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Plants That Grow in the Desert

By Ann White ; Updated September 21, 2017

Landscaping in the desert requires special consideration. With temperatures reaching as high as 125 degrees F in the summer and as low as the 20s in the winter, only the toughest plants are capable of surviving the harsh sun and freezing nightly winds. When looking for desert plants in a nursery, the key phrase to keep in mind is drought tolerant.


Numerous trees offer the advantages of full shade cover along with being drought tolerant The guajillo is highly drought tolerant and has a tropical appearance that looks excellent on backyard patios and near swimming pools. For those desiring shade the palo brea tree offers up to 25 feet of foliage when fully grown and properly pruned. Finally, for those desiring fragrance and excellent bloom, the chaste tree offers both with its spikes of purple summer blooming flowers.


The most showy and drought tolerant shrub is the green feathery cassia. This flower features vibrant yellow blooms during the summer and hearty foliage year round. The Mexican honeysuckle blooms annually with bright orange tubular flowers. While the honeysuckle is primarily drought resistant, it may require some additional water in the hottest part of summer. For those desiring to attract hummingbirds, the autumn sage blooms with striking fragrant flowers that hummingbirds cannot resist and it is available in many different colors.

Ground Cover

Trailing lantanna can cover an area of 4 feet wide and grow as tall as 1 foot high while showering the ground with lavender flowers. Damianita offers gardeners a hearty bloom and fragrant foliage with little maintenance. For those who live in an extreme desert climate, ice plants are hearty in both hot and cold weather, making them ideal for the desert. The most popular ground cover choice for desert climates is the trailing rosemary with its hearty, fast spreading foliage that can be used to cover the ground, or spill over planters and hills.


Succulents are a variety of plant in the same family as cactus. They are both drought resistant and showy, with many varieties producing stunning foliage and blooms the likes of which many non-desert dwellers have never seen. Succulents are low maintenance, requiring little to no pruning and very little if any watering. Popular varieties include the century plant agave, ocotillo and the fishhook barrel cactus.


About the Author


Ann White is a freelance journalist with prior experience as a Corporate and Business Attorney and Family Law Mediator. She has written for multiple university newspapers and has published over 300 articles for publishers such as EHow and Garden Guides. White earned her Juris Doctor from Thomas Jefferson School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts in English literature.