31 Drought Tolerant Plants & Trees for Your Survival Garden

This past summer much of the U.S. suffered prolonged droughts. In many areas wells ran dry and towns implemented water use limits. Farmers, gardeners, and homesteaders watched as their crops wilted and died. While this was devastating for any commercial growers, everyone else simply made a few more trips to the local grocery store. Unfortunately after TEOTWAWKI that won’t be an option. You’ll have to rely primarily on your garden and food storage.

Even if you’re plan is to bug in in an area that has never before experienced droughts you should still consider it a possibility. With our changing climate droughts can happen where you’d least expect them, just as many New England residents discovered this summer.

Obviously there are general garden practices you can use to keep your garden moist. Don’t leave bare soil, always use mulch or a cover crop. Collect rainwater and install a grey-water system. Create swales and terraces to prevent run off. However no matter what you do if you don’t have enough water and you’re growing moisture loving crops they will inevitably fail. Selecting at least a few crops from the list below can help you survive a drought even during a SHTF scenario.

Prickly Pear

This cactus is a hardy native of parts of North and South America. It’s not only drought tolerant but also very cold hardy for a cactus and can be grown as far north as Canada. Plus both its pads and fruit are edible and there are spineless varieties available.


They’re a small citrus like fruit tree that once established needs very little care or water. Their fruits are also small but flavorful. They can only be grown outdoors in areas where winter temperatures don’t fall below 30°F.


As many California farmers know getting a good crop of nuts from trees like almonds without a lot of water can be difficult. Thankfully hazelnuts which grow on a small tree or shrub are relatively drought resistant, perfect for a SHTF scenario.

Flint & Dent Corn

These types of corn were grown by Native Americans in many hot climates including South America and the South Western U.S. Just like the Native Americans did, you can make your corn crop extra drought resistant by growing a vining plant like winter squash beneath the corn to help shade the soil. They’re an excellent staple crop for preppers concerned about the possibility of drought.


Burdock grows wild in many places but adding it to your garden and caring for it will allow it to grow larger roots. Burdock roots, fruits, seeds, and leaves are all used as herbal remedies for a wide variety of ailments. The roots are also often added to Asian dishes like stir fry or pickled for winter food storage.


Though a relatively uncommon plant, seaberry is a favorite among many permaculture experts. It both drought and cold hardy and its fruit is high in vitamins A,C,K and E as well as saturated and unsaturated fatty acids and minerals.

Goji Berries

If you’re a fan of health food stores you’re probably familiar with the goji berry. They’re believed by many to be a “superfruit” and are high in many vitamins and minerals. Once established they do well with very little water making them ideal for drought situations.


Don’t let purslane’s reputation as an annoying weed get to you. It’s actually a great plant that was grown and eaten by the Native Americans. You can simply save seed from a wild plant or just let it grow in your garden. However for larger more succulent plants there are cultivated varieties available.


This tree only grows in the south but if you can grow it you definitely should. It does well in hot, dry conditions and has little pest problems. If you really want a pomegranate and live in the north there are also varieties that tolerate being grown in pots.


Some grapes are drought resistant while others like plentiful water. Look for varieties that are native to the Mediterranean.

Fava Beans

Fava beans need moisture but they will grow in such cold temperatures that they can be grown in the fall, winter, or spring when rainfall is less of an issue in many places.


Also called red or Korean date, the jujubes are small red fruits that grow on small tree native to Southern Asia. Along with being tasty and drought tolerant jujubes are thought to help with several ailments such as poor circulation, bone problems, and sleep issues.


Cultivated by the Aztecs, these guys are super easy to grow. They don’t mind little water and aren’t heavy feeders like tomatoes. Try them fried or in salsa verde.


A tasty herb and powerful medicinal, rosemary is native to the Mediterranean and will tolerate dry, hot conditions. As an added bonus it can be harvested year round in many areas.


While kale is probably best known for its cold hardiness it will also survive with little moisture. Plus you can grow it in early spring or in the fall when there’s typically more precipitation and dry gardens aren’t as big of a problem.


