At one time, a desert gardener had a very limited number of plants to choose from. Not so now. Because of the burgeoning popularity of desert gardening, and water-wise gardening, a large variety of low-water-use plants from around the world have become readily available at nurseries.

These plants are colorful and many of them fragrant as well. While you may use many of your old favorites in your oasis garden (see Designing Desert Gardens), you now have great choices for the transitional zone and arid zones of your garden.

Here are some plants that are perfect for the transition zones of your desert garden:


Low Water Use Plants

Deciduous plants

Western Catalpa
Western Catalpa
Western Catalpa

Native Chokecherry
Native Chokecherry
Native Chokecherry

Gambel Oak
Gambel Oak
Gambel Oak

Flowering Locust varieties
Flowering Locust varieties
Flowering Locust varieties

New Mexico Locust
New Mexico Locust
New Mexico Locust

Littleleaf Linden
Littleleaf Linden
Littleleaf Linden

Conifer plants

Rocky Mountain Juniper
Juniperus scopulorum Rocky Mountain Juniper
Juniperus scopulorum Rocky Mountain Juniper

Bristlecone Pine
Bristlecone Pine
Bristlecone Pine

Bosnian Pine
Bosnian Pine
Bosnian Pine

Limber Pine
Limber Pine
Limber Pine

Austrian Black Pine
Austrian Black Pine
Austrian Black Pine

Southwest White Pine
Southwest White Pine
Southwest White Pine

Scotch Pine

Shrubs

Utah Serviceberry
Utah Serviceberry
Utah Serviceberry

Pygmy Peashrub
Pygmy Peashrub
Pygmy Peashrub

Siberian Peashrub
Siberian Peashrub
Siberian Peashrub

Bluemist Spirea
Bluemist Spirea
Bluemist Spirea

Chinese Juniper
Chinese Juniper
Chinese Juniper

Littleleaf Mockorange
Littleleaf Mockorange
Littleleaf Mockorange

Mugo Pine varieties
Mugo Pine
Mugo Pine

Water Ash
Fraxinus caroliniana
Fraxinus caroliniana

Shrub Live Oak
Shrub Live Oak
Shrub Live Oak

Rocky Mountain sumac
Rocky Mountain sumac
Rocky Mountain sumac

Austrian Copper Rose
Copper Rose
Copper Rose

Woods Rose
Woods Rose
One of the several wildl roses found in the Pacific Northwest, the Woods’ rose prefers a drier habitat, and is often found along riversides and streams, such as this one that was actually overhanging Cowiche Canyon, just west of Yakima, WA.

Silver Buffaloberry
Silver Buffaloberry
Silver Buffaloberry

Common Lilac
Common Lilac
Common Lilac

Perennials

Silvery Yarrow
Silvery Yarrow
Silvery Yarrow

Tall Yarrow
Tall Yarrow
Tall Yarrow

Moonshine Yarrow
Moonshine Yarrow
Moonshine Yarrow

Double bubblemint
Double bubblemint
Double bubblemint

Perennial Hollyhock
Perennial Hollyhock
Perennial Hollyhock

Pasque Flower
Pasque Flower
Pasque Flower

Silver anthemis
Golden Marguerite
Golden Marguerite

Porter's Aster
Porter's Aster
Porter’s Aster

Chocolate flower
Chocolate flower
Chocolate flower

Bearded Iris
Bearded Iris
Bearded Iris

Lavender varieties
Lavender
Lavender

Poppy Mallow
Poppy Mallow
Poppy Mallow

Tickseed
Tickseed
Tickseed

Threadleaf Coreopsis
Threadleaf Coreopsis- Low Water Use Plants
Threadleaf Coreopsis- Low Water Use Plants

Blanket Flower
Blanket Flower
Blanket Flower

Sunrose

Coral Bells
Coral Bells
Coral Bells

 

Conclusion

A great many of these plants have long blooming seasons. Many have beautiful foliage. And still others have interesting autumn colors. Additionally, there are plants which provide great beauty in winter with their seed stalks, fruit and winter colors.

There is a great CD just produced by High Country Gardens that not only teaches some basic principles on desert gardening, but also offers photos and names of some fantastic plants that are perfectly adaptable to arid and transitional zones. Many of these plants are sub-varieties that have been developed by High Country Gardens. Cost of the CD is $14.95.

The Xeriscape Flower Gardener, a Waterwise Guide for the Rocky Mountain Region, by well-known xeriscape proponent Jim Knopf and published by Johnson Books is a fairly good resource as well.

A third book I have found is Native Plants for High Elevation Western Gardens by Janice Busco and Nancy Morin. Published in partnership with the Arboretum at Flagstaff, this book has some great plants, both native and introduced, that do well in desert gardens.

There are a number of other books also dedicated to desert gardens, which you may want to research.