22 Types of Desert Plants with Pictures

People living in desert areas may be forgiven if they thought they could not enjoy the thrill and fulfillment of gardening just because their land is dry. In this article we ll get to know Different Types of Desert Plants that you can use to beautify your garden space.

With millions of plant species, there are plants for every region in the world. Most homeowners with desert lands leave their desert landscape bare without any additions because growing tropical plants will cost them a lot in maintenance and water cost.

Why grow strange plants when there are adept plants that’ll grow superbly in your climate? That is all about this article. Helping you change your bare land and or those plants that are costing you too much on water. We know how expensive water bills can be in desert areas.

types of desert plants

Characteristics of Desert Plants

What makes desert plants unique? Why are they classified as ‘desert plants’? How are they able to thrive in the desert ground? These are some of the questions that’ll be answered here.

  • They usually have smaller leaves and stems: One-way desert plants have adapted to survive in the desert with little water. They have small leaves and branches and are typically short; this is to concentrate the water in a smaller region instead of spreading it across a wider surface.
  • Water storing plants: Some other plants adapted to storing water when it is plentiful for use during short periods. They keep them in their thick leaves or stems. This allows them to continue growing even when there is no rainfall.
  • Dormancy: Some plant species learned how to go dormant during harsh weather with no rainfall and resume growing when rains. The weather becomes more conducive. 
  • Nocturnal plants: These plants adapted to the desert conditions by opening up only at night when the weather is more relaxed, and the sun has set. This way, they lose very little water.

22 Types of Desert Plants

The desert is characterized by dryness, long and too sunny days, and a rocky landscape. What kind of plants can grow in this rocky environment? Let’s take a look at 22 desert plants to add in your desert landscape or garden.

 1. Mojave Aster

Types of Desert Plants

I decided to start with this brightly colored flower to show you your desert plant doesn’t have to be boring. The Mojave aster is a member of the sunflower family and is a great plant to grow if you want to attract some butterflies to your garden. It grows on rocky elevations between 2,000 and 5,500 feet.

2. Sand Verbena

Sand Verbena desert plant

As the name implies, this desert plant loves to grow in sandy areas with elevations lower than 1500 feet. If your land is sandy with a lot of dunes, then this plant will fit nicely. It has creeping vines with bright purple flowers shaped like a trumpet.

3. Arizona Poppy Desert Plant

 type of desert plants

This bright yellow wildflower is sometimes called the summer poppy. This seemingly tender plant can withstand the harsh desert condition because of its extensive root system. Its taproot can grow as long as 9 inches while its lateral roots as long as 8 inches. It blooms between July and October. So, if you’re looking for a bright look in your desert landscape, then you should consider this.

4. Domestic Agave

Domestic Agave desert plant

While many people are familiar with the blue agave because of its use in making tequila, not many people know there are dozens of other agave species found in the US. Its slender leaves with pointy edges characterize this plant.

5. Barrel Cactus

Barrel Cactus

Cactus is the most popular desert plant with several species for you to pick. The barrel cactus species is one out of several cactus species that can grace your desert land. It is a low desert plant that can make the right-center of attraction in your garden.

6. Saguaro Cactus

Saguaro Cactus desert plant

If you want to go out of the norm and grow a taller desert plant, then the saguaro cactus is the perfect plant for you. It can grow up to 40 feet tall and can raise the landscape of your garden. It survives the harsh desert conditions by storing water in its stems.

7. Hedgehog Cactus

Hedgehog Cactus desert plant

This is another low desert plant with prickly stems. These plants are brown and match seamlessly into your desert landscape because of its color. They also produce beautiful purple flowers when they bloom.

8. Desert Willow

Desert Willow

This is a highly tolerant wildflower that is comfortable in low desert areas. They blossom into bright flowers with red and white patches. Its shrubs are rapidly growing and can grow as long as 30 feet.

9. Hibiscus 

types of desert plants

The hibiscus flower loves to grow in warm weather under a lot of sunlight and would thrive in desert landscapes. This is an ornamental plant that’ll raise the aesthetics of your home and surrounding. Its reddish flowers are even used to make tea in some climes. This tea is rich in vitamin C.

