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List of Plants That Require Little Water

Updated February 21, 2017

Most plants require specific conditions to grow, with some thriving in sunlight, others living in the shade, some in the cold and some in warmth. A universal trait of nearly all plants, however, is their need for water to aid in photosynthesis, with some plants even spending their entire lives underwater. Some plants --- collectively known as xeric plants --- are not as picky, however, and have developed to the point where they need very little, if any, water to survive.

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Annuals are flowering plants that are most active starting in the spring and finally wearing down in the fall. They are typically tolerant of both full and partial sunlight. Owl's clover, Cosmos flowers, Amaranth, Desert Canterbury bells, Zinnia, Clary sage, and Calliopsis are annuals that need very little water.


Perennials are among the largest group of plants, many of which need little water to thrive. They come in numerous different sizes, colours and shapes and include plants like the Arizona cottontop, Maximilian sunflower, scarlet betony, skeletonleaf goldeneye, red valerian and prickly poppy.


Both deciduous and evergreen trees are represented in the list of plants that require little water. Deciduous trees that can stand dry conditions include acacias, paloverde, hackberry, goldenball lead trees, mesquite and choke cherry. Among the evergreen trees are red shanks, blue Manzanita, Arizona cyprus, crucifixion thorn, junipers and various oak trees.


Shrubs are commonly found in desert environments and are able to go incredibly long stretches with very limited water. This long list of plants includes Manzanita, agaves, sagebrushes, daleas, mahoganies, cacti of several different varieties, lavenders, mallows and yuccas.


Most of these grasses produce long, thin leaves that can stretch anywhere from 2 to 5 feet high. Some of the more common dry-tolerant grasses include threeawn, sprangletop, plains lovegrass, elymus rye, sideoats, maiden hair grass, deergrass, Indian rice grass, bamboo muhly, alkali sacaton and purple fountain grass.

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About the Author

Brenton Shields began writing professionally in 2009. His work includes film reviews that appear for the online magazine Los Angeles Chronicle. He received a Bachelor of Science in social science and history from Radford University.

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