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Pictures of Plants: Blooming in the Desert SW USA, Arizona

Updated on April 22, 2013


Modified version of the Argentine Cactus.  Blooms prolifically.  A real stunner!!
Modified version of the Argentine Cactus. Blooms prolifically. A real stunner!! | Source

Arizona Landscaping Totem

Packs of coyotes DO live here and DO yip and howl during the night.  Keep the kitties indoors!
Packs of coyotes DO live here and DO yip and howl during the night. Keep the kitties indoors! | Source

Guide of Low-Water-Use Plants for the Arizona Desert

The Arizona Sonoran desert receives about 7” of rain a year. Most of that rain beats down during the late summer Monsoon season. The plants that do well here are ones that have adapted to the climate zone. The wise home owner can have both a low water xeriscape yard and a beautiful yard.

Desert plants can provide a dramatic water efficient landscaping. Here are a few plants that will make your yard a theater of beauty in the spring and yet be hardy year around.

These pictures were all taken within the Sun City Arizona community.


Smaller clumping cactus.
Smaller clumping cactus. | Source


Dramatic blooms in the spring.
Dramatic blooms in the spring. | Source


There are many cacti that are natural to the Sonoran desert area. Many plants are from other desert like climate zones.

These cacti are just a small example of all the cacti that a home owner may select. Here are some pictures of some particularly beautiful blooming cacti. They are great favorites of the birds and the hummingbirds.

The first cactus (bright orange) appears to be the Argentine Hedgehog cactus. The blooms are very fragrant as well as beautiful. This plant is native to Argentina and the Latin name is Trichocereus huascha. The blooms generally show themselves at night but are stunners in the sunlight too. It is a clumping cactus.

The colors are stunning and provide a nice focal point or show piece for a yard.

The second plant is also a very showy cactus but it clumps tighter. It is more suitable to a smaller area. The third cactus grows a bit higher off the ground and spreads more. Be sure to know the growth patterns of the cactus.

When looking for such basic cacti, it is best to go to a cactus nursery and LOOK. There are so many names and species that you would need your very own degree to discern many types! Also, there are more types of cactus being developed and introduced each year. Read what is on the cactus description and select what will work for the area that you are landscaping.

Cacti are well adapted and all use little water and can bear up in the most brutal of summer suns. Do pay attention to how tolerant the cacti are to a drop in temperature. Cacti are tolerant to the low temperatures that happen in the desert. However, some are resistant down to zero and others may die at 24°. Yes, the there are cold spells in the desert. These cold spells are infrequent but they do happen.

Prickly Pear Cactus

A bit wilder looking and taller cactus clump.
A bit wilder looking and taller cactus clump. | Source

Prickly Pear Cactus

The Prickly Pear Cactus is native to the Sonoran and Mojave deserts. It needs little water and will take the most brutal of summer suns. The blooms are generally magenta to pink to yellow. It is considered an evergreen and is replete with spines.

Many desert small animals love to live in the prickly pear cactus as well as dine on the fruit. Many tourists purchase the prickly pear jelly in gift stores. Locals do not purchase the prickly pear jelly in gift stores.

Generally, the prickly pear cactus will spread and much as the home owner allows it to spread. It is temperature resistant to 15°.


Flame beautiful deciduous drought tolerant plant.
Flame beautiful deciduous drought tolerant plant. | Source

Ocotillo, Crown of Thorns

The Ocotillo (oh-coh-TEE-yo) is an old standby in the desert Southwest. The Ocotillo or commonly named Crown of Thorns grows tall and produces flaming orange flowers each spring. If it were a person it would be a drama queen/king.

For years it was used as a natural fence in many backyards. The spines are fearsome and will stop most any creature!

The Ocotillo is a desert drought resistant deciduous plant. It becomes dormant in the winter and will look (deceptively) very dead! However, in the spring it bursts into bright flame spears of flowers that are a favorite of both birds and bees. It will develop seeds when pollinated by the bees.

These are very easy to locate at almost any native gardening store. They may be planted in a location suitable for a large size dramatic plant. They may also be planted close together to make a fence.

