15 Plants for Southwestern Gardens

The plants that are native to the Southwest make popular garden choices with anyone who lives in warm, dry climates. From cacti to sunflowers, these Southwestern varieties tend to be tough, hardy, drought-tolerant plants that are easy to grow. They produce both brilliant flowers and unique foliage that can be used as everything from garden groundcovers to pops of vivid color in rock gardens.

Here are 15 suggested popular plants for Southwestern garden.

  • 01 of 15

    Autumn Sage

    Autumn Sage

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    The Autumn sage (Salvia greggii) plant is a gorgeous southwestern beauty that's known for its evergreen foliage and vibrant clusters of red, pink, purple, or violet flowers. Their flowers bloom from late summer through autumn, and they attract both butterflies and hummingbirds.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Red, pink, purple, or violet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained
  • 02 of 15

    Wine Cups

    Wine cups

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    The wine cup (Callirhoe involucrata) is a tough and hardy plant that grows deep burgundy flowers from late spring through the middle of the summer. Growing up to one foot tall, they are most commonly used as a groundcover and are known for their low-growing foliage that almost resembles a wine glass.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Burgundy
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained
  • 03 of 15

    Texas Red Yucca

    Texas red yucca

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    Another plant that screams southwest, the red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) produces vividly bright red flowers in the summer, and are a favorite of hummingbirds. As with many Southwestern natives, the four-foot red yucca is both heat and drought tolerant.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 8 to 10
    • Color Varieties: Red
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained
  • 04 of 15

    Spanish Bayonet

    Spanish bayonet

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    A year-round southwestern native, the Spanish bayonet (Yucca harrimaniae) is an evergreen plant known for its bold, blue-green foliage and white, bell-shaped flowers. This lovely plant blooms in the summer and will need dry soil and partial shade conditions to grow to its mature size of up to four feet.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Color Varieties: White
    • Sun Exposure: Partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Dry
    Continue to 5 of 15 below.
  • 05 of 15

    California Poppy

    California poppies

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    The state flower of California, the California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) is a popular Southwestern favorite. It grows showy, beautiful flowers in shades of orange, apricot, yellow, cream, and pink all throughout the summer; it's blue-gray foliage is also particularly eye-catching. These annual plants grow to be about 18 inches tall.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 8 to 10
    • Color Varieties: Orange, apricot, yellow, cream, and pink
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Sandy, rocky, well-drained
  • 06 of 15

    Perennial Sunflower

    Perennial sunflower

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    Considered to be one of the fall's showiest plants, the perennial sunflower (Helianthus maximiliani) produces a massive amount of bright golden-yellow flowers atop tall stems--they can grow up to eight feet tall. They also attract butterflies.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Yellow
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained
  • 07 of 15

    Yellow Columbine

    Yellow columbine

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    The yellow columbine (Aquilegia chrysantha) plant is considered one of the most graceful and elegant of all the desert plants associated with the Southwest. Despite their beauty, these heat-tolerant plants are also tough and hardy, and will bloom almost continually if they are frequently deadheaded. The yellow plants attract both butterflies and hummingbirds.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Yellow
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained
  • 08 of 15

    Bunny Ears Cactus

    Bunny Ears Cactus

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    It's impossible to compile a list of Southwestern plants without including cacti, and the bunny ears cactus (Opuntia microdasys) is an especially unique, and adorable, evergreen cactus variety. These cacti rarely produce spines, and its shape resembles two bunny ears. They grow to be about two feet tall and have bright yellow flowers that bloom in spring and summer.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Yellow flowers rarely bloom
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained
    Continue to 9 of 15 below.
  • 09 of 15

    Pineleaf Penstemon

    Pineleaf Penstemon

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    The pineleaf penstemon (Penstemon pinifolius) offers both fine foliage and bright orange-red flowers, which are known for their ability to attract hummingbirds. They bloom over a six-week period in summer, and grow in full sun and well-drained soil. The pineleaf penstemon will grow to be about 16 inches tall.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Orange, red
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained
  • 10 of 15

    Tetraneuris

    Tetraneuris

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    The tetraneuris plant (Tetraneuris acaulis) produces tidy mounds of blue-green foliage and daisy-shaped golden-yellow flowers. These dwarf plants are most commonly used for the front of a garden border, and are known for their long bloom time--they can flower from the spring all the way through fall. The tetraneuris will require both full sun and dry, well-drained soil, and can grow to about six inches tall.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Yellow
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Dry, well-drained
  • 11 of 15

    Red Hyssop

    sunset hyssop

    Charlie McDonald; uploaded by Xiaphias [Public domain]/Wikimedia Commons

    The red hyssop (Agastache rupestris) is a type of agastache plant that's hardy and drought-resistant. These plants are a great fit in just about any region, and they grow stunning orange, apricot, or red blooms. The perennial will bloom throughout the duration of the summer, and its aromatic foliage successfully repels animals like rabbits and deer. The red hyssop needs well-drained soil and sunny conditions to grow to their mature height of about four feet.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Pink, purple, orange
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun, partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained
  • 12 of 15

    Dessert Sunflower

    Desert sunflower

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    The dessert sunflower (Geraea canescens) is a long-blooming plant known for its golden, daisy-shaped flowers. These plants generally bloom in spring, but can sometimes bloom again in the fall months. They have a unique fuzzy gray foliage that's known to repel rabbit and deer. These annual plants grow best in full sun and well-drained soil, and they can be expected to grow to about three feet tall.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 10
    • Color Varieties: Yellow
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Sandy, well-drained
    Continue to 13 of 15 below.
  • 13 of 15

    Indian Paintbrush

    Indian paintbrush

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    The Indian paintbrush (Castilleja integra) is a gorgeous plant that grows vibrant red flowers from the late spring all the way until the first frost. These long-blooming perennial plants are a favorite amongst hummingbirds, and are drought-tolerant. When planted in full sun and well-drained soil, they should grow to be about three feet tall.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 7
    • Color Varieties: Red, orange
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained
  • 14 of 15

    California Fuschia

    California fuschia

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    The California fuschia (Zauschneria californica) is an evergreen perennial that's often planted as a groundcover. They bloom brilliant orange and red flowers, which appear in the late summer. The long-lasting flowers are a favorite amongst hummingbirds and butterflies, and will thrive in full sun and well-drained soil. The California fuschia grows to be about one foot tall.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 8 to 10
    • Color Varieties: Orange, red
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained
  • 15 of 15

    Green-Flowered Hedghog Cactus

    Green-flowered hedgehog cactus

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    The green-flowered hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus viridiflorus) is another unique cactus plant. It is known for its tight and spiny green glove and iridescent green flowers that bloom in the early spring. They are a popular choice for rock gardens and will require dry soils and full sun. They can grow to be up to nine inches tall.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 10
    • Color Varieties: Flowers range from yellowish to reddish
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Rocky soils