Best Plants for Arizona Heat

Choosing the right plants for your Arizona garden can be challenging, especially with the arid climate and intense heat in the summer.

However, with the right knowledge and information, you can create a beautiful and thriving garden that complements your landscape design.

When selecting outdoor plants, it’s important to consider their sun exposure needs. For instance, succulents like cacti, agaves, aloes, and yuccas are the best plants for Arizona heat in the summer.

Additionally, desert trees, shrubs, ground covers, and flowering plants can add unique colors and textures to your garden.

Local nurseries offer a wide variety of beautiful plants that can withstand the Arizona climate and thrive in your yard’s specific sun exposure conditions.

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When it comes to landscaping in Arizona, it’s important to consider the local winter temperatures and the size of the plants at maturity. For those living in Kingman, Nogales, Prescott, or Flagstaff, perennials that can survive the cold should be sought after. Additionally, since some yuccas can grow up to 20 feet wide, it’s important to factor in the plant’s size at maturity versus the space in your garden.

Fortunately, with HavasuLandscaping, you can easily find the top plants to grow in Arizona’s heat. They have grouped the plants by type, making it easy for you to skip directly to your desired plant category. With just a few clicks, you can have access to a wide variety of plants and landscaping services. Say goodbye to the hassle of traditional landscaping and hello to the convenience of HavasuLandscaping.

Top Flowering Plants for Arizona’s Hot Climate

If you’re looking to add some color and vibrancy to your desert garden, consider planting these heat-resistant flowering plants. These options are not only beautiful, but they can also handle the hot and dry Arizona summers with ease.

Marigolds (Tagetes spp.)

Marigolds are a popular choice for Arizona gardens due to their festive colors and pest-repelling properties. These flowers come in different varieties, including African, French, and Dwarf marigolds, and they bloom from midsummer until late fall. Marigolds have dense, rounded flowers with many layers of bright-colored petals. They can grow as annuals or perennials, depending on the variety.

USDA hardiness zones: 2 to 11

Sun exposure: Full sun

Drought tolerance: Very good

Size: 6 to 36 inches tall

Color: Marigolds come in shades of yellow, gold, and orange to ivory and mahogany.

Maintenance: Mulch the soil around the marigolds and water regularly during drought, but let the soil dry between two waterings. Marigolds pair well with Salvia, Coreopsis, Lavender, and Geranium.

Zinnia (Zinnia elegans)

Zinnias are annual plants that come in a variety of colors, including white, yellow, orange, and dark red.

They bloom from April to November and have bright, daisy-like flowers that add vibrant hues to your garden. Zinnias can grow up to 30 inches tall and are a great choice for garden beds and borders. These flowers also make for excellent cut flowers that can last up to 10 days in a vase.

USDA hardiness zones: 2 to 11

Sun exposure: Full to part shade

Drought tolerance: Good

Size: Six to thirty inches tall

Color: Zinnias come in shades of white, yellow, orange, and dark red.

Maintenance: Remove spent flowers to encourage further blooming and water once a week in the dry and hot summers of Tucson, Phoenix, and Yuma areas. Zinnias pair well with Marigolds, Black-eyed Susan, and Sunflowers.

Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea spectabilis)

Bougainvillea is a fast-growing, easy-to-care-for vine that can climb up to 20 – 30 feet with proper support.

This perennial plant has stunning flowers that come in shades of golden yellow, pink, and red to magenta and purple. Bougainvillea is a great choice for creating natural, colorful privacy screens and providing lovely shade. Install it near walls and patios and climb it on a trellis or pergola for shade.

USDA hardiness zone: 9 to 11

Sun exposure: Full sun and light shade

Drought tolerance: Very good

Size: This vine can climb up to 20 – 30 feet with proper support.

Color: Bougainvillea comes in shades of golden yellow, pink, and red to magenta and purple.

Maintenance: It needs regular watering during the first growing season. After that, water deeply once every 3 to 4 weeks. Bougainvillea pairs well with Carissa, Texas Sage, Muhly Grass, and Dwarf Oleander.

Beardtongues (Penstemon spp.)

Penstemons are short-lived perennials that bloom in early spring and come in a variety of colors, including white, yellow, orange, pink, and red.

These flowers are less lush and rich in foliage than the bougainvillea, but they conquer your soul with their lovely, colorful flowers.

