Desert Plants: Proof That Life Can Bloom in Any Condition

shutterstock 561177964 FloraQueen EN Desert Plants: Proof That Life Can Bloom in Any Condition

With incredibly arid conditions arising from minimal rainfall, it is a wonder that some plants can survive in the desert let alone thrive under such extreme environmental conditions.

Plants in the desert may not be as lush as those found in more humid areas, but they add a dimension of mystical beauty to the landscape that has always been subject to human fascination. Below we are going to discuss:

General Overview of Desert Plants

Over time, plants in deserts have developed certain adaptations that enable them to survive in regions that are incredibly hot and dry with poor soil conditions. The first group of such plants are the xerophytes, which have altered physical structures that allow them to store water. Thick stems and leaves, and leaves with wax or hairy coatings are features commonly found in xerophytic plants. One of the most common examples of xerophytes is succulents.

On the contrary, some plants have modified their behaviors rather than their physical structures as a means of survival. This group consists of perennials and annuals. Desert perennials only come to life when water is available, and they tend to remain dormant during the dry season. Ocotillos, with their fiery red flowers, are among the most beautiful desert perennials. Annuals, on the other hand, are desert plants that are only alive for one year and produce many seeds during this time in the hopes that some can germinate following a rainfall. Wildflowers are a prime example of annual plants.

Plants in cold deserts have also developed certain adaptations, specifically to survive in cold and arid conditions with salty soils. Most of such plants are low shrubs that are deciduous or at least partially deciduous. Sagebrush is the predominant species of desert plants found in these cold environments. In addition to being xerophytes, cold desert plants must also be halophytic, meaning they can withstand salty soils. The desert saltbush is a prime example of a plant with such features, as it releases salt deposits onto the surface of its leaves, preventing salt buildup.

Popular Desert Plants


With their varying colors and fleshy leaves, succulents may perhaps be the most beautiful among all the desert plants. Some common features include thick stems and leaves that allow them to accumulate water over a lengthy period. Their roots are also located close to the surface and this allows extremely effective absorption of water, which may occur after a brief rainfall. Interestingly, there are 10,000 species of succulents worldwide and almost a third of them are in the Nama Karoo eco-region located in Southern Namibia. Some of the most common examples of succulents include cacti, aloe, agave, yucca and euphorbias.


Cactus plants are native to America and have become a symbol of the desert. These plants come in many varieties and can range from 3 inches to over 30 inches in height.

The prickly pear cactus, characterized by its flat pads, is commonly found in the Arizona desert and has a myriad of health benefits, as it contains fiber, B vitamins and iron. As such, the fruit of the prickly pear can be eaten raw or it can be made into candy or wine.

The saguaro, which has become emblematic of the desert, grows to be 50 feet tall and can live for almost 200 years. It can be found in the Sonoran Desert, located in Southern Arizona, Northern Mexico and Southern California. Interestingly, the white and yellow flowers of the saguaro bloom during the night and close during the day.

The barrel cactus is the most common desert plant. It can be between one to 10 meters tall and blooms during April. The spines on the barrel cactus can puncture the skin with ease, resulting in wounds that can take a very long time to heal without antibiotics.


Aloe, perhaps the most popular of all medicinal plants, is native to Africa and has fleshy leaves with three distinct layers. The innermost layer contains the medicinal gel that also comprises much of the plant.


Agave, once an important food source for Indigenous populations, can be found in the high deserts of Southern California, Arizona, and northern Baja, Mexico. With an impressive 200 species, these plants can take anywhere from five to 50 years to bloom and slowly die thereafter.

Desert Wildflowers

There are few things as beautiful as a dainty wildflower that can brave the harsh conditions of the desert.

Mojave asters are delicate flowers that prefer sandy or rocky canyons. They contain purple flowers, a yellow center, and long stems of grey-green hues. Interestingly, they are members of the sunflower family.

The dune evening primrose is another notable wildflower often found in the deserts of California, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah. It gives rise to incredibly picturesque and fragrant white flowers with yellow centers. The dune evening primrose blooms from January until May, with flowers opening to reveal themselves at dawn and closing back up at dusk.

Desert Plants in the Home

Desert plants can be an incredibly favorable addition to the home, especially for those who forget the occasional watering. Many species of cacti, for example, are quite self-sustaining and can thrive with only a few hours of sunlight each day and very minimal watering. Furthermore, their interesting shapes and textures make them wonderful additions to a mixed container of plants.

Certain other succulents can also improve the esthetics of the home due to their varying shapes and colors. The burro’s tail, for example, is a succulent native to Mexico and one that is perfect to place in hanging baskets, as its beautiful leaves can grow up to 2 feet tall.

The aloe vera is another widely popular and low maintenance option that also provides medicinal benefits for ailments of the skin, including burns and irritations.

Final Thoughts:

The evolutionary changes certain plants have made to live in some of the world’s harshest climates are quite remarkable. From prickly cacti to lone standing wildflowers, desert plants are a symbol that hope can bloom even in the hardest of conditions.

These bouquets interest you

To top