High Desert Plants

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These plants are native to, or suitable for, high desert and desert regions such as Palmdale/Lancaster, Mojave and Joshua Tree. They can tolerate extreme heat, drought, and cold. These plants are also suitable for the Los Angeles region.

* indicates plant needs supplemental water


Acacia greggii (Catclaw Acacia), 10-15’H x 10-15’W, attractive barrier plant
Betula occidentalis (Western Waterbirch)*, 15’H x 10’W, weeping habit and copper bark
Calocedrus decurrens (Incense Cedar), 70-90’H x 20’W, large, aromatic tree
Cercidium floridum, Cercidium microphyllum (Palo Verde), 20-30’H x 20’W, colorful desert tree
Cercis occidentalis (Western Redbud)*, 15’H x 10’W, small multi-trunked tree for partial shade
Chilopsis linearis (Desert Willow), 20’H x 15’W, summer blooming desert tree
Cupressus arizonica ssp. nevadensis (Arizona Cypress), C. forbesii (Tecate Cypress)
Juglans californica var. californica (Black Walnut), 20’H x 5-10’W, deciduous drought-tolerant tree
Juniperus californica (California Juniper), 5-25’H x 3-10’W, highly variable form, slow growing, good for bonsai
Pinus coulteri, Pinus jeffreyi, Pinus monophylla, Pinus ponderosa (Pine species)
Populus fremontii (Cottonwood)*, 60’H x 20’W, beautiful fall color, needs regular water
Prosopis pubescens (Screwbean Mesquite), 10-25’H x 20’W, attractive desert tree
Quercus engelmannii, Quercus chrysolepis, Quercus kelloggii, Quercus douglasii (Oak species)
Umbellularia californica* (CA Bay Laurel), 75’H x 60’W, beautiful aromatic tree!


Adenostoma fasciculatum (Chamise), 2-10’H x 10’W, chaparral native, evergreen
Amelanchier alnifolia (Western Serviceberry), 2-15’H x 8’W, deciduous shrub with fall color
Arctostaphylos glauca (Bigberry Manzanita), 12’ H x 12’ W, gorgeous red-brown bark!
Artemisia tridentata (Great Basin Sagebrush), 4’H X 4’W, fragrant desert native with attractive grey foliage
Atriplex spp (Saltbush), all species are suitable for deserts. Good for wild birds.
Calliandra californica, Calliandra eriophylla (Fairyduster), 3-5’H x 3-5’W, colorful red or pink blossoms year round
Ceanothus greggii (Mojave Ceanothus), 4-6’H x 4-6’W, beautiful white flowers in spring
Cercocarpus ledifolius (Mtn Mahogany), 30’H x 15’W, interesting plumed seeds in summer
Chrysothamnus nauseosus (Rubber Rabbitbrush), 2-4’H x 3’W, desert native, great for butterflies!
Dendromecon rigida (Tree Poppy), 8’H x 6’W, blue green leaves and yellow flowers in spring
Encelia actoni (Acton Encelia), 2’H x 3’W, yellow daisy-like flowers attract pollinators
Encelia farinosa (Brittlebush), 3’H x 4’W, white foliage contrasts with darker shrubs
Eriodictyon trichocalyx (Yerba Santa), 4’H x 4’W, important Native American medicinal plant
Eriogonum umbellatum var. umbellatum (Sulfur Buckwheat), 1’H x 3’W, beautiful yellow flowers in summer
Eriogonum wrightii (Wright’s Buckwheat), 1’H x 1-2’W, white-flowering in summer
Fallugia paradoxa (Apache Plume), 3-4’ H x 3-4’ W, unusual shrub with showy plumes
Forestiera pubescens (Desert Olive), 9’H x 5-8’W
Fremontodendron californica ssp. californica (Flannel Bush), 6-15’H x 6-8’W, stunning in bloom!
Garrya veatchii (Canyon Silktassel), 8’H x 6-8’W, good for screen or hedge
Heteromeles arbutifolia (Toyon), 8-15’H x 10-15’W, red berries in winter!
Hyptis emoryi (Desert Lavender), 4-6’H x 5’W, aromatic leaves and lavender flowers
Isomeris arborea (Bladderpod), 3-4’H x 3-4’W, peppery aroma and striking yellow flowers
Justicia californica (Chuparosa), 6’H x 6’W, red flowers attract hummingbirds
Larrea tridentata (Creosote Bush), 10’H x 10’W, oldest living organism!
Nolina bigelovii (Beargrass), 6’H x 6’W, yucca-like leaves, desert native
Opuntia prolifera, Opuntia parryi (Cholla), sizes vary, cactus native to CA deserts
Prunus andersonii (Desert Peach), Prunus fremontii (Desert Apricot), Prunus ilicifolia var. ilicifolia (Holly-leaf Cherry)
Purshia tridentata (Antelope Bitterbush), 6-15’ X 3-5’W
Rhamnus californica (Coffeeberry), R. crocea (Redberry)
Rhus trilobata (Skunkbrush), 3-5’H x 4’W, red and orange leaves in fall
Ribes aureum var. aureum (Golden Currant), 6’H x 2-3’W, beautiful yellow flowers and edible currants
Salvia apiana, Salvia dorrii, Salvia mellifera, Salvia pachyphylla, Salvia mohavensis, variable sizes, all fragrant!
Sphaeralcea ambigua (Apricot Mallow), 3’H x 3’W, attractive orange flowers in spring
Stanleya pinnata (Prince’s Plume), 2-5’H x 2’W
Thalictrum fendleri (Meadow Rue), 4’H x 2’W, good for dry shade
Trichostema lanatum (Wooly Blue Curls), 3-4’H x 3-4’W, beautiful and aromatic; no summer water
Yucca brevifolia (Joshua Tree), Yucca schidigera (Mojave Yucca), Yucca whipplei ssp. whipplei (Chaparral Yucca)

Grasses, small perennials and annuals

Achillea millefolium (Yarrow)*, 18”H x 2-3’W, groundcover for partial sun
Aquilegia formosa (Western Columbine)*, 2-3’H x 1-2’W, showy flowers, good for partial shade
Asclepias californica, Asclepias eriocarpa (Milkweed), host plant for Monarchs
Atriplex hymenelytra (Desert Holly), 3’H x 3’W, beautiful desert native
Baileya multiradiata (Desert Marigold),1’H x 1’W, colorful desert native
Bouteloua gracilis (Blue grama grass)*, 6”H x 1’W, great lawn substitute
Eschscholzia californica (CA Poppy), annual
Leptodactylon californicum (Prickly Phlox), 1-2’H x 1-3’W, covered in pink flowers in spring
Linum lewisii (Blue Flax), 1’H x 1’W, small perennial with blue flowers
Muhlenbergia rigens (Deergrass)*, 4’H x 4’W, lovely ornamental native grass
Nassella cernua (Nodding Needlegrass)*, 3’H 3’W, delicate bunchgrass for small spaces
Penstemon eatonii, Penstemon pseudospectabilis, Penstemon palmeri var. palmeri, dimensions vary, most have colorful red or purple flowers in spring
Salvia columbariae (Chia), annual
Sporobolous airoides (Alkali Sacaton), 2’H x 3’W, attractive and underappreciated native bunchgrass
Verbena gooddingii (Gooding’s Verbena), 1’H x 1-2’W, lavender flowers, good for butterflies