10 Types of Desert Plants

Last Updated on April 13, 2023 by Derek

Types of plants adapted to growing in the desert
Some types of grasses can survive in the desert
Contents show

Top 10 desert plants

If you want to grow plants in your home garden, or even indoors, but you’re not too good at maintaining them, then desert plants are the best to plant. These are low maintenance plants and they can handle almost all kinds of harsh weathers.

The most famous desert plants include:

Some common desert plants

  1. Ocotillo
  2. Aloe Vera
  3. Texas purple flower Sage
  4. Pencil Plant
  5. Paddle Plant
  6. Living Stone
  7. Zebra Cactus
  8. Fox Tail Agave
  9. Desert Marigold
  10. Mexican Feather Grass

    It does not matter in what type of environment you live, you can add desert plants in your yard. They not only increase the beauty of a place, but they live longer compared to other plants. And the best part is that the desert plants comes in a large variety as well. They have different colors, sizes, shapes and textures.

    Video – 13 Mojave Desert Plants

    Desert plants shown in their natural environment – the Mojave Desert

    1. Ocotillo

    Single Ocotillo against a desert sky

    Ocotillo is a colorful desert plant having a height of about 20 to 30 feet. They have individual spiny stems and bright red colored flowers. These flowers grow at end of each branch.

    These plants bloom in the month of March and end up till June. If you give them plenty of water, then their leaves will grow up to 2 inch in length. The height of these beautiful plants can be up to 20 ft. And they have a lifespan of almost 60 to 70 years. These plants can stand high temperatures too.

    Ocotillo Care:

    Ocotillo Care
    Care Information Details
    Plant Name Ocotillo
    US Growing Zones 8-11
    Water Needs Low to moderate
    Soil Type Well-draining soil, sandy or gravelly
    Sunshine Requirements Full sun to partial shade
    Pruning Prune after flowering to control size and shape
    Propagation From stem cuttings or seeds

    You do not have to pamper this plant throughout its life. All you need is to water it now and again. In summer, you need to water it once a week. In winter, one time a month is enough. It grows best in sandy, rocky or well drained areas.

    2. Aloe Vera:

    Aloe vera is a type of desert plant that does well in pots
    Ale vera is a desert succulent known for its skin-care benefits

    Aloe Vera is one of the famous desert plants that easily grows in sunny areas. They have spiny leaves and are a triangular shape. This plant is not only famous for soothing cuts and burns, but you can also add it in your desert garden.

    There are variety of aloe Vera species that can be found. They come in different sizes, colors and textures as well. So, you can choose the one that best can fit in your garden.

    The Aloe Vera sizes ranges from 2 ft. to almost 70 ft. The leaves spread upwards and outwards as they start to grow. Usually, you can see them in green, but they can also be found in bright orange, red and yellow colors.

    Aloe Vera Care:

    Aloe Vera Care
    Aspect Watering Soil Temperature Light
    South-facing window Allow soil to dry between watering Sandy, well-draining soil 60-75°F (15-24°C) Bright, indirect light
    Fertilizer Humidity Pruning Propagation Common Pests
    Use a balanced fertilizer every 3-4 months Does not require high humidity Remove dry or damaged leaves as needed Offsets or division Mealybugs, scale insects, spider mites

    Aloe Vera is the best desert plant as it is both tolerant to bugs and drought-resistant. If you follow the below instructions, you can take care of it:

    • Sunlight exposure is must
    • Only water it when the soil is visibly dry
    • Do not overwater it

    Aloe Vera uses – NC State

    3. Texas Sage (Leucophyllum Frutescens)

    Purple Texas Sage flowers

    Having purple blooms, this is the third low maintenance desert plant. It is famously known as a desert shrub that is also drought tolerant. This plant is hardy and can withstand heat and low temperatures. This plant can grow tall up to 5 feet and is often used to combat soil erosion.

    Texas Sage usually comes in pale green color. But in summer, you can see vibrant blooms of white or purple colors. These stems blossom throughout the winter.

