LANTANA is the best drought tolerant plant – Red, White, Purple, Gold, Perennial Flowers!

As I was going to the store I came across one of the greatest displays of The New Gold, White, Red and even Purple Trailing Lantana I have ever seen!  In our Arizona garden we have several species of Lantana because it is one of our desert favorites!

Best Drought tolerant plants, Lantana varieties
Purple Trailing Lantana, Texas New Gold, Red, Light Yellow Lantanas

White, Red (Texas), Purple Trailing and Gold lantana mounds in this picture – Gorgeous!

Lantana is a genus of about 150 species of perennial flowering plants in the VERBENA family, (Verbenaceae). They are native to tropical regions of Africa and here in the Americas.

Lantana Verbena in containers
Confetti Lantana and Purple Verbena desert plants

It comes in plants and shrubs commonly called Lantana and shrub verbenas. Some types are considered invasive; they spread easily because lantana leaves are somewhat poisonous to most animals.

This is precisely why Lantana is a large part of our desert garden. Not only is Lantana resistant to the hot temperatures in Southern Arizona, but also drought tolerant and all the small animals leave them alone!  Our dogs are not interested in our lantana plants or their poisonous leaves at all.

popular drought tolerant plant
Texas New Gold best lantana

The Purple Trailing Lantana looks beautiful dancing along side the Yellow New Gold and a lighter yellow lantana mound in the back.

Drought Tolerant flowering bush shrubs Lantana
Texas New Gold Lantana, Purple Trailing Lantana

Being somewhat toxic and rejected by herbivores, camara and trailing lantanas are very hardy, but once or twice a year mine become infested with pests.  Insecticidal soaps will damage this plant. Try using plain dish soap with water in a spray bottle.

Although I did not see any berries in this orchestra of multi-colored lantana plants … the berries are edible ONLY when they are ripe.

Yellow, Purple, Red, White Lantana
Varieties of colorful Lantana, Verbena bushes shrubs

Though the stems of lantana are thin, the wood is very tough and durable and thus useful for crafts and wickerwork.  This is one heat resistant, hardy evergreen lantana shrub!

Texas New Gold in a Pot

Planting, Growing and Caring for lantana is easy. They like a lot of sun and lantana is not picky about their soil.

red orange lantana species verbena
drought tolerant red flowering lantana plant

Half of our garden lantana are growing in pots and containers, the other half is in the ground by cacti.  We do water the potted lantana once a day when the temperature is high. Last week we reached 110 degrees and my pots / planters needed a small amount of water in the morning and then in the evening. This is unusual and was due to the bone dry heat.

Picture of Lantana Heaven!

Lantana stems are HOLLOW so overwatering will cause your lantana roots to rot.  Try NOT to prune or trim your lantana until the end of the season. Remember the lantana stems are hollow.

Red and Yellow Lantana Plants, trailing mound

On average, the ground lantana need a DEEP soaking twice a week. A good indicator is the leaves. If your lantana is wilting, then water but be careful NOT to get water on the leaves. Most of the lantana we have planted are in full sun.  Watering at the roots prevents the risk of burning the leaves.

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Quick Yucca Facts

Quick facts:  Yucca is a category of trees and shrubs that are members of the Asparagaceae family. It is an evergreen plant which does not annually shed its leaves. The long, narrow and pointed leaves of the Yucca grow in a cluster along the stem.  Agave and Yucca are similar and belong to the same subfamily, Agavoideae.

tall yucca cactus plant
Yucca plant called the Joshua tree

From the center of this leaf cluster grows a cluster of bell shaped flowers. The edges of the leaves tend to be razor sharp, and the flowers are whitish-green, white or cream colored. In the evening some yucca blossoms open and emit a strong fragrance.

Yuccas come from the deserts and plains of southern North and Central America and with their stiff, leathery leaves and panicles of creamy white flowers, they make great architectural plants.

yucca cactus tree with spike leaves
large Yucca desert tree

The yucca plant produces a fleshy or dry fruit. It is a large fruit that contains numerous small, flat, ebony colored seeds. The Native Americans ate the yucca’s fruit during the winter months, after first preserving it by drying. The Native Americans also made fermented beverages from the yucca fruit. The appearance of the yucca fruit varies by the type of yucca plant. Some resemble a green egg plant, and others look like wrinkled bell peppers.

