southwestern United States where water resources are scarce. Native plants have adapted to extreme weather conditions and need little or no additional watering.

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