Plants for Desert Landscape

The desert can be a harsh, unforgiving environment that is hostile to most forms of life. Many gardeners find desert plants to be alluring and exotic, almost alien in their adaptations to such an extreme environment. Create a desert landscape by choosing from a variety of desert plants.

Purple Sage

Purple sage (Leucophyllum frutescens) is a semi-evergreen shrub native to the American South and northern Mexico. The plant has a sprawling habit, and sports silvery leaves accented by floppy purple or lilac flowers. Easy to grow and hard to kill, purple sage will do well with little attention in USDA zones 7 to 10. Excellent for a patio container, or as a low hedge, purple sage has many landscaping uses. Grow the plant in full sunlight, in a loose and limey soil. Purple sage wont tolerate rich soils, or much water, though it will tolerate frost and drought.

Barrel Cactus

Barrel cactus (Ferocactus cylindraceus) is a cylindrical cactus that hails from the deserts of northern Mexico and the America Southwest. The plant is covered in a dense layer of needles and topped with a crown of flowers. The main ingredient in cactus candy, barrel cactus also produces edible (though not necessarily tasty) fruits. Not at all tolerant of frosts, barrel cactus grows best in USDA zones 9a to 11a in full sun locations. Like most cactus species, barrel cactus requires extremely well-drained soil to look its best. Over watering the plant is the easiest way to kill it-- less water is always better than more water.

Century Plant

A member of the agave family, century plant (Agave americana) is a huge succulent that can produce a flower stalk reaching heights of up to 40 feet. The plant boasts large, spiked leaves that can be 6 feet in length or more. Native to the deserts of Mexico, century plant is well suited to USDA zones 8b to 11. Not surprisingly, century plant is highly drought tolerant and will do best in full sunlight. Well-drained soil is a must for this plant, and slightly acidic soil is ideal. Century plants are often used as border or specimen plants, but use caution when planting them near walkways, as the leaves of the plant can scratch deeply.

Keywords: desert landscape, desert plants, plant types, drought-tolerant plants

About this Author

Michelle Wishhart is a writer based out of Astoria, Ore. She has been writing professionally for five years, starting with her position as a staff arts writer for an alternative weekly paper in Santa Cruz. She has a B.A. in fine arts from the University of California in Santa Cruz and a minor in English literature.