A no-water plant is one that will survive on a region's normal precipitation. Prepare the planting area for these types of plants so they will have good drainage. Where soil is heavy, it is best to place no water plants in a raised berm, rock garden, or containers to improve water flow.
A tree's native habitat will tell you a lot about its preferred growing conditions. The colorful bark of the Madrona tree (Arbutus menziesii) is commonly seen on sunny slopes where water freely drains. A close relative, the Strawberry tree madrone (Arbutus unedo), will tolerate more water, but does not need it. The Crape myrtle (Lagerstromea indica) is another tree that requires a dry position. Crape myrtle will provide late season flower clusters in red, white, lavender, pink or salmon colors. Often placed improperly, cherry trees suffer diseases when given water. Pine trees are the best conifers for dry positions. Plant no-water trees away from turf areas, and beds that receive regular irrigation.
Shrubs that thrive without water can be found on sunny, rocky bluffs. The seed of shrubs such as manzanita grow in areas known for forest fires. The seed requires intense heat to germinate. A leading causes of death for no-water shrubs is root rot from standing water. Place gravel at the bottom of the planting hole to improve drainage.
Another good shrub for dry hot areas is California lilac (Ceanothus). The majority of California lilacs develop clusters of blue flowers in summer and have small, round evergreen leaves. There is also some ceanothus with deciduous foliage. A small number of ceanothus have white and even pink blooms. All plants in the yucca family thrive in desert conditions. Some have blue blades, and others have yellow bands along the leaf blades.
Junipers are widely planted but die out or turn brown in the center if given too much water. Plant junipers where there will be no additional irrigation.
Most culinary herbs are from Mediterranean regions. They thrive in full sun, in rocky, sandy soils. The oils in lavender foliage will become diluted when given water. Rosemary dies out more from standing water than from cold weather. Water is deliberately withheld from herbs before harvesting. Thyme is a dry herb that can be used between steps, and as a ground-cover. Oregano is more than just a flavorful herb; it makes a good ground-cover too. You will find it in variegated or even chartreuse colors.
Perennials and succulents
New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax) is one of the largest landscape grasses. It is available in red colors, as well as varieties striped with yellow, pink, and even orange. Cacti are probably the most well-known plants for dry situations. Most do best in warmer regions, but there are some that will survive as low as USDA Hardiness Zone 8.
Agave and aloe are good dry-garden plants for warm dry regions. Sedums and sempervivums can tolerate some moisture, but do well in drier rock garden plantings. Lewisia may not appear to be a succulent, but it is. The small round cluster of leaves gives way to attractive daisy-like flowers of white or pink in summer.