19 Plants That Live in the Desert (With Pictures)

Plants That Live in the Desert
Photo by Jo Jo on Unsplash

Plants that live in the desert flourish in hot, dry climates where they can endure little to no precipitation.

Sand or stony soil, high temperatures, and limited rainfall are the characteristics of the desert biome. 

Plants that thrive in arid climates must have large roots or store moisture in their meaty leaves.

Cacti are the most frequent plants found in deserts, although other plants that thrive there include succulents, desert trees, grasses, and other kinds of tiny shrubs and blooming bushes.

A list of some of the most prevalent plants that live in the desert biome may be found in our article.

The greatest plants to grow in your yard can be identified with the help of photographs, scientific names, and descriptions of these well-known desert plants.

Now, let’s get going on the list of plants that live in the desert

1. Prickly Pear Cactus

Prickly Pear Cactus 
by Dallas Krentzel is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This is the first on our list of plants that live in the desert. The classic desert cactus, the prickly pear, has spine-covered, green, succulent leaves resembling pads.

These are a few of the most prevalent plants that may be found in the southwestern desert regions of the United States.

Since the thick, meaty leaves retain a lot of moisture, the plant can thrive in an arid environment.

When conditions are ideal, the prickly pear cactus blooms in desert areas. The vivid blooms in shades of yellow, purple, and red contribute to the color of desolate, dry landscapes.

These enormous desert cacti resemble rabbit ears cacti and can reach heights of 16 to 23 feet (5 to 7 meters).

2. Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree
by eleephotography is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This is the next on our list of plants that live in the desert. The Joshua tree is one kind of yucca plant that thrives in the desert.

Other names for this drought-tolerant desert plant that resembles a tree are palm tree yucca and yucca palm.

The massive sun-loving plant, native to Arizona, Utah, California, and Nevada, can reach up to 50 feet (15 meters). Due to its slow growth, the tree could take many years to reach that height.

The massive Joshua tree in the desert receives hydration from the dry environment through its extensive root system. Green leaves with spikes adorn the short, stumpy branches.

The Joshua tree seems bare because of the bunches of leaves that form at the tips of its thick branches.

3. Curve Leaf Yucca

Curve Leaf Yucca
by Futureman1 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

In arid regions, yucca plants that live in the desert heat and little water are widely distributed.

In the southern U.S. states, these desert-dwelling plants are frequently grown as attractive plants.

This desert plant features stiff, tall upper leaves that taper to a sharp point and lower leaves that curl backward.

Like other plants that flourish in arid environments, this type of yucca grows in sandy soil on coastal dunes.

The dense trunk reaches a height of 4 to 5 feet (1.2 to 1.5 meters) at its peak. When they bloom, Yucca desert plants produce fragrant, huge clusters of white flowers.

4. Golden Barrel Cactus

Golden Barrel Cactus
by 狐☯忠 ❂ Fidelis is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Our list of plants in the desert also includes the golden barrel cactus, which resembles a big, round, spiky globe.

A crown of tiny yellow blossoms accompanies the spherical green cactus’s strong yellow or white spines. 

In full sun and hot, dry conditions, these hardy desert plants make excellent additions to rock gardens or landscapes.

With a 30-year lifespan, golden barrel cacti are slow-growing desert plants. The low-growing, spherical plant has the potential to grow up to 3 feet (1 meter) in height. 

Due to habitat loss, these cacti are becoming less common in desert areas, although they make wonderful specimen plants when grown in yards.

You can cultivate them in containers or plant them in your yard’s sandy, well-draining soil.

5. Saguaro Cactus

Saguaro Cactus
by psyberartist is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This desert plant is enormous, as its scientific name implies. Images of desert landscapes frequently feature this huge cactus with its massive, upward-curving branches resembling arms.

This plant can withstand the driest of conditions because of the moisture-storing capacity of its thick columnar stem. 

These common desert plants can be found in the arid, scorching regions of northern Mexico and the southwest United States.

The largest cactus to grow in the desert habitat is the saguaro cactus. 

In the desert, these floral plants also bloom from April through June. Large, trumpet-shaped white blooms draw hummingbirds and honeybees, among other pollinators.

Even though they can reach a height of 52 feet (16 meters), these cacti grow slowly. Therefore, saguaro cacti are a great option to create a desert environment in your yard.

6. Organ Pipe Cactus

Organ Pipe Cactus
by koertwilmink is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Due to its long, succulent stems that resemble pipe organs, the organ pipe cactus truly lives up to its name.

The thick, ribbed stems of these widespread desert plants, which can reach 16 feet (5 meters), are coated in sharp spines. 

These plants’ huge, delicious fruits made them valuable to desert inhabitants. Some say that the mouthwatering fruits of this shrub taste even better than watermelon.

These tolerant to drought desert plants thrive in gardens with lots of sun and little shade. Sow them in sandy soil that drains well, like most succulents and cacti.

The Sonoran Desert in Arizona and Mexico is home to the cacti in their natural habitat.

7. Brittlebush

by ewen and donabel is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This is the next on our list of plants that live in the desert. One of the most prevalent desert shrubs in Mexico and the southern states is brittlebush.

As its common name implies, the brittlebush has stiff, easily broken stems. When in flower, this low-growing shrub adds color to the desert landscape. 

In the little clumps of dried vegetation, yellow blooms appear. The bushy plant loses its leaves during dry seasons and must rely on the moisture in its stems to survive in the scorching desert.

8. Creosote Bush

Creosote Bush
by mmmavocado is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Greasewood is another name for this resistant flowering desert shrub indigenous to deserts.

