The Best Flowers for a Southwest Garden Oasis

Team McFly Sep 16, 2023
5 People Read
Table of Contents
  1. Drought-Tolerant Beauties for Your Southwest Garden
    1. Flowering Succulent Evergreens
    2. Here is a list of suggested flowers:
    3. Short Flowering Shrubs
    4. Here is a list of suggested shrubs:
    5. Drought Tolerant Bunch Grasses
    6. Mexican feather grass / Muhly grasses
    7. Long-Lived Flowers
    8. Short-Lived Flowers
    9. Recent Featured Posts:

Drought-Tolerant Beauties for Your Southwest Garden

Flowers are an excellent way to add vibrant color and interest to the Southwest garden. Many plants are available, many of which have even been adapted for our climate.

When selecting flowers for your garden, ensure they thrive in your region's hardiness zone and receive enough sun exposure to grow optimally.

Flowering Succulent Evergreens

Southwest gardens often employ native plants that can withstand hot climates and require less upkeep. Popular examples include many flowering succulent evergreens.

Here is a list of suggested flowers:

Claretcup Cactus
Mojave yucca
Red yucca

Succulents are a family of plants with living tissue, usually underground, that store water and can survive even during drought periods. Some succulents store moisture through tuberous roots, corms, rhizomes, or bulbs; others store moisture through tuberous roots, corms, or rhizomes.

These flowering succulents offer vibrant flowers, making them ideal for landscapes with color themes or where they may overshadow other flowers. Some species, like Agave desmettiana (Zones 9-11), feature vibrantly colored leaves or showy yellow flower heads.

One succulent with stunning flowers is Aeonium (Aeonium x fallopianum). The dark purple/black 'Zwartkop' variety can tolerate sun exposure, while some lighter varieties, like 'Rose Gold', prefer shade.

Flowers for Southwest Gardens

There are also some prickly cacti with stunning flowers, like the variegated 'Mojo' pittosporum. This three-foot-tall plant thrives best in partial sun and well-drained soil.

These cacti are deer-resistant, ideal for gardens with more wildlife or areas prone to predators like rabbits and deer. Furthermore, these plants have great drought tolerance; many varieties can easily tolerate summer heat and humidity in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California.

Cacti can be planted in either ground or containers, but it's essential to remember that many varieties are prickly. Some, like agave, have sharp points which could cause pain or damage if not handled carefully. Before planting any cacti, it's wise to consult a gardener or nursery first, as they may offer tips on how to do so without getting pinched; alternatively, they might suggest hiring someone else.

southwest flowers

Short Flowering Shrubs

Flowering shrubs are a popular choice for gardens in the Southwest due to their ability to tolerate hot and dry conditions. According to garden designer Elizabeth Pryzgoda-Montgomery, people who move from Northern climates often don't want to leave behind their favorite plants but also need new additions that add color and interest to the landscape.

Here is a list of suggested shrubs:

Autumn sage



Desert Milkweed

Feather dalea

Mountain marigold

Pink fairy duster

Scarlet bouvardia

If you're searching for something to replace the flowering succulent evergreens in your Southwest Garden, there are several great choices. Some are easier to grow than others, but all offer stunning blooms and are low maintenance.

An alternative option is the emu bush (Eremophila hygrophana), a native plant in the region with red tubular flowers that attract hummingbirds.

This fast-growing plant can be grown in either full sun or shade and requires little care. In addition to its flowers, this southwestern native produces an abundance of dark blue berries in the fall. These berries are natural mosquito repellents, and birds, squirrels, and deer as food sources often eat them.

It's essential to prune your shrub back each year to about one-third of its current size to bloom optimally. Doing this helps conserve water during periods of prolonged drought.

Desert ruellia is an upright shrub with vivid purple blooms in spring and pauses only briefly in winter. This makes it a great choice for courtyards, patios, and poolside planting areas since it produces little litter.

southwest grasses cactus

Drought Tolerant Bunch Grasses

If you want to transition your lawn from lawn to a drought-tolerant garden, you must select plants suitable for your climate. That means considering average annual rainfall, soil pH, and temperature.

Southwest Gardens can benefit from native grasses adapted to your region. Not only will these provide habitat for various bees, birds, and butterflies native to your area, but they also offer ecological services like shelter and food.