10. Bismarck Palmetto

types of desert plants

These are substantial desert trees native to Madagascar. Your desert addition doesn’t always have to be shrubs and flowers. Trees look awesome too in a typically tropical landscape, and the Bismarck palmetto is no different. Its silvery-blue leaves and the mahogany-colored trunk will surely draw a lot of attention.

11. Ficus Desert Plant

types of desert plant

Ficus, also known as fig trees, are popular desert plants because of their dense green leaves and ability to provide shade, a scarce commodity in the desert. There are over 900 ficus species to choose from, so you’re almost sure to find one that suits your needs.

12. Queen Palm

types of desert plants

The queen palm loves to grow in warm climates and will do well in desert areas. They grow as tall as 50 feet and spread their branches as wide as 25 feet. They have a high tolerance for harsh weather conditions.

13. Date Palm

date Palm desert plant

Known for its sweet fruits, the date palm is a unique Type of Desert Plant that originated from Iraq and has been commonly grown in North Africa. If you live in a desert area and would love to plant a tree your kids would love, you can’t do wrong with date palm. 

14. Salvia 

varieties of desert plants

Also known as sage, the salvia plant is an aromatic plant that is resistant to drought. It would grow comfortably in your desert landscape with little or no maintenance. This shrub produces blue flowers and can create a nice contrast in your garden.

15. Ocotillo 

type of desert plants

Ocotillo is known as candlewood or desert coral in some climes. It is unique among the types of Desert Plants with slender stems. The ocotillo plant goes into mild dormancy when there is no rain, with its branches looking like a dead stick. However, it springs to life immediately when there is rainfall, producing its brightly colored orange flowers.

16. Emu Bush

desert plants varieties

This desert shrub produces several flower colors when it blooms, from pink to orange and yellow. Grape like berries then follows after the flowering stage.

17. Brittlebush 

desert plants types

The brittlebush is a shrub that produces brittle stems that can easily break under tension. One of the major attractions of this flower is the colorful flowers it has. The brittlebush can brighten your landscape. It goes into dormancy during dry weather by losing its leaves and using the water stored in its stem. Talking about Types of Desert Plants, this one is sure to have on the list.

18. Creosote Bush

desert plants

Also known as greasewood and is native to arid deserts. The evergreen plant produces yellow flowers with its extensive root system going deep into the desert soil, searching for water. It can survive extreme drought and heat.

19. Ghost Plant

types of desert plants

This is one of the many succulent species that survive in diverse weather conditions, including the hot desert. This succulent grows in a rosette form and covers the ground nicely. It can also be grown indoors and in open terrarium glasses.

20. Red Pancake

desert plants

Some of its common names are flapjacks, paddle plants, and desert cabbage, and they are all describing the leaves of this plant. It has round fleshy leaves with patches of blue, green, and red. They produce waxy yellow flowers. Their fleshy leaves help them store water for use during dry periods.

21. Pinyon Pine

desert garden

This is a desert tree that grows up to 30 feet and produces pine nuts, an essential ingredient for pesto, a famous pasta sauce. The tree can withstand extreme drought.

22. Cliffrose

types of desert plant

Cliffrose is a member of the rose family and grows comfortably in desert areas. You can grow this species from its cuttings to get the same plant. It grows in high elevations between 3,500 and 8,000 feet, and its flowers make excellent nectar for bees and butterflies.


Dry, monotonous desert landscapes are a thing of the past; these Types of Desert Plants will take your gardens to a whole new height. From trees to shrubs and flowers, the list is almost limitless. 

You can now grow the garden of your dreams even if you live in areas with minimal rainfall. I’m curious to know what other plants you have succeeded in your desert garden. Tell me in the comment box.

About Jennifer Igra

Growing up in Brooklyn, New York City known for it’s green gardens. Jennifer, a 30 year old gardener and green living fanatic started Igra World to share her gardening journey and increase gardening awareness among masses. Follow Igra World to improve your gardening skills.

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