Yucca plants grow in parts of the Caribbean, in the southern and southwestern parts of the United States and in Mexico’s desert highlands and plateaus. While most of the plants are shrubs, there are some tree varieties, such as the Joshua tree. A large collection of yucca plants grow at the Joshua Tree National Park in the Southern California desert. The Joshua Tree National Park includes over 800,000 acres, and is under the National Park’s authority.

Native Americans found many uses for the yucca plant. From the leaf fibers they made baskets, sandals, ropes and mats. They utilized the fruit as food and to make drinks. They even ate the flowers from the yucca, which were either boiled or eaten raw. From the stems and roots of the yucca they made soap. Today yucca plants are used as decorative yard foliage and as bordering plants.

Yucca trees are known for being quite tall, although they can be grown indoors if you trim them back often.

desert plant yucca in pots
growing a yucca plant in pots

If you are growing a yucca tree indoors, repot your yucca cane when it becomes top heavy or its roots stick out of the drainage hole at the bottom of its container.

These Yucca trees are quite strong as well, so you don’t need to worry about damaging them when pruning and trimming. Pruning yucca trees is a simple and straightforward process. Because the yucca tree is a cane plant, pruning is synonymous with cutting the trunk.

arizona yucca cactus plant
Yucca Blooms

Can I cut my yucca plant? Trimming your Yucca

Yucca is an evergreen, perennial plant with spine-tipped leaves that grow in a rosette around a thick central stem.  More than 25 species of Yucca live in the arid regions of the southwest.  One of the finest aspects of this desert plant is that it is low maintenance.

yucca cactus and desert plants
yucca revechonii desert plant

If its craggy look doesn’t bother you then it is not even necessary to prune it.

white flowers on yucca plant
Torrey yucca species

 

desert yucca plants cactus
blooming yucca plants on Arizona highways

Trimming the Yucca plant is commonplace,  especially for ornamental purposes.  The best time to prune those rugged leaves is spring.  While early spring is the ideal season, a yucca can be trimmed anytime. Just make sure the yucca plant gets plenty of light while it is recovering.

desert cactus round with blue gray blades leaves
Yucca rigida, blue yucca desert plant

Cutting back a yucca may look harsh, but it is an attractive way to keep your plant manageable.   When the Yucca completes flowering cut the stalk all the way to the ground with a sharp pair of lopping shears.  To prevent cuts and scratches, wear heavy garden gloves.

cut back my yucca
the trimmed bottom of a desert yucca plant

Keep in mind that cutting the top off the yucca encourages the root system to push up new growth and more plants, called “pups” will appear.  Hire professionals to do your yucca trimming if you are short on time.

large stalks with cream white flowers
creamy white Yucca flowers

Tidbits:  The Apache Indians preferred the flowers of Yucca elata, a thin-leaf yucca, to those of the thick-leaf banana yucca. We know that  these flowers were eaten thousands of years ago because unusually large amounts of yucca pollen have been found in some dried human feces collected from Hinds Cave.

The difference between drought tolerant and drought resistant plants?

Define drought tolerant.  What is a drought resistant plant? Here is the difference between drought tolerant (true desert plant) and drought resistant (originated in semi-arid places).

A flower or plant that has naturally evolved to survive periods of drought with little water and has the ability to tolerate substantial dehydration of their tissues and organs is drought tolerant.  Xerophytes are the BEST drought tolerant plants, shrubs, trees, and cacti.

cactus plants use little water are heat tolerant
Drought tolerant Saguaro Cactus and Prickly Pear Cactus

Cacti and many plants survive on little water and make Xeriscape not only essential but pleasing to the eye. Derived from the Greek word “xeros”, meaning “dry” and combined with landscape, xeriscape means gardening with less than average water.

drought resistant landscape yard
flowering, hairy cactus with drought tolerant agave plants

Many xerophyte plants have specialized tissues for storing water, as in the stems of cacti and the leaves of succulents. Others have thin, narrow leaves, or even spines, for minimizing water loss.  Xerophyte leaves often have abundant stomata to maximize gas exchange during periods in which water is available, and the stomata are recessed in depressions, which are covered with fine hairs to help trap moisture in the air.

drought resistant tolerant bushes in yard design
xeriscape yard with XEROMORPHIC plants like cactus, yucca, ocotillo

Drought tolerant plants have adapted by making use of either C4 Carbon Fixation or CAM (crassulacean acid metabolism) a carbon fixation pathway that evolved in some plants as an adaptation to arid conditions.

xerophyte plants best drought resistant
A drought tolerant Joshua Tree and Yucca Cactus in this photo

In a plant using full CAM, the stomata, in the leaves, remain shut during the day to reduce the loss of water as vapor, but open at night to collect carbon dioxide (CO2). The CO2 is stored and then used during photosynthesis, which is the process of capturing the suns energy.

what is drought tolerant and resistant plants
Saguaro cactus and Palo Verde Tree are well – adapted drought tolerant plants.

