Salvia greggii (salvia) and Dalea frutescens (dalea) are two popular shrubs. However, little information is available on their drought tolerance. The objectives of this study were to investigate the effect of various degrees of water stress on growth and to characterize the dynamics of water relations to root substrate water content for developing best irrigation management. Salvia and dalea plants in 12-L plastic containers were grown in a greenhouse and pruned to one node at the base of the soft shoots for salvia or at the same height for dalea prior to the start of the experiment. There were three irrigation regimens: plants were irrigated daily (control), or irrigation was withheld until moderate or severe water stress signs exhibited. After several weeks of intermittent cyclic dry-down irrigation regimens, total shoot number per container was reduced by 40% to 50% for salvia and 35% to 40% for dalea. Average shoot length was reduced by 35% to 45% for salvia and 50% to 65% for dalea in moderate and severe stressed treatments compared to the control. Drought stress resulted in less shoot elongation and fewer new shoots in both species. To examine the relationship between plant water status and substrate water content, a dry down test was performed on five well-watered plants by withholding irrigation until midday water potential dropped to below –4 MPa. As substrate water contents in both species reached 8%, the predawn water potentials did not recover from the midday water potential of the previous day, indicating there was no available water in the substrate for roots to take up. The drought tolerance of these two species needs further study using various growing media.