With the arid environment that characterizes the Southwestern United States, plants must develop to withstand the brutal summer heat. These plants have developed to seek out and thrive in environments that would otherwise be inhospitable. Native plants are defined as plants that have been established in a given area for hundreds of years. This definition is often paired with a geographic location, like the Southwestern US. It is challenging to pinpoint an exact geographical boundary, as plants do not follow the same boundaries people do, so we will just limit it to the Southwest in general - zones 6 through 11, west of the Rocky Mountains.
Evergreen Tree - Arizona Cypress The soft grey-green foliage of Arizona cypress provides a subtle backdrop to colorful landscape plantings in the foreground, or can stand alone as a centerpiece. As it ages, the bark begins to exfoliate, revealing red-brown bark. Reaching 50 feet high at maturity, Arizona cypress has adapted to the arid Southwest, requiring less maintenance and upkeep compared to other evergreen species.
Deciduous Tree - American Elm Even though many of these trees were lost to Dutch Elm Disease in the mid-1900s, cultivars today have been developed to resist it. It starts in spring with subtle green flowers providing pollinators with a fabulous buffet. As the green leaves emerge, American elm offers shade that rivals other shade trees before turning bright yellow in the fall.
Shrub - Yucca Though it's spiky foliage makes yucca seem intimidating, it's deep roots and succulent qualities make it ideal to thrive in the Southwest. Bright white flowers in the summer attract pollinators and add a touch of whimsy to any garden. Variegated varieties often have a yellow border that becomes more yellow in the summer. Be sure to plant it with plenty of room to grow, it can reach up to 20 feet tall in ideal conditions.
Flowering perennial - Hyssop Crushing the foliage of hyssop releases a smell similar to black licorice. It's flowers, ranging in color from light blue to purple to pink, bloom from mid-summer through fall, providing bright and cheery color to the landscape. Even though it is not very tall, reaching only 18 inches in height, it provides a punch unlike any other plant in your landscape.
Grass - Prairie Dropseed Grass Prairie dropseed grass has thin, green arching blades that turn a golden yellow in the fall. The seed heads, which appear in late summer, have a very faint sweet smell to them and dip lower as the seeds ripen. Use it in a mass planting or in a small cluster for best results.
Each of these plants has developed to withstand the harsher climates of the southwest. Be sure to include them for drought tolerance and lower maintenance overall. To see our favorite native plants for other regions, check out these articles: Native Plants for the Northeast Native Plants for the Southeast Native Plants for the Upper Midwest Native Plants for the Southern Midwest Native Plants for the Northwest