Water-deficit stress poses unique challenges to plant cells dependent on a hydrostatic skeleton and a polysaccharide-rich cell wall for growth and development. How the plant cell wall is adapted to loss of water is of interest in developing a general understanding of water stress tolerance in plants and of relevance in strategies related to crop improvement. Drought tolerance involves adaptations to growth under reduced water potential and the concomitant restructuring of the cell wall that allow growth processes to occur at lower water contents. Desiccation tolerance, by contrast, is the evolution of cell walls that are capable of losing the majority of cellular water without suffering permanent and irreversible damage to cell wall structure and polymer organization. This minireview highlights common features and differences between these two water-deficit responses observed in plants, emphasizing the role of the cell wall, while suggesting future research avenues that could benefit fundamental understanding in this area.