Penstemons are suitable for xeriscape designs and need little watering.

The most common varieties to grow in the Phoenix area are Parry’s Penstemon, Scented Beardtongue, Arizona Penstemon, Red Penstemon, and Firecracker Penstemon.

USDA hardiness zone: 3 to 9

Sun exposure: Full sun to light shade

Drought tolerance: Very good

Size: Penstemons range from low-growing ground covers to flower stems reaching 5-6 feet.

Color: Penstemons come in shades of white, yellow, orange, pink, and red.

Maintenance: Water occasionally during summer and don’t fertilize. Penstemons pair well with Agave, Brittlebush, Angelita Daisy, Marigold, and Prickly Pear Cactus.

Amaranth (Amaranthus spp.)

Amaranth is a low-maintenance, low-water plant that can grow up to 6 feet tall and wide.

This annual plant has unique red stems, dark green edible leaves, and bunches of pink

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Best Heat-Tolerant Shrubs for Arizona

If you’re looking for low-maintenance, heat-tolerant shrubs to add to your Arizona garden, you’re in luck. Here are some of the best options for your landscape:

Common Lantana (Lantana camara)

Common Lantana is a popular choice for Arizona gardens due to its vibrant colors and ability to attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

This perennial shrub blooms from May to October and grows up to 3 feet tall and 8 feet wide.

USDA hardiness zone: 8 to 11.

Sun Exposure: Full sun.

Drought Tolerance: Good.


  • Water about 1 inch per week in the summer to promote flowering.
  • Prune in the spring to about 6 to 12 inches from the soil.
  • Lightly shear the tip growth during summer to promote reblooming.

Companions: angelonia, salvia, boxwood, pentas, stonecrop.

Warning! Lantana is toxic for humans, pets, and livestock. If planted in a home yard, keep away from kids, dogs, and cats. It can cause rashes.

Red Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima)

The Red Bird of Paradise is a stunning shrub that produces large, colorful cones of flowers and delicate, feathery leaves.

This perennial shrub blooms from May to mid-fall and grows up to 6 to 10 feet tall and up to 8 feet across.

USDA hardiness zone: 9 to 11.

Sun exposure: Full sun.

Drought tolerance: Very good.


  • Add them to your summer lawn care schedule and water deeply once every two weeks during the blooming season.
  • Watch for iron chlorosis in heavy, alkaline soils and treat with iron chelate.

Companions: aloe, yucca, ocotillo.

Baja Fairy Duster (Calliandra californica)

Baja Fairy Duster is a hardy shrub native to the Sonoran Desert. This shrub blooms from fall to spring, complementing Arizona’s winter lawns. It grows up to 5 to 6 feet tall and wide.

USDA hardiness zone: 9 to 12.

**Sun exposure: **Full sun.

Drought tolerance: Excellent.


  • Water once every two weeks during summer for more flowers.

Companions: lantana, desert marigold, penstemon, blackfoot daisy.

Valentine Bush (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’)

Valentine Bush is an evergreen shrub that blooms in elegant lily-like flowers during winter and spring. This shrub grows up to 6 to 10 feet tall and wide.

USDA hardiness zone: 9 to 11.

Sun exposure: Full sun.

Drought tolerance: Excellent.


  • Water once a month to keep the flowers blooming.

Companions: muhly grass, desert willow, salvia, palo verde, mesquite, yucca.

Sages (Salvia spp.)

Sages are fragrant shrubs that bloom in a variety of colors above the rounded shrubs. They are an excellent addition to your wildlife garden corner. This perennial shrub grows up to 1 to 4 feet high.

USDA hardiness zone: 4 to 10.

Sun exposure: Full sun.

Drought tolerance: Very good.


  • Cut back salvia in the spring.
  • Trim the shrub to remove spent blooms and encourage continuous flowering.

Companions: evening primrose, verbena, zinnia, black-eyed Susan, coneflower.

Desert Honeysuckle (Anisacanthus thurberi)

Desert Honeysuckle is a colorful backdrop for yucca, agave, and aloe. This shrub blooms heavily from March to November in bright red-orange shades loved by hummingbirds and butterflies. It grows up to 3 to 6 feet tall and wide.

USDA hardiness zone: 7 to 10.