    Texas Sage Care:

    There are a few tips that you need to remember:

    • Place at areas where it is exposed to full sunlight
    • Water it only once a week
    Texas Sage Growing Conditions
    Plant Common Name Scientific Name US Growing Zone Hardy or Perennial Soil Type Sunshine Requirements Water Needs
    Texas Sage Leucophyllum frutescens Zones 7-11 Perennial Well-draining soil, tolerate poor soil Full sun Drought-tolerant, moderate watering in the first year after planting

    4. Mexican Feather Grass:

    Mexican Feather Grass

    You can add a wavy appearance in your garden by growing Mexican Feather Grass. It has thin, long blade clusters that create a ‘wispy’ aura. When you will get closer to them, you will see that there color seems darker from their roots. The plant seeds become pale golden and give a silky appearance in the summer.

    This plant is drought-resistant and it is perfect for hot climates. In addition, this plant can help your garden resist soil erosion.

    Mexican Feather Grass Care:

    Mexican Feather Grass Growing Conditions
    Plant Common Name Scientific Name US Growing Zone Hardy or Perennial Soil Type Sunshine Requirements Water Needs
    Mexican Feather Grass Nassella tenuissima Zones 6-10 Perennial Well-draining soil, tolerate poor soil Full sun to partial shade Drought-tolerant, occasional watering during dry periods

    Just like many other dessert plants, the Mexican Feather Grass plant is also low maintenance. Below are the few things to keep in mind:

    • Make sure it is completely exposed to sun
    • Only rainfall is enough to keep it water sufficient

    5. Pencil Plant:

    Desert Pencil Plant

    Here is another desert plant that is drought-tolerant. It is native from Africa and the branches are round. Pencil plant comes in green color naturally and it can turn yellow or coral colored under stressing environments. The appearance of leaves is smooth.

    These can grow up to 30 feet, but usually the height of these plants is seen up to 6 ft.

    Pencil Plant Care:

    Pencil Plant Growing Conditions
    Plant Common Name Scientific Name US Growing Zone Hardy or Perennial Soil Type Sunshine Requirements Water Needs
    Pencil Plant Euphorbia tirucalli Zones 9-11 Perennial Well-draining soil, tolerate poor soil Full sun to partial shade Drought-tolerant, occasional watering during dry periods

    Below are the few important things to know:

    • Exposure to sunlight
    • Water it twice a week
    • Plant in well-drained soil

    6. Living Stone:

    Living stone succulent growing in desert environment
    Living stone looks just like a … stone!

    Living stone is a show stopper of a plant with a stone like appearance. It can survive in any extreme weather. It has a slick top surface and is a low-lying succulent. It resembles the famous patterned desert stone plant.

    Living Stone Care:

    Due to its nature, this plant can survive in extreme weathers and need little or no care at all.

    Pencil Plant Growing Conditions
    Plant Common Name Scientific Name US Growing Zone Hardy or Perennial Soil Type Sunshine Requirements Water Needs
    Pencil Plant Euphorbia tirucalli Zones 9-11 Perennial Well-draining soil, tolerate poor soil Full sun to partial shade Drought-tolerant, occasional watering during dry periods

    7. Zebra Cactus:

    Zebra Cactus growing in rocky ground

    Zebra Cactus resembles Aloe Vera, but this plant have white stripes, just like zebra. If you want to add patterns in your garden, then you can pick this up. It has only one difference from aloe Vera and that is the stripes.

    The rigid leaves are dark green in color, with white stripes. The size of this plant can be up to 5 inches. Moreover, it is a slow-growing plant.

    Zebra Cactus Care:

    Zebra Cactus Growing Conditions
    Plant Common Name Scientific Name US Growing Zone Hardy or Perennial Soil Type Sunshine Requirements Water Needs
    Zebra Cactus Haworthia attenuata Zones 9-11 Perennial Well-draining soil, sandy soil Partial shade to bright, indirect light Low to moderate watering

    These plants can survive in harsh climates, so there is little care needed.

    8. Desert Marigold:

    Group of Desert Marigold

    With bright yellow flowers and 2 inch diameter, the desert marigold attracts everyone. You can add a splash of color in your garden with this plant.