Sage needs hardly any water and is essential for good biscuits and gravy! It’s also a hardy perennial and is often used for spiritual and medicinal purposes like digestive problems, memory loss, and depression.


Amaranth is ancient grain that the Aztecs cultivated thousands of years ago. It grows like a weed and thrives in a hot, dry climate. When it’s young you can harvest and eat the greens or you can let the plant mature and harvest the grains.


Chickpeas are nitrogen fixing, legumes and are heat loving, drought tolerant plants. They’re full of protein and easy to grow, perfect for your survival garden.

Jerusalem Artichokes

This sunflower relative can grow almost anywhere and offers filling tubers for your survival garden. It grows so well though that it can take over gardens so be sure to keep it contained.


Not many people grow sorghum any more but it’s an excellent choice for a survival garden. Its canes can be harvested early and pressed for sap to make molasses or it can be allowed to mature and used as a grain.

1 year old asparagus shoots
1 year old asparagus shoots


When you initially plant asparagus it will require watering but once established it’s very hardy. It will also live for years allowing you continued harvests of one of the earliest spring vegetables.


Just like asparagus, rhubarb requires plenty of water to get going but will then thrive for years and years with little care. Though it’s not a fruit it’s probably the closest you’ll get to fresh fruit really early in the spring and it’s full of vitamin C. Note that you only consume the stalk as the leaves are poisonous. Some people make natural pesticides from the leaves.

Early Tomato Varieties

Many early tomato varieties, especially cherry tomatoes will mature before the hottest and driest part of summer and can do well with less moisture.

Swiss Chard

Another hardy green like kale, swiss chard tolerates both cold and hot, dry weather. It can be harvested as a “cut and come again” green or let to grow really big as it doesn’t bolt quickly like lettuce does and is still edible even if it does go to seed.

Asian Greens

There’s many varieties of Asian greens available like mizuna and tat soi. Much like kale they’re loved for their cold tolerance and can be grown in seasons with cooler, wetter weather. Their small size also means that they require less moisture.

Dry Beans

Dry beans are an excellent survival plant. They’re nitrogen fixing and full of protein. Pole bean varieties like Cherokee Trail of Tears or Hidatsa Shield Figure that can be grown in combination with a shade crop like squash are ideal for dry climates.

Globe Artichokes

You may picture globe artichokes as a southern crop but there are varieties they can actually be grown as an annual in cooler climates. Either way they require little water and are a tasty addition to your garden.


They may not seem like a great meal but gourds are actually a really cool survival plant. Since they were cultivated gourds like the birdhouse or bottle variety have been used to store food and carry water. Gourds for holding liquids are typically coated on the inside with beeswax first. Plus they’ll grow with minimal water and care.

Early/Small Pepper Varieties

Much like tomatoes, the early and smallest pepper varieties require little watering because they finish before the hottest days of summer.

Ground Cherries

Ground cherries are not true cherries instead grow similarly to tomatillos. They even have a paper husk and are equally drought tolerant. However they taste more like cherries than tomatillos and are excellent eaten fresh or in pies and other desserts.


Many varieties of both winter and summer squash do well with little water. Vining varieties have the added benefit of shading the soil for themselves and other tall plants.

When you’re planning a survival garden you’re trying to plan for an unpredictable future. You have to prepare the best you can for as many possibilities you can. No matter where you live water shortages are a possibility. Whether there’s such bad droughts you have little water to spare or getting water to your garden is a huge amount of work having plants that will thrive in low moisture conditions can save your life.

What SHTF garden problems have you planned for?

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2 thoughts on “31 Drought Tolerant Plants & Trees for Your Survival Garden”

  1. Black eye peas. They are from Africa. Handle hot dry weather. I plant them in the middle of summer for a green manure. $1.30 for a pound of dry peas from Walmart. Good germination rate

  2. Love Black eyed peas. With a bit of ham or bacon or grease and cornbread, you have a satisfying meal add some greens and it is balanced. The Confederacy survived on it during the war and reconstruction.


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