Sun exposure: Tolerates full sun but thrives with morning sun exposure or under the canopy of desert shade trees like mesquite or palo verdes.

Drought tolerance: Very good.


  • It survives in the desert only with rainfall.
  • Water twice a month during summer to promote generous blooming.

Companions: palo verdes, mesquites, clematis, muhly grass.

Texas Sage (Leucophyllum frutescens)

Texas Sage is a versatile shrub that can

Best Succulents for Your Desert Garden

If you live in Arizona and want to add some stunning plants to your yard, succulents and cacti are the way to go. These plants are adapted to store water in their stems and leaves, making them some of the most heat-resistant plants to grow in the state. Here are the top succulent options to consider for your desert garden:

Agave (Agave spp.)

Agaves are attractive desert succulents that are related to desert spoon, yucca, and beargrass. They grow in large rosettes of fleshy leaves and form dense rosettes of leaves at the base. Arizona’s most popular local species include Agave parryi, Agave chrysantha (century plant), Agave palmeri, and Agave utahensis. Agaves are protected in the wild, so you need a collecting permit from the Department of Agriculture and proper plant tagging to take some and plant in your backyard.

Type: Perennial.

USDA hardiness zones: 8 to 10.

Sun exposure: Full sun for at least 6 to 8 hours.

Drought tolerance: Excellent.

Size: 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide (smooth agave) to 7 feet tall and 12 feet wide (century plant).

Color: Leaves range from green to silver-gray and creamy yellow. Agave flowers are mostly yellow.


  • Irrigate every 4 to 5 days the first month after planting.
  • Water two or three times a month after agaves are established.

Agave companions: bougainvillea, muhly grass, aloe, yucca.

Warning! Avoid placing agave near walkways or patios. Some have sharp leaves and grow quite large.

Yucca (Yucca spp.)

Yuccas have spheric clumps of fleshy, sharp, sword-like leaves that give them a stunning look. They are excellent accent plants for rock and cactus gardens, thanks to their unusual foliage and tall, elegant, white flowers. Narrowleaf yucca, banana yucca, soaptree yucca, and Joshua tree are the most common varieties thriving in Arizona and available in local nurseries.

Type: Perennial.

USDA hardiness zone: 5 to 11.

Sun exposure: Full sun.

Drought tolerance: Very good.

Size: 3 to 30 feet high and 1.5 to 20 feet wide.

Color: It blooms creamy white flower spikes from March through May. The leaves are light green to gray-green with cream or white stripes in some varieties.


  • Yucca benefits from monthly soaking during the summer.
  • Remove brown leaves.
  • If it grows too tall, cut the main stem at the height you want to regrow from.

Yucca companions: aloe vera, boxwood, Texas sage.

Warning! Don’t place yucca near walkways or driveways. Their leaves cut and scratch the skin.

Aloe (Aloe spp.)

Aloes are an excellent, drought-tolerant choice to make outdoor landscaping more interesting. They range from low-growing ground covers to tree-like varieties and have fleshy, sharp-tipped leaves. Aloes come in colors ranging from deep green to silver-gray and majestic tubular flowers irresistible for beneficial insects and birds. Aloe vera also has healing properties, and you can use its gel to treat cuts and bruises.

Type: Perennial.

USDA hardiness zone: 8 to 11.

Sun exposure: Grow aloe in partial or filtered shade to protect plants from sunburn.

Drought tolerance: Very good.

Size: Up to 2 feet tall and 6 feet wide.

Color: Aloes bloom in Arizona in winter and early spring in colors ranging from yellow and orange to coral red.


  • Water once a month.
  • Remove dead flower stalks.
  • Divide crowded clusters.

Aloe companions: catnip, marigold, weld morning glory, oregano, and nasturtiums.

Saguaro Cactus (Carnegiea gigantea)

The Saguaro cactus is an impressive architectural plant and an iconic symbol of America’s southwest. It’s very low-maintenance and highly resilient to heat and drought. While tall, the Saguaro has a low footprint, and you can grow a few in a medium-sized garden. It fits perfectly in a cactus or rain garden, watered only by rainfall.

Type: Perennial.