    It can grow almost 2 ft. tall and spreads wide. This plant has yellow florets at every end of each stem, which bloom in spring and last the whole summer.

    Desert Marigold Care:

    Desert Marigold Growing Conditions
    Plant Common Name Scientific Name US Growing Zone Hardy or Perennial Soil Type Sunshine Requirements Water Needs
    Desert Marigold Baileya multiradiata Zones 8-10 Perennial Well-draining soil, sandy soil Full sun Drought-tolerant, occasional watering during dry periods

    The care for this plant is not difficult at all as it is mostly self-sufficient.

    9. Fox Tail Agave:

    Single Fox Tail Agave growing in sandy desert

    If you want to grow a plant in sandy and acidic soil, then Fox Tail Agave is for you. It is an evergreen plant and has leaves of triangular shape.

    These are have upward curving leaves, giving a cupped look. The width of this plant can be up to 4 feet and length is about the same.

    Fox Tail Agave Care:

    Fox Tail Agave Growing Conditions
    Plant Common Name Scientific Name US Growing Zone Hardy or Perennial Soil Type Sunshine Requirements Water Needs
    Fox Tail Agave Agave attenuata Zones 9-11 Perennial Well-draining soil, sandy soil, rocky soil Partial sun to partial shade Drought-tolerant, occasional watering during dry periods

    This plant is sensitive to various desert conditions. Below are the things to remember:

    • Exposure to full sunlight
    • Soil should be rocky, acidic and sandy.

    10. Paddle Plant:

    Paddle plants thrive in the desert
    Paddle plants is perfectly adapted to dry desert conditions

    Here is another well known plant that is becoming the most popular desert plants. It features bright red colored edges of green leaves, so an interesting addition to your garden.

    Paddle Plant Care:

    Paddle Plant Growing Conditions
    Plant Common Name Scientific Name US Growing Zone Hardy or Perennial Soil Type Sunshine Requirements Water Needs
    Paddle Plant Kalanchoe thyrsiflora Zones 9-11 Perennial Well-draining soil, sandy soil, rocky soil Full sun to partial shade Low to moderate watering, drought-tolerant

    These plants are drought resistant, so they are really easy to grow.

    10 Desert plants with names chart (common and scientific)

    Common NamesScientific Names
    OcotilloFouquieria Splendens
    Aloe VeraAloe barbadensis miller
    Texas SageLeucophyllum frutescens
    Pencil PlantEuphorbia tirucalli
    Paddle PlantWidow’s Thrill (Kalanchoe)
    Living StoneLithops
    Zebra CactusHaworthiopsis attenuata
    Fox Tail AgaveAgave Attenuata
    Desert MarigoldBaileya
    Mexican Feather GrassNassella tenuissima
    Table of common desert plant names, common and biological

    Desert plants for kids (easy to grow indoors)

    1. Elephant Tree:

    Elephant Tree leaves

    You can grow this plant inside your house as it is small in size and looks cool with its thick trunk, which is used for storing water. It produces small, star shaped flowers which are in white or cream colors.

    Elephant Tree Growing Conditions
    Plant Common Name Scientific Name US Growing Zone Hardy or Perennial Soil Type Sunshine Requirements Water Needs
    Elephant Tree Bursera microphylla Zones 8-11 Perennial Well-draining soil, rocky soil, sandy soil Full sun to partial shade Low to moderate watering, drought-tolerant

    2. Organ Pipe Cactus:

    Organ Pipe Cactus cluster

    Another plant that kids can grow easily is Organ Pipe Cactus. It is found in rocky deserts of US and Mexico. It has narrow stems and relatively small trunk. It can survive till 150 years. The best part is that it produces fruits and flowers that are light pink or purple in color.

    Organ Pipe Cactus Growing Conditions
    Plant Common Name Scientific Name US Growing Zone Hardy or Perennial Soil Type Sunshine Requirements Water Needs
    Organ Pipe Cactus Stenocereus thurberi Zones 9-11 Perennial Well-draining soil, sandy soil Full sun to partial shade Low to moderate watering, drought-tolerant

    3. Desert Sage:

    If you want to motivate your kids to grow plants, then desert shrub is a great low maintenance desert plant to start them off. It grows up to 2 to 3 meters tall and is a deep blue color. In addition, they are evergreen plants.