Another option is ornamental grasses cultivated specifically for the southwest, such as native and Asian varieties. These grasses usually produce large flowers during late summer and autumn.

One of the most popular varieties is feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora), which grows in upright clumps with straight flower spikes that bloom green in spring, turn golden, then fade away in winter. Other popular options in this category include Northern sea oats and Korean feather reed grass.

These grasses can be used in mixed borders with other water-wise plants. They're especially suitable for areas with poor soil, as they can tolerate drought-like conditions once established.

Bunchgrasses are clump-forming grasses that lack well-developed rhizomes and stolons to encourage lateral growth. Instead, they possess a leaf sheath that holds their leaves together, keeping them upright and vertical in the garden.

Muhly grasses

Mexican feather grass / Muhly grasses

These grasses tend to be more drought-tolerant than their sod-forming counterparts and can add stunning touches to your front yard, backyard, or any area where you want to showcase the natural splendor of your surroundings.

They make excellent privacy hedging or wildflower gardens; you may even use them for screening purposes, water gardens, or prairie gardens.

Long-Lived Flowers

When planning a garden, one often thinks of perennial flowers that will last years. Unfortunately, not all perennials are created equal, and it can be disheartening to plan an attractive flower bed around perennials only to see them wither away after several seasons.

Coral bells

Douglas iris



In a Southwest garden, there are some plants that will remain perennial favorites. With such long-lived beauty, some might become the focal point over time!

These plants tend to be natives of the Southwest and have adapted to our desert climate. Furthermore, they are drought tolerant and can be used as ground covers or in containers.

The sunflower (Helianthus maximiliani) is the most beloved flowering perennial in the southwest. These tall perennials can grow up to eight feet high and boast an abundance of blooms atop their stems.

This plant is a favorite of butterflies and hummingbirds, making it an ideal choice for anyone wanting to attract these pollinators. The vibrant blooms last from late summer until fall, adding beauty and character to any garden setting.

Penstemons are stunning native flowers that form long spikes of tubular flowers. These perennials come in various colors, shapes, and bloom times, making them highly adaptable to the Southwest climate.

Many varieties require low maintenance and thrive in full sun with well-drained soil. They make an ideal border or trough plant that can be cut down and used as flowers in bouquets.

Yarrow is a prairie native that thrives in dry conditions, usually growing 2 to 3 feet tall and producing masses of flat flower clusters in midsummer. These easy-to-care-for plants come in various colors and are hardy from zones 3 to 8.

Short-Lived Flowers

If your garden needs flowers but hesitates to commit to long-term, short-lived perennials can fill the void. Not only do they offer instant gratification with their wide range of colors, but they also attract beneficial insects and wildlife that help pollinate them.

One of the most beloved short-lived plants is the daylily, which blooms for just one day (although stems will continue to produce flowers up to three weeks after that). They make ideal garden plants due to their limited water requirements and ability to withstand intense sunlight or heat.

Unfortunately, daylilies should not be overwatered, or they will quickly wither away in an adverse environment.

Another great alternative to daylily is Morning Glory, a perennial with similar aesthetics but a much shorter lifespan. These tend to be more cost-effective than their longer-lived cousins and will add vibrant color and vibrancy to your Southwest gardens for several months.

This wildflower is commonly found in the American Southwest. Although cold-tolerant, this subshrub also thrives in full sun and well-drained slightly alkaline soil. In springtime, its mounding foliage becomes covered in vibrant orange flowers.

This wildflower makes an excellent addition to desert gardens, complementing cacti, succulents, and rocks. It also works well in areas that don't get much rain, as it will dry out quickly after heavy downpours.

Recent Featured Posts:

Drift Roses: The Secret to a Stunning Garden

How to Grow and Care for Knock-Out Roses

How to Care For Clematis Flowers: Lawn Fly

Table of Contents
  1. Drought-Tolerant Beauties for Your Southwest Garden
    1. Flowering Succulent Evergreens
    2. Here is a list of suggested flowers:
    3. Short Flowering Shrubs
    4. Here is a list of suggested shrubs:
    5. Drought Tolerant Bunch Grasses
    6. Mexican feather grass / Muhly grasses
    7. Long-Lived Flowers
    8. Short-Lived Flowers
    9. Recent Featured Posts: