15 Great Native Plants for Southwestern Gardens

Add low-maintenance beauty to your yard with these tough Southwestern plants.

Kelly D. Norris


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Salvia
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Autumn Sage

    Salvias are tough to beat just about everywhere. Autumn sage is an especially fine species that bears evergreen foliage and clusters of red, purple, pink, or violet flowers from late summer through autumn. Like most salvias, this is a favorite of butterflies and hummingbirds.

    Name: Salvia greggii

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 2 feet tall

    Zones: 7-9

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Yellow Columbine

    Among the most graceful Desert Southwest plants, yellow columbine is vigorous, heat-tolerant, and a lot tougher than it looks. The yellow flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies and bloom almost continually if frequently deadheaded.

    Name: Aquilegia chrysantha

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 3 feet tall

    Zones: 4-8

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Wine Cups

    An extremely tough little groundcover, wine cups bears burgundy-red flowers from late spring to midsummer. Even when not in bloom, we love its low-growing, attractively divided foliage.

    Name: Callirhoe involucrata

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained

    Size: To 1 foot tall

    Zones: 4-8

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Bunny Ears Cactus

    An evergreen cactus that's as cute as its namesake, bunny ears cactus rarely produces spines. Its bright yellow flowers appear in spring and summer.

    Name: Opuntia microdasys

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 2 feet tall

    Zones: 8-10

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Texas Red Yucca

    Another plant that should earn a spot in every garden, Texas red yucca offers bright red flowers in summer that attract scores of hummingbirds. As you'd expect from a Southwestern native, it's reliable and heat and drought tolerant.

    Name: Hesperaloe parviflora

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 4 feet tall

    Zones: 8-10

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Pineleaf Penstemon

    A first-rate plant for attracting hummingbirds, pineleaf penstemon offers beautiful fine-textured foliage and bright orange-red flowers over a 6-week period in summer.

    Name: Penstemon pinifolius

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 16 inches tall

    Zones: 4-9

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Spanish Bayonet

    An evergreen with bold, blue-green foliage, Spanish bayonet is a year-round garden highlight. White bell-shaped flowers appear above the foliage in summer, making it even more lovely.

    Name: Yucca harrimaniae

    Growing Conditions: Part shade, dry soil

    Size: To 4 feet tall

    Zones: 5-8

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Tetraneuris

    A dwarf plant for the front of the border, tetranueris offers tidy mounds of blue-green foliage and beautiful daisy-shape golden-yellow flowers. It's a long bloomer, too, often flowering from spring until fall.

    Name: Tetraneuris acaulis

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and dry, well-drained soils

    Size: To 6 inches tall

    Zones: 4-8

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Red Hyssop

    Agastaches are good for just about every region, and red hyssop is an especially strong choice. This tough, drought-resistant perennial bears orange, red, or apricot blooms for a long period in summer. Its aromatic foliage assures deer and rabbits pass it by.

    Name: Agastache rupestris

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 4 feet tall

    Zones: 4-9

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California Poppy

    California's state flower, this longtime favorite will offers beautiful flowers in shades of orange, yellow, cream, apricot, and pink through the summer. The finely cut blue-gray foliage is wonderful, too.

    Name: Eschscholzia californica

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 18 inches tall

    Zones: Annual

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Desert Sunflower

    A long-blooming favorite with golden, daisy-shape flowers, desert sunflower blooms throughout the spring and may rebloom again in fall. When not in bloom, its attractive rabbit- and deer-resistant fuzzy gray foliage takes center stage.

    Name: Geraea canescens

    Growing Conditions: Full sun, well-drained soil

    Size: To 3 feet tall

    Zones: Annual

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California Fuchsia

    This beautiful evergreen perennial groundcover offers spectacular orange and red flowers in late summer. Flowers are long lasting and loved by hummingbirds and butterflies.

    Name: Zauschneria californica

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 12 inches tall

    Zones: 8-10

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Indian Paintbrush

    Bring hummingbirds into the garden with this beautiful, drought-tolerant perennial. Brilliant vermillion-red flowers appear from late spring all the way to frost. This long-blooming plant is a winner almost everywhere.

    Name: Castilleja integra

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 3 feet tall

    Zones: 4-7

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Perennial Sunflower

    Perennial sunflower is one of autumn's showiest plants. Tons of bright, golden-yellow flowers adorn tall stems and attract herds of butterflies. One of our favorite selections is pale 'Lemon Queen'.

    Name: Helianthus maximiliani

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 8 feet tall

    Zones: 4-9

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Green-Flowered Hedgehog Cactus

    A little plant with a big name, green-flowered hedgehog cactus forms tight, spiny green globes that look great in rock gardens. Watch for the iridescent green flowers in early spring.

    Name: Echinocereus viridiflorus

    Growing Conditions: Full sun, dry soils

    Size: To 9 inches tall

    Zones: 4-10

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