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The Best Types of Outdoor Plants for Arizona

arizona desert image by John Keith from

The best outdoor plants for Arizona gardens include those that require little water. Native plants fit the bill perfectly, helping prevent erosion, requiring little maintenance and providing valuable sources of food and shelter for wildlife. Before choosing plants, determine what zone you live in; Arizona’s milder mountainous areas offer different challenges than the hot desert floor.

Western Blue Flax

Sporting dozens of dainty 1-to-2 inch, blue or white flowers that bloom in May through July, the drooping branches of this perennial grow up to 3 feet in height. The plant stays green during the entire growing season, making it a desirable plant for gardens and landscapes when other plants start fading. Hardy in zones 3 to 9, this plant thrives in full to partly sunny areas in well-drained soil and requires low-to-moderate water. Wildlife such as deer and birds use the plant as a food source, while smaller birds use the plant for cover.

Parry’s Penstemon

Magenta blossoms cover this native perennial, making it a showstopper in whatever location it is planted. Growing to 4 feet in height, each purplish stem features a few greenish-blue leaves, with blooms that form from February through May. Thriving in almost any well-drained soil type, this plant prefers full sun in zones 8 through 11. The blossoms of this drought-tolerant plant attract butterflies, bees and birds.

Red Yucca

Bright red or salmon-colored flowers and sword-shaped, grayish-green foliage make this plant from the Agave family an ideal choice for Arizona gardens. Best grown in zones 7 through 10, the plant grows to 5 feet in height and up to 10 feet wide. Some of the plant’s leaves stay on the plant for years. This slow-growing, drought-tolerant plant is easily grown from seed, preferring full sun in well-drained soil. The tubular flowers act as strong attractants for hummingbirds and butterflies.

Western White Clematis

This perennial vine, also referred to as old man’s beard, features green foliage and clusters of white or cream-colored flowers that bloom from May through August. The flowers are followed by silky seed plumes. Growing up to 20 feet in length, this plant thrives in zones 8 through 10 when planted in full to partial sun in well-drained soil. In hot areas, the plant requires afternoon shade and mulch to keep the roots cool. The plant works well on a trellis or fence where it attracts bees and butterflies.

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