Best Native Plants for Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ

Native Plants for Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale

With its arid climate and relentless sunshine, Phoenix and the surrounding communities attract newcomers from all over the U.S. But this climate isn’t for everyone, as many area gardeners discover. Plants from other areas of the country can wilt in this scorching heat, while native plants thrive. In this article, we’ll introduce you to the best native plants for gardeners in Phoenix, Mesa and Scottsdale.

Desert ironwood

desert ironwood

Desert ironwood, also known as Olneya tesota, is a native tree common along the borders of California and Arizona, stretching to the mesas of the Sonoran desert. 

Desert ironwood is a drought-tolerant evergreen plant found in the bottom of dry rivers where frost is rare. The plant grows slowly and tolerates sandy and rocky soils.

Desert ironwood has thorny branches with pinnately grayish, compound leaves that form a canopy covered with small hairs. The canopy provides shade for Arizona homeowners and animals.

This hardy woody plant blooms during March, producing pink, white, and lavender flowers. The flowers form hairy summer seed pods containing one to four edible seeds. 

Plant Type: Tree

Mature height: 15 to 35 feet

Hardiness zones: 3 to 9

Conditions: sunny and dry

Use: Its wood is used to make knife handles and carvings.

Desert Fairy Duster

Desert Fairy Duster
James Gaither | Flickr

The fairy duster has delicate, deep green leaflets and blooms all year round to produce vibrant red flowers. The flowers attract hummingbirds, wrens, and finches.

This drought-resistant evergreen shrub grows at elevations of 2,000 to 5,000 feet. Also known as the false mesquite or the calliandra eriophylla, it thrives in the sun and heat and requires little water.

One of the endearing qualities of the fairy duster is that it requires no maintenance. It is not affected by pests and diseases, and is not toxic to pets or humans.

Plant Type: Perennial shrub

Mature height: 1 to 5 feet

Hardiness zones: 7 to 11

Conditions: Sun and heat

Use: Used to decorate gardens and landscapes

Desert marigold

Desert marigold
Andy | Flickr

The desert marigold is a drought-resistant herbaceous perennial plant that thrives in full sun after it’s established. It blooms from early spring to summer, beautifying the landscape with bright yellow, daisy-like blossoms. For more flowers, ensure you trim the old blooms.

The seeds of the desert marigold germinate in disturbed rocky soils with no organic matter, and the plant thrives in well-drained rocky soils with little water. 

The plant is common in elevations below 5,000 feet and can be grown in containers to add a colorful touch to yards and can be grown together with the cactus, verbena, and penstemon in the Arizona deserts.

Plant Type: Perennial annual

Mature height: 4 to 48 feet

Hardiness zones: 2 to 11

Conditions: Full sun

Use: In wildflower gardens

Desert willow

Desert willow
Wikimedia | CC-BY-2.0

The desert willow is a fast-growing drought-resistant plant that thrives in hot, dry climates and requires occasional deep watering, which makes it ideal for arid areas of Arizona.

The desert willow, also known as Chilopsis linearis, grows to 20 feet and forms a canopy that provides shade. For privacy and storm shielding, plant the desert willow in groups.

The plant blooms from early spring to fall, producing fragrant funnel-shaped flowers of pink, violet, and white with yellow throats. The flowers attract hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies, and the seeds are a source of food for many mammals.

Plant Type: Deciduous shrub

Mature height: 12 to 18 feet

Hardiness zones: 6 to 9

Conditions: Full sun

Use: Adds color and provides shade

Arizona walnut

Arizona Walnut
Wikimedia | CC BY 3.0

The Arizona walnut is a deciduous desert plant native to Arizona. It tolerates drought moderately and thrives in partial sun.

The Arizona walnut blooms in spring, producing green female flowers and brownish-yellow male flowers. It does well in rocky upland canyons, mountains, and the upper desert of Arizona.

The Arizona walnut requires little water and thrives in partial shade.

Plant Type: Deciduous perennial

Mature height: 48 to 59 feet.

Hardiness zones: 4b to 10b

Conditions: Partial sun

Use: Provide shade, and the nuts are a food source for animals

Gregg ash or Libby Davison ash

Gregg ash
University of Arizona

The Gregg ash and Libby Davison ash are common evergreens in the rocky limestone slopes and canyon areas of Maricopa County in Texas. They grow to a height of about 20 feet and produce clusters of tiny flowers with no petals. 

These little leaf ash trees are ideal for landscaping around pool areas, for framing patios and walkways, and enhancing the architecture. 

Plant Type: Deciduous shrub

Mature height: 20 feet

Hardiness zones: 7

Conditions: Full sun

Use: Used in landscaping around pools and entrances

Prickly pear cactus

Prickly pear cactus

The prickly pear plant is a hardy cactus common in the western United States. Its stems are divided into flat paddle-like segments of green to pale blue, and its flowers produce purple and red fruits.

The prickly pear cactus is drought tolerant and thrives in full sun with sandy soils. 

Plant Type: Cactus

Mature height: 6 to 12 feet

Hardiness zones: 4a to 9a

Conditions: Full sun

Uses: The tuna fruit is used for food



The saguaro plant is a slow-growing, drought-tolerant cactus commonly found in Mexico, Arizona, and California. It is tree-like in appearance, reaching more than 30 feet in some cases.

The saguaro blooms for the first time when it’s 50 to 75 years old, producing white flowers on top of the trunks and branches. The flowers attract pollinators such as birds, insects, and bats that enjoy the nectar. The flowers later produce red fleshy fruits.

Plant Type: Cactus

Mature height: 2 to 3

Hardiness zones: 8a to 11b

Conditions: Full sun

Use: The fruits are used as a food source

Desert agave

Desert agave

The desert agave is a drought-tolerant succulent found in Southern California and the Arizona desert. The agave plant thrives in full sun in well-drained soils. It grows to a height of four feet, producing grayish-blue to green, thick, sword-like leaves. The leaves are a fiber source used to make clothes, ropes, and other items.

The desert agave blooms after 10 to 20 years, from May to July, developing a flower stalk 10 feet tall that produces bright yellow, funnel-shaped flowers with many branches.

Locals roast the flower stalk and consume the heart of the plant. The juice of the desert agave is also harvested to form juice for tequila.

Plant Type: Accent

Mature height: 2 feet

Hardiness zones: 8 to 10

Conditions: Hot and dry

Use: The juice is used as an ingredient in alcohol making


Q. What flowers grow well in Arizona?

A: Some of the native flower varieties that thrive in Arizona are Mexican poppies, black-eyed Susans, cosmos, desert marigolds, sunflowers, bee balm, and blue sand lilies.

Q. What traits are important for plants in Arizona?

A: Plants that do well in Arizona adapt well to the region’s soils, heat, and arid climate, and require little maintenance.

Need help?

If you need help identifying and planting good native plants for Phoenix,, you can contact our Lawn Love gardening professionals for help.

Main photo credit: Wikimedia | CC-BY-SA-4.0

Millicent Onchari

Millicent Onchari is a freelance content writer. She is passionate about digital marketing, fashion and design, gardening, and health and wellness.