The climate in Arizona can create a challenge for gardeners because of its intense heat and lack of moisture during most of the year. Also, the soils are generally thin and rocky, especially in the large population centers such as Phoenix. Top selling landscape plants in Arizona are plants that are low maintenance, adaptable and add color and interest to the desert landscape.
Sweet Acacia (Acacia farnesiana) is adaptable to dry areas but cannot tolerate temperatures below 10 degrees F. It is a small spreading tree, up to 20 feet tall, and a fast grower. The Sweet Acacia tree produces round yellow ball-shaped flowers that are followed by brown seed pods. The branches are covered with thorns and although it can be messy at times, because of the numerous seed pods, it is a popular small tree for Arizona gardens.
Most Yuccas have sharp spiny leaves, but there are a few varieties available that are less cold-tolerant that produce softer leaves. Yuccas are very drought tolerant and produce large white flower spikes nearly every spring. Some Yuccas grow short and thick while others grow tall. Next to Cacti, they are the plant most often seen in Arizona landscapes.
The Ocotillo is a shrubby plant to 15 feet tall. It has numerous upright branches that remain leafless most of the year unless there is sufficient rain. When dry weather arrives again, the plant sheds its leaves. However, during the hottest part of the year, the Ocotillo produces a profusion of orange-red flowers that are attractive in the landscape. It is also a very popular landscaping plant in Arizona.
Mexican Bird of Paradise
The Mexican Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana) is a small tree up to 15 feet that produces interesting yellow or orange blooms. It is native to the desert of Northern Mexico and is widely planted in Arizona gardens. It loses its foliage in freezing weather, but the foliage returns when the weather warms.
Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea brasiliensis) can be seen blooming all over Arizona during the summer. The colorful bracts that appear on the end of the long thorny stems are yellow, orange, fuchsia or bright red depending on the variety. They need support and are often seen draping over an adobe wall or supported on strong trellises. They thrive in the intense heat of Arizona as long as the roots are shaded or covered with mulch.
Most varieties of Cacti are virtually maintenance-free in the Arizona landscape. There are 2000 varieties to choose from and many produce outstanding blooms. Not all varieties are covered with thorns, as you might expect. For the landscape, cacti are available in all shapes and sizes. They often compliment the dry desert areas and desert architecture in Arizona and are very popular for landscaping. Cacti are widely available in nurseries and garden centers throughout Arizona. Removing Cacti from the wild for landscaping is widely discouraged in the State of Arizona.