When choosing plants for an Arizona landscape, many gardeners look for drought resistant plants that will live with little or no watering during the long, hot, Arizona summer months. While plants require water for survival, there are some plants designed by nature to store water for a long period, making them adaptable to drought conditions.
The classic plant designed to withstand long periods without irrigation is the cactus. People typically recognize the cactus by its prickly, sharp thorns. While most Arizona cactus survives dry summers, a few are more adaptable to extreme drought conditions, such as the spruce cone. The spruce cone, an exception to the cactus rule, does not have thorns, making it an ideal cactus selection for the home gardener whom wishes to avoid thorns, yet wants to introduce cactus into the landscape. Other cactuses to consider for the garden are the towering saguaro, with its impressive white flowers or the low growing beavertail prickly pear, with its bright pink blossoms.
Native to the Sonoran and Mojave Deserts, the brittlebush is a mound-shaped shrub with daisy-like flowers, which bloom from winter to spring. The creosote bush is native to North America deserts and bears small yellow flowers, which bloom from spring to fall. While irrigation will encourage more flower growth for the brittlebush and creosote, both plants are perfectly capable of surviving a summer without irrigation and both grow wild along the Arizona desert landscape. They make ideal garden plants for the gardener desiring low maintenance, drought resistant, colorful native desert plants.
The ocotillo, a succulent, is a distinct looking plant with thorny canes growing up from its base. The ocotillo grows wild in the Arizona desert. During drought conditions, the ocotillo sheds its leaves to conserve water. Ocotillos add dramatic color to the landscape during the spring, when its brilliant orange and red flower clusters bloom at the tips of the plant's canes. It is illegal to procure an ocotillo without proper authorization from the state. When purchasing a legally acquired ocotillo, it comes tagged by the state. Other drought resistant succulents include many of the aloe varieties. Gardeners who wish to attract hummingbirds while conserving irrigation water choose the medicinal aloe, which grows impressive yellow flower spikes during the spring.