Southwest Natives That Sizzle

Fill your yard with native plants for water-wise beauty that’s desert-friendly.
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Photo By: American Beauties Native Plants at

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Photo By: American Beauties Native Plants at

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Photo By: American Beauties Native Plants at

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Photo By: American Beauties Native Plants at

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Photo By: American Beauties Native Plants at

Photo By: American Beauties Native Plants at

Photo By: Bailey Nurseries, Inc. at

Mexican Hat Plant

Long, prominent flower cones skirted with reflexed petals earn this wildflower its common name, Mexican hat plant. Blossoms beckon native bees and butterflies; after flowers fade, birds feast on seeds. This short-growing native boasts an easy-growing personality and makes itself at home in a variety of soil types. Plant in masses for a drift of color that’s hardy in zones 3 to 8.

Parry’s Penstemon (Penstemon parryi)

One of spring’s earliest wildflowers, this desert beauty is right at home on a hillside or in a dry meadow garden. Plants readily self-sow, establishing a colorful colony that lures hummingbirds and butterflies with bright pink to purplish pink blooms. Flowers are also an important nectar source for native bees. Parry’s penstemon is hardy in zones 8 to 10.

Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum)

Drifts of fragrant, white flowers cover blackfoot daisy from spring to fall. Drought-tolerant and deer-resistant, this native perennial is tough, taking freezing temperatures and sizzling summers. Heavy, rich soils are blackfoot daisy’s enemy and shorten the plant’s lifespan. Butterflies mob plants during the day; sphinx moths flock to blooms at dusk and overnight. Plants are hardy in zones 5 to 10.

Desert Spoon

Desert spoon’s strong, sculptural form makes it a perfect focal point in a desert landscape. Plants are low-maintenance, deer-resistant and drought-tolerant once established. Florists use leaf bases in floral arrangements. Plants flower every few years, sending up a 6- to 15-foot stem. Unlike yucca, desert spoon doesn’t die after blooming. This desert beauty is hardy in zones 8 to 11.

Black Dalea (Dalea frutescens)

For a shrubby, drought-tolerant groundcover, it’s tough to beat black dalea. The eye-catching purple blooms open from summer to fall, and leaves release a citrus fragrance when brushed. Pair this fine-foliaged beauty with yucca and cacti for a textural masterpiece. Hardy in zones 8 to 13, black dalea attracts dogface butterflies and quail to the garden.

Chocolate Flower (Berlandiera lyrata)

Golden daisy-like blooms exude a delicious chocolate fragrance that’s strongest in the morning hours. To savor the best fragrance, use chocolate flower in drifts near seating areas. Flowers open from spring to summer and attract butterflies by the dozen. This wildflower is deer-resistant and drought-tolerant once established. Grow chocolate flower from Colorado to South Texas—plants are hardy in Zones 4 to 9.

Apache Plume (Fallugia paradoxa)

Apache plume boasts extreme drought tolerance. White blooms that resemble single roses appear in spring and summer. Flowers fade to fuzzy plumes that shift in color from green to white or pink and persist into fall. Birds harvest plumes to use as nesting material. Shrubs are hardy in zones 8 to 10 and make an excellent choice for erosion control.

Chuparosa (Justicia californica)

Tuck this shrub into your desert landscape and get ready for wildlife. Bright red flower buds burst into spectacular bloom during peak hummingbird migration in spring. Hummers—and butterflies—flock to flowers, along with linnets and sparrows, which feast on the nectar-rich blooms. Flowers are also edible and typically blanket chuparosa from spring through summer. Plants are easy to grow, drought tolerant and hardy in zone 9.

Mexican Evening Primrose

Fragrant pink flowers actually open in the day, despite the common name. Evening primose flowers heaviest in spring, and blooms beckon butterflies, moths and hummingbirds. Plants often go dormant in midsummer and midwinter, but reappear with rains. Allow this primrose to set seed, and you’ll be rewarded with birds arriving to feast on seed. Plants are drought-tolerant, deer-resistant and hardy in Zones 5 to 9.

'Oranges and Lemons' Blanket Flower

This cultivar of native blanket flower introduces an unusual color to blanket flowers: peach petals with yellow tips and yellow centers. Blanket flower demands full sun and well-drained, even poor soil. If soil is too rich, plants tend to get gangly and fall over. Deer-resistant and drought-tolerant, this perennial flowers from spring through summer. Blanket flower is hardy in zones 6 to 10.

Santa Rita Purple Prickly Pear (Opuntia santa-rita)

Prickly pear is a classic xeriscape plant, featuring strong drought tolerance once established. Santa Rita purple prickly pear introduces a striking hue to any landscape. Pads take on a pretty violet tone in winter and during times of drought. Lemon yellow flowers open in spring and fade to eye-catching reddish-purple fruits that are a favorite among birds. Jackrabbits and javelin feast on the fleshy pads. Plants are hardy in zones 8 to 11.

Common Bearberry

For a carefree groundcover, choose common bearberry. This low-growing evergreen shrub thrives in spots where other plants fail, preferring sandy, well-drained soils on the acidic side. The variety 'Massachusetts' brings good disease resistance to the garden, along with white blooms that fade to red berries that birds love. Bearberry needs lean soil with no fertilizer and is hardy in zones 2 to 6.


Switchgrass clumps grow straight up, creating a vertical accent in a xeriscape. 'Prairie Sky' soars to 6 feet tall and boasts a succession of color: Summer’s blue-tone leaves fade to yellow in fall, then brown in winter. Seedheads open deep red in summer, forming a pinkish cloud above foliage. Seedheads fade to beige and linger into mid-winter. Plants tolerate drought and black walnut (which produce a chemical that is often toxic to other plants), are deer-resistant and hardy in Zones 4 to 9.

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