Desert Plants

Desert plants are some of the most interesting plants because of their strange and unique adaptations to their surroundings. These plants have made many adaptations over time to protect themselves from the harsh climate of the deserts and the animals that inhabit the land of sparse vegetation.  Some examples are cactus, most succulents, low shrubby desert plants (called chaparral plants), and trees like the Juniper trees and the Palo Verde.

Living “in association” means living together with.  Native plants typically live in association with plants that need the same amounts of water and can tolerate the same temperatures and soils types.  In the desert, the native plants that you will find are only plants that can survive without much water, in poor soils, and usually, in harsh climates.

Where are they located?

Most of the plants in these pages survive in the Mojave Desert of the Southwestern United States.  As this site grows, it will also feature plants from Death Valley (southeastern California) and the Sonora Desert (New Mexico, Arizona, Southern California, Baja California, and mainland Mexico).

In the Mojave Desert of California, plants survive temperatures well over 100 degrees in the summer and light to moderate snowfalls in the winter, with elevation ranges of about 3,000-5,000 feet.  Most of these other deserts are lower in elevation and some, like the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona support desert plants that are tropical in origin.

What characteristics do desert plants share?

All plants on this site have a few things in common.

  • They survive with very low amounts of rainfall.
  • They live in climates whose day and night time temperatures vary widely.
  • They live in soils not particularly rich in nutrients.
  • They exhibit adaptations that allow them to conserve water and shield themselves from the blazing desert sun.

Desert plants are xerophytes, which means living in a dry climate; that is, with very little water from rainfall or from people. Xerophytic plants have unique characteristics to prevent moisture lost through evaporation, dessication from the wind, and harm from insects and animals.

More to Come

We will be adding more information on specific desert plants in the coming months. We will include information on how to sprout them from seed as much as possible.

You can also learn about desert gardening by visiting

It’s a nice blog and running commentary on living and gardening in the desert.


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