    Desert Sage Growing Conditions
    Plant Common Name Scientific Name US Growing Zone Hardy or Perennial Soil Type Sunshine Requirements Water Needs
    Desert Sage Salvia dorrii Zones 4-9 Perennial Well-draining soil, sandy soil Full sun Low to moderate watering, drought-tolerant

    4. Desert Marigold:

    The desert marigold is easy to grow for kids
    Marigold adaptation for dry desert growth

    Desert Marigold is one of the best plants recommended for you to help grow with your children. It looks beautiful in light and is also low maintenance plant.

    5. Saguaro:

    Saguaro cactus

    Kids love to grow cactus. Saguaro is one of the easiest cactus species to grow and produces lovely white and yellow flowers. It also produces red ruby fruit.

    Saguaro Growing Conditions
    Plant Common Name Scientific Name US Growing Zone Hardy or Perennial Soil Type Sunshine Requirements Water Needs
    Saguaro Carnegiea gigantea Zones 9-11 Perennial Well-draining soil, sandy soil Full sun Low to moderate watering, drought-tolerant

    Desert plants adaptations – how do desert plants survive?

    Desert plants are true survivors, compared to other plants in similar conditions. There are several reasons why they can survive best, but three properties in these plants make them quite different.

    The three strategies they adopt are succulence, drought tolerance, and drought avoidance.

    Succulence:

    Such plants have an ability to store water in their roots, stems or fleshy leaves. Almost all types of cactuses are succulent.

    Drought Tolerance:

    Some plants have an ability to withstand drought. Such plants shed leaves in dry periods and enter deep dormancy. When the season is normal, they come back to life. But there are some plants that do not shed leaves as their leaves have a coating that reduces water loss.

    Drought Avoidance:

    Another characteristic in desert plants is drought avoidance. These plants mature in only one season and then they die, and they produce seeds on dying.

    5 flowering desert plants

    Below are top 5 flowering plants:

    1. 1. Arizona Poppy
    2. 2. Desert Marigold
    3. 3. Tacoma stans
    4. 4. Prickly Pear
    5. 5. Ice plant

    If you’d like to learn more about flowering desert plants, check out our article on desert flowers.

    FAQ

    What are the 5 desert plants?

    1. Ocotillo
    2. Aloe Vera
    3. Texas Sage
    4. Pencil Plant
    5. Paddle Plant

    What plants grow in deserts?

    Plants that are succulent, drought resistant and have drought avoidance properties can survive in desert.

    How many different plants are in the desert?

    There are thousands of plants. These include flowering, non-flowering and variations. Most are succulents or shrubs (very few of these) or grasses.

    Which tree is found in desert?

    There are a lot of categories, but the famous ones are mesquite trees, Smoke trees, and ponderosa pines etc.

    What are desert plants?

    Desert plants are a group of plants that have adapted to survive in arid environments with extreme temperatures and minimal water.

    What are some examples of desert plants?

    Some examples of desert plants include cacti, succulents, yuccas, agaves, and Joshua trees.

    How do desert plants survive in such extreme conditions?

    Desert plants have a variety of adaptations that allow them to survive in their harsh environments. These adaptations can include specialized root systems that allow them to absorb water quickly, thick stems and leaves that store water, and a reduced surface area to minimize water loss through transpiration.

    Can desert plants be grown in other environments?

    Yes, many desert plants can be grown in other environments as long as their specific needs for water, sunlight, and temperature are met. Some popular desert plants like cacti and succulents are commonly grown as houseplants or in gardens in areas with milder climates.

    What are some benefits of desert plants?

    Desert plants can have a variety of benefits, including their ability to store water and provide shade and shelter for desert animals. Some desert plants also have medicinal properties, and many are used for ornamental purposes in landscaping and gardening.

    Other resources relating to Desert Plants

    25 Desert Plants (With Pictures and Names) – Leafy Place

    127 Stunning Desert Plants – FTD.com

    Desert Plants – Cactus – Wildflowers – Flora – DesertUSA

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