Ocotillos are resistant to a 10° temperature drop

Palo Verde

A beautiful tree year around.  Blooms only in the spring.
A beautiful tree year around. Blooms only in the spring. | Source

Palo Verde Tree: The State Tree of Arizona

The Palo Verde Tree (PAH-lo-VER-day) tree produces masses of stunning small yellow flowers each spring. The tree produces many seed filled pods too. Desert animals prize the seeds in the pods as food and bury the seeds for later consumption. As you may guess, many of these buried pods are forgotten and little Palo Verde Trees are born.

The tree itself has a beautiful pale green bark that performs photosynthesis like leaves do. During drought times the leaves will fall off the trees. When it rains the tree will grow more leaves.

Spring breezes are often filled with the lacy Palo Verde flower petals. The shower of pale flowers is quite beautiful Some people consider the tree a messy tree.

Besides being very beautiful, it is a favorite low water use tree. It is not tolerant of temperature drops of 15°.

Soaptree Yucca

For larger spaces.  Very dramatic.
For larger spaces. Very dramatic. | Source

Soaptree Yucca

The Soaptree Yucca is native to the Southwest USA and Mexico. It is tolerant to zero degree temperatures, is a low water plant, and will handle the full desert sun.

However, it needs a big area to grow into. The drama of the flowers in the spring draws both bees and birds. It grows tall and spreads wide. Unless you are a hardy gardening type the Soaptree Yucca will require your hiring a gardener to control the growth of this hardy plant!

Still, it is a dramatic yard entrance plant that will NOT encourage intruders.

Banana Yucca

A smaller yucca but still needs room.
A smaller yucca but still needs room. | Source

Banana Yucca

The Banana Yucca also produces a beautiful white cluster of flowers on tall stalks. However, it takes less space than the Soaptree Yucca. The Banana Yucca is native to the Southwest USA and can also tolerate temperatures as low as zero. It is a very low water use plant that also tolerates the desert sun. Most gardeners can handle trimming and upkeep of the Banana Yucca.

The plant is very dramatic and looks nice year around when used as a focal point.

Money Tree


Money Trees


Nemus Viaticus: Tree of Money

Admit it, I had you at the name of the tree.

These trees are popping up virtually overnight. They are similar in looks to the Boojum tree or a palm. However, they bear no genus relation to those trees.

Okay, they are cell phone and communication towers. The local churches are placing such towers on their property. Such towers are profit centers for the property owner, hence the name Money Tree.

If you don’t scrutinize these towers, they do fit into the surrounding flora.

Now, smile and go xeriscape your yard!


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    • Gypsy48 profile image


      5 years ago

      The photos are beautiful, love the Argentine cactus. What a beautiful time of year.

    • NMLady profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from New Mexico & Arizona

      Thnx onegreenparachute.... have a safe trip home! Our neighbors just left for parts north yesterday!!

    • onegreenparachute profile image


      5 years ago from Greenwood, B.C., Canada

      What great pictures! We are just outside Phoenix and the cacti are all blooming here too. We usually head home by the beginning of April so these beautiful blooms are new to us! I must admit to sneezing and sniffling though. Great hub!

      Up and shared.

    • NMLady profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from New Mexico & Arizona

      Stephanie....thanks and I will link to you!!

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 

      5 years ago from USA

      I enjoyed your hub and all the beautiful photographs! It proves that you can have beauty around you even in very arid climates. Love the "money tree", hadn't come across that one before! LOL! I'd love to link this article to my hub on Arizona Desert Wildflowers! Voted up and beautiful. Shared!

    • NMLady profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from New Mexico & Arizona

      Hi My Cook Book, thanks for the comment and the visit!

    • My Cook Book profile image

      Dil Vil 

      5 years ago from India

      Hey sdzulu , that was very funny! Well NMLady , the hub was well written. The pics are absolutely amazing.

    • NMLady profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from New Mexico & Arizona

      too funny sdzulu!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      The desert is beautiful when it is blooming! The cell towers are especially interesting. Picture an environmentalist using their cell phone to call someone and complain about the fake trees.


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