The evergreen shrub has delicate yellow blossoms and draws moisture from the deep, arid soil through its extensive root system. 

The common name of this bushy desert plant comes from its aroma, a combination of chemicals derived from coal tar and creosote.

Mature creosote bush plants can withstand severe drought and temperatures as high as 160°F (70°C).

9. Ghost Plant

Ghost Plant
by Will_89 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

A particular kind of succulent known as a “ghost plant” can grow in various environments, including the hot desert.

Other popular names for these desert-dwelling plants include sedum weinbergii and mother-of-pearl plant. This is a native Mexican ground cover plant. 

The plant is also known as the porcelain succulent because of the rosette-shaped succulent leaves that it produces.

These plants in the desert also look stunning in an open terrarium, as tiny houseplants, or in a rock garden.

10. Red Pancake

The common names for this little succulent living in the desert, such as flapjacks, paddle plants, desert cabbage, and red pancake, largely refer to the plant’s leaves.

The big, spherical, meaty leaves have a blue-green hue with crimson flushing along the margins. The desert succulent produces yellow waxy blossoms.

These low-water desert plants don’t need much care in a full-sun garden. The leaves’ fleshy texture retains moisture, and the intense sun aids in maintaining their color.

11. Fox Tail Agave

Fox Tail Agave
by jennyhsu47 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The fox tail agave grows well in the hot deserts of the Southwest. Images of these arid plants indicate that they are members of the Aloe family.

These enormous desert plants, nevertheless, belong to a distinct family.

One of the most common agave plants in the desert is the fox tail agave. Large, prickly leaves bunch together, giving the plant a bluish-green look.

With so much moisture, these succulent leaves can withstand the arid conditions of the desert. In both dry and subtropical regions, fox tail agave plants are commonly attractive garden plants.

12. Mexican Feather Grass

Mexican Feather Grass
by stealingsand is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

This is the next on our list of plants that live in the desert. Mexican feather grass is an ornamental grass that can withstand drought in the desert and grows well in full light.

This resistant desert plant is also known as fine-leaved nassella, Mexican feather grass, and fine-stem needlegrass.

With its delicate, wispy blades, this desert grass can visually interest a desert landscape or appealing rock garden.

13. Tumbleweed

by Randy Son Of Robert is licensed under CC BY 2.0

A typical scene from Wild West films is tumbleweed sweeping across desolate desert highways. Desert plants of many different kinds give rise to tumbleweeds. 

When the plant breaks out from the root system, it becomes a ball of light-colored, dry weed.

Its other popular name, the Russian thistle, suggests it is indigenous to the western United States and Russia.

The plant spreads seeds that aid in reproducing this invasive species as it blows through the desolate desert terrain.

14. Desert Marigold

Desert Marigold
by HockeyholicAZ is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Flowering perennials and desert marigolds are found in Arizona, California, Utah, and Mexico deserts.

The blooming desert flora makes an arid, lifeless desert more colorful. Large disc blooms bloom from spring to summer when the weather is hottest.

If you reside in a desert area, these sun-loving desert plants are a great option for your garden. You may have lovely yellow flowers all year long with minimal care.

15. Desert Lily

Desert Lily
by Rob.Bertholf is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The next plant on our list of desert-dwelling plants is the desert lily. Not just succulents and cacti can withstand the intense heat of the desert.

The desert lily is a common flowering desert plant in the Southwest and Mexico. 

This heat-tolerant plant is actually more closely related to agave plants, as indicated by its family name.

Still, the bluish-gray shrub bears huge white flowers that resemble lilies, which is why it is also called desert lily.

The desert lily is a plant that can reach a height of six feet (1.8 meters) and is unique to the desert.

16. Jumping Cholla

Jumping Cholla
by treegrow is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The leaping cholla is a common tree-like desert plant in Arizona’s Sonoran desert and some areas of California. Tree-cactus-tree hybrid, this plant thrives in the desert. 

The plant has a large trunk that is topped by branches. The barbs on these branches can cause agony if they come into contact with your flesh.

The jumping cholla desert tree bears pink and white flowers with lavender patterns and can reach around 13 feet (4 meters).

17. Ocotillo

by desertdutchman is licensed under CC BY 2.0

A frequent term for a particular kind of tall, green desert cactus is ocotillo. This plant is known as candlewood, thin wood, desert coral, and vine cactus.

Common cacti can be found in California, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico.

This is the plant that changes when it rains in the desert. The arid, bare stems swell with hydration, produce lush leaves, and bloom brilliant crimson blooms.

18. Yellow Palo Verde

Yellow Palo Verde
by Kitt O’Malley is licensed under CC BY 2.0

One of the most prevalent native plants in the desert is the yellow palo verde, a massive desert tree.

The foliage of this kind of palo verde tree is yellowish-green, and it typically reaches a height of around 16 feet (5 meters). 

As a deciduous tree, the yellow palo verde sheds its leaves during hot, dry seasons.

Because of the photosynthesis in its green bark, the yellow palo verde tree can withstand the severe conditions of the desert.

Like many other desert plants, flowers emerge following precipitation.

19. Mojave Aster

Mojave Aster
by Monkeystyle3000 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This is the last on our list of plants that live in the desert, known also as Mojave woody aster; this is one of the most beautiful flowering plants found in the desert.

The plant, which is native to the Mojave Desert and goes by the same common name, bears big, daisy-like flowers. The petals appear lavender, with white rays emanating from a yellow core.

The Great Basin Desert and the Sonoran Desert are also home to the lovely Mojave aster flowers.

It frequently grows among other desert flora like creosote bushes, Joshua trees, and saltbush scrubs.

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