Plants for Desert Landscaping

Whether you are xeriscaping to preserve natural resources, or simply want to use plants that are native to a desert climate, a range of possibilities exist. Hundreds of plants thrive in arid conditions, including flowering trees, fragrant ground covers and spiny cactus. Desert landscaping can be both lush and colorful.

Golden Barrel Cactus

The golden barrel cactus provides a striking accent to desert landscaping, especially when grown in groupings of three or four plants. Some species bloom from April until June, while others form flowers in late summer. The 1 ½ to 2 ½ inch red, orange or yellowish flowers grow at the crown of the plant. Young barrel cactus are round, but as they mature they take on the distinct elongated shape that gives the plant its name. Spikes grow along the ribs of this slow-growing evergreen.

Deer Grass

This perennial has fine green foliage that grows in lush, dense clumps that resemble pampas grass. It grows quickly, and can reach a height of 4 feet. The plant produces plume-like flower stalks that are 2 to 3 feet tall. In the fall, the foliage turns tan. Deer grass is a beneficial insect plant. Plant it along driveways or in dry (or seasonal) stream beds. Deer grass is used in basket-making by Native Americans.


Cascalote is a slow-growing evergreen tree that produces spikes with yellow flowers clustered on them in the winter and into spring. At maturity, cascalote can reach 20 feet tall with a 20 foot wide crown. It has a slender trunk and is a good patio tree thanks to its relatively small size. After flowering, the tree produces edible, copper-colored seed pods. Hummingbirds and butterflies are attracted to the tree.

Trailing Rosemary

Trailing rosemary is a ground cover with dark green foliage that can grow to 2 feet in height and spread 5 feet wide. The evergreen produces pale blue to white flowers from winter into spring. Trailing rosemary is one of the easiest plants to grow in arid conditions. It is both heat and cold resistant and thrives in poor soil. Rosemary foliage is fragrant. The plant can be used poolside because it is low-litter and doesn't have spines or spikes. Its relative, upright rosemary, can be used as a hedge.

Keywords: desert landscaping, xeriscape, arid climate

About this Author

Meg Jernigan has been writing for more than three decades. She specializes in home improvement, cooking and interior decorating articles for online venues like Webs, eHow and Photosharingnuggets. Her offline credits include copy editing two full-length books and creating marketing copy for non-profit organizations. Jernigan attended the George Washington University, majoring in speech and drama.