Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

The Best Plants for Desert Heat

By Bridget Kelly ; Updated September 21, 2017

Growing up, most of us thought of the desert as vast spaces of sand, with nothing growing, under a brilliantly hot sun. Or, perhaps there is a cactus thrown in here and there. In actuality, there are many plants that call the desert home, from succulents such as cacti to flowering perennials. Finding plants that thrive in dry heat isn’t as difficult as you may think.

Canna Lily

Even though the canna is generally considered a tropical plant, it does quite well in desert environments. As long as you plant the canna away from buildings, where the radiant heat might fry it, and give it plenty of water, it will lend a striking tropical feel to the desert home’s backyard. In the Mojave desert, particularly in the Las Vegas area, the canna grows well in the full desert sun or partial shade. The trick is to not surround it with the usual desert landscaping material such as rock mulch. Give it a good, loamy soil, sunshine and water and it will do just fine in the desert.


The Arizona poppy is an annual flowering plant that looks very much like the famous California poppy. The Arizona poppy flowers have an interesting method of attracting pollinators such as wasps, bees and butterflies. The flowers contain ultraviolet reflecting patterns that act as guides to the source of their sugar--you might call it the high-tech flower of the plant world. Plants need to get creative in the desert, and the Arizona poppy is no exception. Being a desert plant, this is one that you won’t have to water very often.

Texas Sage

If you are looking for the quintessential desert plant, you can’t get closer than this native of the Chihuahuan desert in Texas. The Texas sage is an evergreen shrub that grows slowly to a height of 5 to 8 feet. A low-maintenance plant, it likes low humidity, hot sun and crummy soil. Your reward, as the desert gardener, is a bush full of beautiful purple flowers.


About the Author


Based in the American Southwest, Bridget Kelly has been writing about gardening and real estate since 2005. Her articles have appeared at Trulia.com, SFGate.com, GardenGuides.com, RE/MAX.com, MarketLeader.com, RealEstate.com, USAToday.com and in "Chicago Agent" magazine, to name a few. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in creative writing.