Native Plants of the Southwest

The native plants of the southwest are acclimated to a climate and growing conditions that most other plants would not be able to take. They like the hot sun, sandy and dry soils and rocky terrain. The plants can be wild flowers, cacti, succulents, bushes or trees and each one adds a different dimension and splash of color to a southwest garden.

Fragrant Verbena

Fragrant verbena (Abronia fragrans) is also known as sand verbena, snowball, snowball sand verbena and sweet sand-verbena. The plant grows from 8 to 40 inches long and produces white flowers that can be accented with green, lavender or pink. The flowers measure 2 to 3 inches across, grow in clusters and open in the late afternoon, stay open all night and close again in the morning. The plant is native from North Arizona to West Texas and Oklahoma, the Rockies and the Western Plains. Fragrant verbena does best in partial shade--three to six hours of sunshine a day and dry, sandy soil. Plant it in a rock garden, butterfly garden or on a rocky hillside.

Parry's Agave

Parry's agave (Agave parryi) is also known as the Century plant. It earned this name from the fact that it takes many years for the plant to produce its first blooms. Parry's agave is a succulent--a plant that stores water in its leaves. It produces sword-shaped leaves that grow 1 foot tall and form a rosette at the base of the plant. Eventually it will produce a tall stalk with a cluster of yellow flowers at the tip. They bloom in June, July and August, and when the flowers die, the rest of the plant dies with it and the flower's seeds start the years' long process all over again. Parry's agave is native to the high deserts of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The plant needs full sun and dry soil. Too much moisture will cause the leaves to store too much and they will develop rot.


Kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) is also known as Red bearberry. The plant is a trailing, evergreen shrub that grows from 6 to 12 inches tall and spreads out to 15 feet wide. It produces, thick paddle-shaped leaves that start out with a yellow-green color in the spring and turn to red-purple in the fall, bendable branches and small, bell-shaped pink or white flowers that grow in clusters on bright red stems. The flowers bloom from March through June and when they are gone, they are replaced by bright red berries. It is native in much of North America, including California, Arizona and New Mexico. The plant will grow in full sun, partial shade or full shade and needs a soil that is loose, not compacted, rocky or sandy and dry to moist.

Keywords: southwest plants, desert plants, hot weather plants

About this Author

Regina Sass is based in the Adirondack Region of New York State. She has been a writer for 10 years writing for publications in the real estate and retail industries. Online experience includes writing,advertising and editing for an educational web site. Sass is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.