Desert Plants for Gardens

The desert (particularly the Southwest and West) is surprisingly full of rich and diverse plant life for gardens. In the Sonoran Desert alone, there are more than 400 edible plant varieties and hundreds more that are medicinally beneficial. While many of these plants have thorns for protection and house wildlife, several provide an aesthetic value to landscapes that other regional plants can't compare to. You can choose from a range of flowers, succulents, shrubs and herbs for your desert garden.


This well-known subtropical flowering shrub grows throughout the United States, but it really thrives in desert climates or very hot climates. The year round blooms flourish in the spring to fall, and the plant grows as a climbing vine, shrub or tree, depending on the size you wish to have. With dense wood stems, this plant is sturdy and can provide a lot of coverage for those who want privacy shrubs. Flowers are purple or pink and are consistently used for landscaping, whether it is parks, surrounding businesses or home gardens.

Catclaw Acacia Tree

This flowering tree can grow up to 10 feet tall, with bright white yellow to dark gold flowers that completely cover the tree during the spring. The name is derived from the curved cat claw-like thorns that stick out from the thin but sturdy branches. Catclaw patches provide important sanctuary for bird and wildlife habitats.

Arizona Grapes

The desert may not seem like the ideal place for a vineyard, but grapes can still flourish here to make wine and have a delicious fruit harvest. This perennial blooms throughout spring and summer seasons and prefers desert canyons to thrive. The grapes are green and white until they ripen to purple. People and animals alike love the flavor of the grapes, also named canyon grapes.

Flowering Willow

The flowering willow (in the magnolia family) is a perennial desert landscaping plant. It resembles a smaller scale version of a weeping willow, with yellow, white, purple and blue blooms from April to September. It regularly grows in washes and needs minimal maintenance once once established.

Keywords: southwest plants, desert landscaping plants, desert gardening

About this Author

Lauren Wise is a journalism major from Arizona State University with over forty published magazine and media articles and over 400 Web site articles. Wise owns Midnight Publishing with over eight years experience as a writer, editor, copywriter and columnist. She specializes in food and wine, music and pop culture. Her writing has appeared in magazines including Runway, A2Z, Scottsdale Luxury Living and True West.