USDA hardiness zones: 8a to 10a. Not suitable for northern and far eastern parts of Arizona and elevations above 500

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Best Heat-Tolerant Trees to Grow in Arizona

Arizona is known for its hot and dry climate, making it challenging to grow trees that can withstand the heat. However, there are several heat-tolerant trees that can provide shade and add beauty to your garden. Here are three of the best options to consider:

Mesquite (Prosopis spp.)

Mesquite trees are an excellent addition to any garden due to their light, filtered shade. They are also drought-resistant and can enrich the soil by collecting nitrogen from the air. The best varieties to consider are native ones, such as Velvet mesquite, Honey mesquite, and Screwbean mesquite. These varieties are popular in the Phoenix and Anthem area and can grow up to 30 to 50 feet tall and across.

USDA hardiness zone: 6 to 11

Sun exposure: Full sun

Drought tolerance: Excellent

Maintenance: Trim periodically to keep mesquite as a shrub or a small tree. Water deeply and occasionally during the summer. Mesquite companions include agave, brittlebush, barrel cactus, ocotillo, and desert lavender. However, keep in mind that their 3-inch long thorns make mesquite trees not a good choice near walkways, driveways, and areas with a lot of foot traffic.

Palo Verde (Parkinsonia aculeata)

Palo verde trees are known for their unique green-to-blue-green bark that colors the landscape even during winter. They also dress in a mass of bright yellow flowers in early spring, adding a warm light to your growing garden. Arizona’s most hardy and popular varieties are Blue Palo Verde, Littleleaf Palo Verde, Sonoran Palo Verde, and Thornless Palo Verde. These trees can grow up to 15 to 30 feet tall and wide.

USDA hardiness zones: 8 to 11

Sun exposure: Full sun

Drought tolerance: Very good

Maintenance: Palo Verdes enjoy the occasional soaking during the summer. Don’t prune during the warm season as it can expose the tree to sunburn. Palo verde companions include agave, desert willow, Texas sage, and Saguaro cacti.

Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis)

Desert willow is a fast-growing tree that can provide shade and fragrance to your garden. It has glossy-green weeping leaves and orchid-shaped flowers, blooming in colorful clusters from April to October. The lack of thorns or aggressive roots makes desert willow one of the best heat-tolerant trees to plant near walls or paving. It can grow up to 25 feet tall in 10 to 15 years.

USDA hardiness zone: 7b to 11

Sun exposure: Prefers full sun but can tolerate partial shade

Drought tolerance: Very good. It’s an excellent choice for xeriscape gardens.

Maintenance: Water once every two weeks in the summer to keep the tree lush and promote blooming. Reduce to once a month during winter. Prune in early summer. Desert willow companions include yellow bird of paradise, red yucca, blackfoot daisy, aloe, and agave.

In conclusion, growing heat-tolerant trees in Arizona can provide shade and beauty to your garden. Mesquite, Palo Verde, and Desert Willow are excellent options to consider due to their drought resistance, heat tolerance, and low maintenance. Choose the one that suits your garden’s needs and enjoy the benefits of having a shade tree in your yard.

Best Heat-Tolerant Ground Covers and Grasses for Arizona

If you’re looking for a low-maintenance way to cover the ground in your arid garden, consider using native heat-tolerant ground covers and grasses. Here are five options that not only look great but also thrive in the Arizona heat.

Trailing Dalea (Dalea greggii)

Trailing Dalea is a perennial ground cover that is native to the Chihuahuan Desert. Its tiny silver-gray leaves form a soft carpet that blooms lavender in the spring, creating a beautiful background for cacti, succulents, and flowering plants. It grows up to 5-6 inches in height and 6-10 feet wide, making it an excellent option for controlling erosion on sloped yards. Trailing Dalea prefers full sun and has good drought tolerance.

Maintenance: Cut back every two to three years to promote blooming and new growth. Water occasionally during spring and summer to get a denser cover.

Companions: Agave, fairy duster, palo verde, brittlebush, sweet acacia, autumn sage, blue palo verde, and agave.

Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris)

Muhly Grass is a perennial ornamental grass that is native to the elevations of the southwestern U.S. It looks incredibly soft and airy and gives a pro touch to desert landscapes when added around tree trunks, boulders, or rocks to smooth their looks. It grows up to 1.5-5 feet tall and blooms from April to November with tan, amber, pink, and rust-colored flowers. Muhly grass prefers full sun but tolerates partial shade and has very good drought tolerance.

