Typical Plants of the Hot Desert

A wide variety of plants such as yuccas and succulents grow in hot deserts. Unlike plants native to other regions, desert plants are swollen and spiny with tiny leaves that usually aren't bright green. Their unusual appearance helps them adapt to the challenges of a hot desert climate. Desert plants store water in their leaves and stems, such as the leaves of the barrel cactus that swell with water from rainfall.

Soaptree Yucca

The soaptree yucca is an exotic plant that typically grows in the mesas of deserts regions such as Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. This desert plant has palm-like leaves at its base, resembling a palm tree. It's so-named because of the soapy substance inside the plant's roots and trunk. Soaptree yuccas have been useful since the early times of Native Americans. Ranchers use this plant during droughts as emergency food for cattle, while basket weavers use the plant's fibers for weaving baskets. Although yuccas are easy to grow, they need good drainage.

Joshua Tree

The Joshua tree, which is largest of all yuccas, grows from 15 to 40 feet with a diameter that's one to three feet wide, according to the Blue Planet Biomes website. This tree, which lives roughly 200 years, produces bell-shaped green and creamy yellow flowers that have an unpleasant odor. Mormon pioneers named the tree for the Old Testament leader, Joshua, who led the Hebrew people into the Promised Land. Indians removed the centers of the tree's limbs for making canisters for storing berries and nuts. Pioneers used the tree for fence posts, as well as roasted parts of it to produce a sugary treat for children.


Succulents make ideal plants for hot deserts because they're able to absorb large amounts of water in short periods. Most of them, such as saguaro cacti, have an extensive root system. Water is also conserved by the plant. Succulents known as agaves have only a few leaves, while others have no leaves such as cacti. Most succulents are toxic or spiny and often they're both. While some are by sheltered by camouflage, others are protected by only growing in remote areas. Aloes are succulents, which thrive in hot dry deserts. They come in several varieties with more than 300 species, according to Desert-Tropicals.com. This plant is useful in treating minor burns as it contains a cool liquid for soothing pain.

Desert Marigolds

Desert marigolds are eye-catching desert wildflowers found in the Southwest. They generally grow on mesas, sandy planes and stony slopes. These striking flowers form thick yellow carpets and have a long flowering season, making them popular desert plants. They're short-lived annuals having hairs that help them adapt to desert life as the hairs increase light reflection, which lowers leaf temperatures. The hairs on desert marigolds also block ultraviolet light.

Keywords: desert plants, hot desert plants, types of desert plants, succulents and cacti

About this Author

Venice Kichura has written on a variety of topics for various websites, such as Suite 101 and Associated Content since 2005. She's written articles published in print publications and stories for books such as "God Allows U-Turns." She's a graduate of the University of Texas and has worked in both Florida and Connecticut schools.