CAM is particularly good for arid conditions because CO2 can be absorbed at night, allowing the pores on the leaves to stay closed during the day and thus reducing water loss. A easy way to explain it is drought tolerant plants can slow down metabolism.

Blue agave cactus plant with spike leaves in desert
Lovely Agave titanota BLUE variety

High elasticity of the cytoplasm and the capacity to withstand compression of the cells during dehydration are characteristic of drought-tolerant plants. What is cytoplasm? An easy definition of cytoplasm is a gel-like casing, covering – containing all the contents of the cell’s organisms, except the nucleus. Most metabolic (chemical reactions) pathways occur in the cytoplasm.

ocotillo tall cactus for drought tolerant yard arizona
Ocotillo Cactus plant in the desert

Not to be confused with drought-tolerant plants, Drought Resistant plants are not true desert plants. Many have originated in semi-arid regions, the area around the Mediterranean, Latin America and sub-Sahara.

Here are pictures of drought resistant plants that are not native desert plants.

color ideas for your desert low water, garden
colors of flowering lantana drought resistant plants next to oleander bushes

Lantana

drought tolerant and heat resistant flowering plants of the desert
The New Gold Lantana along with Trailing Purple Lantana plants
drought tolerant flowering lantana plants
White, Red (Texas) and Gold Lantana drought resistant desert plants

Lantana, in the verbena family, is a highly attractive drought resistant flowering plant that originated in tropical regions of Africa and the Americas.

drought tolerant and heat resistant purple lavender plant
lavender shrub is drought resistant

Lavender

top best drought tolerant flowering plants
young lavender drought resistant plant

This plant has it all: Drought resistant, it looks great, it smells wonderful, and it’s as tough as nails (as long as it’s not too wet).  Lavender is in the mint family and originated in the Old World around the Canary Islands, Africa, India, and Asia.

best drought tolerant heat resistant desert plants
Yarrow, yellow flowering drought resistant plants

Yarrow

Not only does yarrow tolerate heat and drought like a champion, but this easy-growing perennial is also a great cut flower.  Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, originated in regions of Asia and Europe.

best drought tolerant heat resistant desert plants
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) drought resistant plants

There is a difference between drought resistant and drought tolerant plants. Knowing the difference can save you considerable heartache.

Asparagus Fern is my # 8 in the top Ten heat resistant plants

Introducing the dramatic Asparagus densiflorus.  Even when southern Arizona reaches temperatures above 100 degrees the asparagus fern thrives!  Our desert garden has a subtropical ambience thanks to the ornate asparagus fern. This customary name is somewhat deceiving because the asparagus fern is not a fern at all; but a member of the Liliaceae, or Lily family.

Growing these ferns in containers is easy and low maintenance.  This plant develops large tuberous roots and can become potbound in a relatively short period of time.  Asparagus Ferns are vigorous, fast growing plants that can take extreme heat as long as it receives regular watering.

top heat resistant arizona plants
asparagus fern tropical looking asparagus fern with berries

To encourage new growth I give our asparagus ferns a trim every so often.  In the photo above you will notice several green berries that will turn red by winter.  Since these plants are dioecious, not all of your asparagus ferns will grow berries.

What does dioecious mean? Plants that are dioecious have their male and female parts on separate plants. Both male and female plants must be present for pollination to occur. Asparagus Ferns are toxic to cats and dogs.  Contact with the skin may cause dermatitis so I recommend wearing gloves.

heat tolerant Fern in Arizona desert plants
Asparagus Fern in pots and containers

From a distance, the asparagus fern, Asparagus densiflorus, looks very soft and delicate. This can be attributed to its fine, needle-like leaves.  Make no mistake, putting your hands into an asparagus fern will give you little scratches.

Asparagus Fern is native to South Africa and is an evergreen perennial that is commonly used as a groundcover or in hanging baskets for its showy foliage.

Asparagus Fern and orange honeysuckle in planters
Arizona garden with asparagus fern – tropical plants

An easy way to propagate new Asparagus Ferns is by division.  Using a large serrated knife, you can easily divide up the root ball into half or quarter sections for more new plants.

tropical desert plants in arizona
asparagus fern plants in the Arizona heat

The photo above is one of our potted asparagus ferns that is located in the full Arizona sun.  Other containers are nestled in part shade.  All of the plants are growing well with my only complaint being I need to plant more!

