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The Best Desert Plants to Use As a Windbreak

By Kathy Burns-Millyard ; Updated September 21, 2017

The southwestern part of the United States is renowned for its wide open, empty spaces. In many parts of the country those spaces are quite flat as well, which makes it easy for wind to become a problem.

Blowing wind in the desert gathers strength because there is nothing to impede its progress. It also presents a health hazard in areas that contain a lot of dust. Putting in windbreaks helps reduce the strength of the wind and helps prevent potential damage to crops and man-made structures, plus it helps keep the dust content in the air low, providing a healthier environment for humans.

Desert Willow

The desert willow tree is not actually a willow, but its hanging branches resemble a willow's branches. This tree can grow up to 20 feet in height and spread as long as it has the best water and soil conditions. Desert willows grow wild naturally in desert southwestern areas such as Tucson, Arizona.

Desert willow trees are popular to use for shade, and their height and width makes them an ideal option for creating natural windbreaks. They produce pink flowers in spring, summer and fall, making them attractive for home landscapes.

Mesquite Tree

Mesquite trees are wonderful trees to plant for both shade canopy in the heat of summer and as wind breaks. There are several varieties of Mesquite trees to choose from, with the most popular for shade being the Chilean Mesquite. This particular variety grows up to 25 feet tall and wide, provides a dense canopy and grows fast.

Mesquite trees need to be watered deeply so they'll develop a strong tap root that can withstand stiff winds. Watering too much, too frequently and too shallowly will result in a shallow root system that can cause a Mesquite to topple during wind storms. An effective watering method used in the desert southwest involves burying a PVC pipe several feet into the ground lengthwise, then filling that pipe when watering. This allows the water to be carried down into the ground and encourages the tree roots to dig deeper to reach the water.

Desert Ironwood

The desert ironwood tree lives a very long time and is quite drought tolerant once it's established. It's such a slow grower, in fact, that it takes 20 years for the ironwood to fully mature. Some existing ironwood trees in the Sonoran Desert are 45 feet tall and have lived for 1500 years. These thorny evergreen trees produce pink or lavender flowers in May and small seed pods in early summer that provide forage for wildlife and humans alike.


About the Author


Kathy Burns-Millyard has been a professional writer since 1997. Originally specializing in business, technology, environment and health topics, Burns now focuses on home, garden and hobby interest articles. Her garden work has appeared on GardenGuides.com and other publications. She enjoys practicing Permaculture in her home garden near Tucson, Ariz.