Choosing desert tree types depends upon finding trees that meet your aesthetic requirements as well as the challenging conditions of a dry environment. Options include a wide variety of shapes and sizes, including flowering trees. Trees that thrive in arid conditions without much supplemental water are labeled "drought-tolerant."
The shoestring acacia tree (Acacia stenophylla) is well-suited for the desert. The shoestring acacia displays muted evergreen foliage that hangs from the tree in formations resembling shoelaces; flowers are very small and cream colored, blooming from fall through winter. This fast-growing tree thrives in full sunlight and though it is adapted to the hot temperatures of the desert, it is also hardy to 18 degrees F, well-suited to the chilly nights characteristic of the desert environment. Commonly used as a screen and near swimming pools, the shoestring acacia grows to a height of 30 feet and 20 feet wide, according to the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association.
Anacacho Orchid Tree
Anacacho orchid (Bauhinia lunarioides) is a showy tree that thrives in the desert landscape. This semi-evergreen tree displays an abundance of white to pink full blossoms that bloom during spring and summer with green foliage. With a slow to moderate growth rate, this tree thrives in full to partial sun and has low water use. Hardy to 15 degrees F, anacacho orchid trees reach a height of 8 feet and a width of 6 feet, giving them an overall appearance of a shrub.
Blue Palo Verde
The blue palo verde tree (Cercidium floridum) is a showy, colorful tree well-suited to desert conditions. This semi-evergreen tree displays blue-green foliage and vibrant yellow flowers during spring that cover the entire tree, attracting birds that often take up residence and build nests. Thriving in full sun, blue palo verdes need very little water, have a fast growth rate and are hardy to 15 degrees F. They grow to a height and width of 30 feet.
Mexican Blue Palm
The Mexican blue palm (Brahea armata) is a substantial, visually interesting tree for the desert landscape. It displays fanned palms with evergreen, silver-blue fronds; flowers emerge as cream-hued, hanging garlands during summer. With low water needs and a very slow growth rate, this tree thrives in full sun and is hardy to 15 degrees F. Mexican blue palms are well-suited for use near pools and for growth in containers. They reach a height of 15 feet with a width of 8 feet.