Yellow needles develop on asparagus ferns for different reasons such as rapid temperature change, under watering, over watering, spider mites and possibly a change in light.  Your asparagus fern will need less watering during winter and in low light conditions.

Arizona heat tolerant asparagus ferns in pots
growing asparagus ferns in part shade

Asparagus ferns can be trained to grow as a vine or cascade down a hanging planter. Note:  Sprenger’s Asparagus has been declared a noxious weed in Florida, Hawaii and New Zealand.   Listed as a Class One Invasive by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council’s Pest Plant List (FLEPPC).

We love Asparagus Ferns and have grown them in hot, hot Arizona for years with no behavior problems.

Bushes with Red, Orange and Yellow Flowers in Arizona – Red Bird of Paradise, Caesalpinia pulcherrima

What is the desert bush with Red, Yellow and Orange Flowers?  This common Arizona and Texas desert shrub is called the Red Bird of Paradise.

desert bird of paradise
desert shrubs with red orange flowers
orange and yellow flowering bush
Bird of Paradise bush with orange yellow flowers

The botanical name for Red Bird of Paradise is Caesalpinia pulcherrima, it is a species in the FABACEAE Family, more commonly known as the pea, bean or legume family.

bean pods on arizona bushes
Caesalpinia pulcherrima, Red Bird of Paradise bean pods

This is one of the easiest desert flowering plants to grow and take care of in the Phoenix, Tucson area; along with Texas and California.  It is deciduous (loses its leaves seasonally), but will bloom constantly through the summer.

bushes with yellow orange flowers
Red Bird Of Paradise plants attract butterflies

The Red Bird of Paradise makes a favorable hedge.  The orange and yellow flowers are one of the best plants to attract butterflies & hummingbirds!

 

arizona bush with yellow orange flowers
orange and yellow flowering bushes

 

Caesalpinia pulcherrima bushes with orange flowers
Red Bird of Paradise, Pride of Barbados

The Red Bird of Paradise plant is also the NATIONAL flower of the Caribbean island of Barbados, which is why you may hear it called Pride of Barbados.  Please note:  when purchasing this plant I have seen it labeled as “Pride of Barbados”.

Caesalpinia pulcherrima bush in Tucson
orange and yellow flowers continually bloom in the desert

This desert beauty is very hardy and drought resistant once it’s established; they can have a very long tap-root. With a little mulch at the base, your desert bird of paradise will come back year after year.

Caesalpinia pulcherrima
common bushes with red-orange flowers

The leaves are delicate lacy,  fern-looking. You may see this desert plant’s leaves fold up at night,  no worries; it is called Nyctinasty and is completely natural.   Bird of Paradise are fairly fast growers, and can get LARGE, so periodic trimming is suggested. The better water drainage you have the healthier this flowering plant will be.

Some people refer to this orange and yellow desert bush as the Mexican Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana). The actual Mexican Bird of Paradise has only yellow flowers and rounded leaves.  For more Mexican Bird of Paradise info

Tucson flowering bush Pride of Barbados
vivid orange, red and yellow blooms
Orange yellow flowers on Red Bird of Paradise Shrub
Orange flowers on the Red Bird of Paradise Shrub

Check out our article link: If you are interested in growing your own Bird of Paradise plants from the bean pods.

Red Bird of Paradise Bean Pods
Bean Pods and Orange, Yellow Flowers

 

shrub with orange yellow red flowers
young Bird of Paradise, Caesalpinia pulcherrima

Pictured above is one of our young plants we are watering often until their tap-root is well established.

Mexican Bird of Paradise bush
fern looking leaves of the Pride of Barbados

 

Red Bird of Paradise
Orange flowering bush in Arizona and Texas – Red Bird of Paradise

Here are some landscaping ideas to add colors to your garden area. 

Ocotillo cactus and Red Bird of Paradise landscaping.
Ocotillo cactus and Red Bird of Paradise landscaping
purple flowering bush red flowering shrub
Purple Texas Sage and Red Bird of Paradise Bushes

TIDBITS:  The Amazon Rainforest Medicine men had some medicinal uses for Red Bird of ParadiseCaesalpinia pulcherrima. Four grams from the root was used to induce abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy.  The bean pods and seeds of the Bird of Paradise plant are toxic / poisonous and will cause abdominal symptoms and vomiting.