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Outdoor Plants That Handle Extreme Heat Very Well

By Kathy Burns-Millyard ; Updated September 21, 2017

There are a wide variety of cactus plants that make wonderful additions to almost any garden because they're so unique in texture, color and growth habits. Many cactus plants produce flowers of different colors and unique shapes. In addition to cactus, there are a number of other types of plants that grow and thrive in extremely hot areas. The biggest difference you may notice is that leaves and stems of heat-tolerant desert plants tend to be a bit grayish and hairy or prickly.

Prickly Pear Cactus

The prickly pear cactus is a favorite choice for first time cactus gardeners because many varieties stay small and unobtrusive, yet they're different enough to add variety to any garden. Prickly pear cactus have flat pads which look a bit like fat, pale leaves. The pads are littered with sharp spines and barbed clusters that can be difficult to remove when they prick the skin. Most prickly pear cactus produce yellow, red or purple flowers. They also produce edible fruit, and the thick pads are commonly made into jelly in the Southwest.

Smaller variations of this cactus grow just a foot tall while larger variations can get over 6 feet in height. They grow well in poor, rough and rocky soil and can survive for months at a time without water.

Desert Mallow

Desert Mallow is an upright plant with grayish-green, hairy stems and leaves. It grows 2 to 3 feet tall, loves heat and full sun and produces numerous buttercup-shaped coral or apricot-colored flowers.

Desert Mallow is a drought tolerant plant that handles sun, heat and poor soil conditions well but does best with more fertile soil. Once it's established it can survive with very little water and it spreads naturally on its own from seed. You can spread it manually by dividing, and it will produce more blooms for a longer period of time with a little extra water.

California Poppy

In California, the cheerful orange blooms of poppy flowers begins around the 1st of March and continue through the end of May. The California poppy is a native wildflower that sprouts up each spring from Washington state to Baja California all the way over to the western parts of Texas. It's purposely planted in urban gardens because of the bright colorful flowers and tolerance for high heat and sun.

Like other heat and drought tolerant plants, the California poppy has lacy grayish or bluish green hairy leaves and stems. It's a small plant that grows just 12 to 18 inches tall, with 4 flower petals opening up to 2 to 3 inches in diameter. Poppies close their flower petals at night, when it's cold or windy and sometimes on cloudy days. The most common native varieties sport yellow to bright orange flowers but plant breeders have been creating varieties with white, yellow, purple and red blooms in recent years.


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.