Maintenance: Trim to the ground every two to three years. Muhly grass needs little water and survives on rainfall alone but looks better with some summer watering.

Companions: Black-eyed Susan, spotted bee balm, aster.

Mexican Evening Primrose (Oenothera berlandieri)

Mexican Evening Primrose is a perennial ground cover that produces delicate, broad pink flowers that bloom bright in the late afternoon under your shade trees. It grows up to 6 inches to 1 foot tall and 8 inches to 2 feet wide, making it a stunning low-maintenance ground cover you can add to any dry, open, informal garden. Mexican Evening Primrose prefers full sun to light shade and has good drought tolerance.

Maintenance: Clear the ground of old dead growth in late winter or early spring. Water infrequently during summer to prevent the plants from going dormant and promote blooming.

Companions: Helenium, daylily, or salvia.

Verbena (Verbenaceae spp.)

Verbena is an annual or perennial ground cover that produces clusters of tiny star-shaped flowers in bright colors. It grows up to 9-12 inches tall and 12-18 inches wide, making it a wonderful way to cover old edging and margins of raised flower beds. Verbena prefers full sun and has very good drought tolerance.

Maintenance: Water weekly during the blooming season to promote flowers. Prune dried flowers and foliage for a beautiful, clean appearance.

Companions: Million bells, pentas, and marigolds.

Warning! The lemon verbena variety is toxic for dogs, cats, and horses.

Common Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)

Common Purslane is an annual succulent ground cover that is one of the best ground covers you can pick for your rock or cactus garden. It grows up to 16 inches long and 4 to 8 inches tall and has excellent drought tolerance. Its rounded, rubbery leaves and stems handle summer heat very well, and it creeps along the bare ground and digs in with deep roots, aerating the soil and effectively reducing excess salt.

Maintenance: Water once or twice a month during the summer.

Companions: Angelonia, calibrachoa, zinnias.

These ground covers and grasses are all excellent options for adding beauty and low-maintenance to your arid garden. Consider incorporating them into your landscaping for a stunning and sustainable look.

FAQ About Plants for Arizona Heat

If you live in Arizona and want to add some greenery to your outdoor space, you might be wondering what plants can survive in the high heat. Here are some frequently asked questions about plants for Arizona heat:

What plants are drought-tolerant and can handle the heat?

Cacti, agaves, aloes, yuccas, mesquites, palo verdes, red fairy duster, Texas sage, cassia, zinnia, amaranth, penstemon, marigolds, and verbena are all great options for drought-tolerant plants that can handle Arizona’s high heat.

What potted plants are good for summer in Arizona?

If you want to add some potted plants to your outdoor space, consider heat-tolerant options like salvia, boxwood, lantana, marigold, bougainvillea, barrel cactus, aloe vera, and prickly pear cactus. Keep in mind that potted plants will require more frequent watering than those planted directly in the ground.

What plants can handle full sun exposure in Arizona?

If your outdoor space gets direct sunlight, you can still add some greenery with heat-tolerant plants like mesquite, palo verde, yucca varieties, agaves, barrel cactus, prickly pear cactus, Arizona yellow bells, Dalea, penstemon, and verbena. These plants can handle the heat and sun exposure in Arizona summers.

When planting any of these heat-tolerant plants, it’s important to consider the soil, watering needs, and pruning requirements. Visit your local nursery for more information and to find the best plants for your specific outdoor space. These plants not only add beauty to your outdoor space but also provide shelter and food for pollinators like bees and hummingbirds.

Fill Your Arizona Yard with Amazing Plants!

Creating a beautiful desert garden in Arizona is easier than you might think. With a wide variety of native, heat-tolerant plants available, you can transform your yard into a stunning oasis. Consider incorporating hardy cacti and agave, which require minimal maintenance, or tall shade trees that provide relief from the hot sun. Dense shrubs and delicate flowering plants also add visual interest and color to your landscape. Contact a local landscaping company, such as HavasuLandscaping, to get started on your heat-tolerant landscape project today.

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Sinziana Spiridon

If you’re looking for inspiration for your next gardening project, look no further than Sinziana Spiridon’s blog. With a passion for organic gardening and a green thumb to match, Sinziana’s tips and tricks are sure to help you create a beautiful and bountiful garden in no time.

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