Plants That Do Well in a Shady Desert

A desert is more than hot sun and sand. Tall plants that grow in the sun provide shade. So do rock formations and mountains, and plants grow in these spaces as well. Pick these shady desert plants to expand a desert garden beyond just the sunniest spots.

Mondo Grass

Mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus) is also known as lily turf and snakebeard. The plant is an evergreen with thin leaves that grow from 2 to 12 inches tall. Small purple flowers bloom in the summer and are followed by small blue-black berries. Mondo grass is used as a ground cover, as an edging along walkways and as a container plant. Mondo grass is drought-tolerant, likes fertile, well-drained soil and full or partial shade. The grass is hardy in USDA Zones 7 to 11.


Feijoa (Feijoa sellowiana) is also known as pineapple guava. The plant is an evergreen shrub that is native to subtropical Paraguay, Uruguay, northern Argentina and southern Brazil. The plant is hardy in USDA Zones 8 to 10 and likes full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil that is moist to dry. The plant grows up to 15 feet tall and about the same in width and produces leaves that are 2 to 3 inches long. The white flowers are edible, about 1 inch across and are followed by edible round or egg-shaped fruits known as feijoas.

Bay Laurel

Bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) is also known as bay, bay leaf, laurel and sweet bay. The plant grows as a tree or shrub from 3 to 60 feet tall. Elliptic-shaped, thick, dark-green leaves grow from 3 to 4 inches long. Small yellow flowers grow in clusters in the spring and the flowers on the female trees are followed by black or purple berries. Bay laurel is native to the southern Mediterranean region, and performs best in partial shade and a rich, well-drained soil. The leaves are used as a seasoning for French, Italian, Spanish and Creole cooking. The plant is hardy in USDA Zones 8 to 10.

India Hawthorn

India hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica) is an evergreen shrub that grows from 3 to 5 feet tall and about the same in width with thick, oblong leaves that are dark-green on top and lighter on the underside, from 3 to 4 inches long. Star-shaped, white or pink flowers grow in clusters at the tips of the branches and are followed by blue-black fruit that is a favorite food for birds. India hawthorn likes full sun to partial shade and a moist to dry, well-drained soil. The plant is hardy in USDA Zones 8 to 11.

Keywords: desert plants, shady desert plants, shade plants

About this Author

Regina Sass has been a writer for 10 years, penning articles for publications in the real estate and retail industries. Her online experience includes writing, advertising and editing for an educational website. Sass is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.