A desert garden is a popular garden style for xeriscaping in warmer climates and for conserving water. Desert plants need less water than lawn grasses and ornamental tropical plants such as impatiens. Locating desert plants such as scrubby shrubs may pose a challenge to gardeners. Particularly since many parks and public desert lands prohibit digging up and removing plants. You may locate some desert plants in garden stores based on their appearance. Other good sources include nurseries that specialize in desert vegetation.
Read books and pamphlets from your county extension service that give information on desert gardening. These books often describe good shrubs for desert gardening. Good examples of desert gardening books include "Low Water Use Plants" by Carol Shuler and "Plants for Dry Climates" by M. R. Duffield and Warren Jones.
Explore your local garden center for desert plants. Shrubs that grow well in the desert have evolved coping mechanisms to tolerate low-water conditions. These shrubs may be scrubby and grow low to the ground with an extensive root system. Leaves on plants that grow in dry environments are often small, thick and leathery to prevent loss of moisture through leaves.
Examine the plant care tags on the back of nursery plants. Plant care tags often list a plant's watering needs and preferences for soil. Look for shrubs that grow well in sandy soil and have low-water requirements. Desert shrubs typically grow well in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) plant hardiness zones 7 through 9, but will not tolerate the freezing temperatures of zone 6 or lower. Desert shrubs that are given too much water are prone to root rot.
Contact plant nurseries in desert areas of the southwestern United States. These nurseries are the ones that are most likely to have desert shrubs. Often nurseries will ship plants bare root over state lines.