Plants & Flowers Grown in the Wild in Arizona

Vast deserts, rugged mountains and the incomparable expanse of the Grand Canyon are Arizona's contributions to the American West. Throughout its majestic and demanding terrain, Arizona is home to hundreds of flowers and plant species adapted to the challenges of their surroundings. Heat and drought tolerant, they survive in temperatures and annual rainfall amounts that would shrivel non-native plants.

Desert Sand Verbena

Desert sand verbenas (Abronia villosa) flourishes in the desert sands of southwestern Arizona. This member of the four 'clock family has succulent, oval-shaped gray-green leaves covered with soft, sticky hairs. Rising above the leaves on 1- to 3-inch stems are sand verbena's fragrant clusters of vivid pink, white-eyed trumpet-like flowers. This annual herb, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, springs from the desert soil following rain between February and July. At its peak ,it can cover the desert floor for miles with a 6-inch high sea of fragrant pink. Plant it in full sun and dry, well-drained soil. It re-seeds vigorously.

American Century Plant

American century plant (Agave americana) spends most of its life standing between 6 and 12 feet high. At around 10 years, however, it doubles its summer height by sprouting a massive yellow flower spike that can top out at 25 feet. Striking clumps of broad, serrated blue-green leaves have sharp points. The leaves and tubers, notes the University of Michigan's Native American Ethnobotany Database, were a dietary staple for several southwestern tribes. A plant of this stature is the focal point of its landscape. Using it as an ornamental specimen limits traffic around the sharp leaves. Plant in full sun--for best results--to light shade. While not fussy about soil type, American century plant appreciates additional water in exceptionally dry periods and benefits from protection where winter temperatures fall into the teens.

Golden Columbine

Golden columbine (Aquilegia chrysantha) is a graceful perennial herb standing from 1 to 3 feet high. It has attractive three-lobe grey-green leaves and long stems. Bright yellow spurred blooms supply nectar for bees and butterflies. Golden columbine needs more shade and moisture than many Arizona native plants. It finds them where water seeps from shaded canyon walls in the Chihuahuan and Sonoran deserts. Its cheery blooms arrive any time between April and September. Plant golden columbine in shade and moist, well-drained sandy, loamy or rocky soil. It tolerates limestone-rich locations. Good drainage is essential but clay soil amended with enough sand may be acceptable. Additional moisture will keep plants from going dormant during extended dry spells.

Keywords: wild Arizona plants, AZ wildflowers, native desert landscaping

About this Author

Judy Wolfe has owned Prose for the Pros, a freelance writing business, since 2006. She's been an inveterate traveler since 1961. Wolfe holds a Bachelor of Arts in literature from California State University at Pomona