The Best Flowers for Arid Heat

While many people think of wildflowers as simple uncultivated plants or weeds, they can be planted from seeds and grown in pots or in the ground to create a striking garden. Wildflowers are the only flowers that flourish in the desert's arid heat, but if you plant the right varieties of plants that will re-seed themselves, your garden will attract butterflies and birds, including hummingbirds, and fill your landscape with color.


This ornamental plant, also known as a "beard tongue," produces brightly colored blue, violet, purple, pink, magenta, red and white blooms. Petal formation may be tube or funnel shaped, depending upon the species. Nearly 300 species of penstemons grow in the United States. Most reach an average of 16 inches, although different species range from 4 to 28 inches in height. When planting, leave part of the root ball exposed. Deadheading flowers will extend bloom time for the season.

Desert Marigolds

These lemon yellow, daisy-like perennials grow to about 1 foot tall at maturity. The blooms are long lasting, and the silver-gray foliage is attractive all year round. Desert Marigolds are fast growers. They thrive in full sun and require very little water. They are native to Mexico and the southwest region of the United States, and are easily grown from either plant or seed.


For a landscape of delicate, colorful flowers that grow from 4 to 16 inches, plant poppies in the fall. In regions with mild winters, you can even wait until winter to plant them. Poppies produce flowers in a variety of colors, many with dark centers, depending on the particular species. They grow easily from plants or seeds in well-drained soil. Fertilize poppies twice a year with a water-soluble fertilizer. Mulch poppies, but do not deadhead them.


These 3-to-5 foot, majestic plants create long, spiky blooms in shades of pink, lavender and white. A striking vision in arid conditions, lupines spread quickly and bloom throughout May and June. Species may be annuals or perennials. Grow lupines from seeds. Water seeds one a week during their developmental stage, and fertilize with an all-purpose fertilizer once a month to increase the size of the plants and their blooms. Deadhead wilted flowers to extend the blooming period.

Jerusalem Sage

This flowering shrub grows to about 3 feet tall and wide. Deep yellow, white, pink or purple clustered petals appear in spring and summer, but the silver-green foliage remains attractive throughout the year. Jerusalem sage seeds require two to seven weeks to germinate in full-to-partial sun. Water the plant during long periods of drought, and give it a light pruning during winter. When the plant is three years old, divide it and plant the pieces.

Keywords: desert flowers, drought tolerant flowers, drought tolerant wildflowers

About this Author

Susan Steen graduated from the University of New Orleans, where she earned a B.A. in sociology and a certification in social work. She has been a freelance and contract writer for 22 years. Her work has been published in “Evidence Technology Magazine,” “Louisiana Bar Journal,” the Cobblestone children’s educational publications “Faces” and “Appleseeds,” the Waterford Literacy Program, and a variety of websites.