Be the best gardener in the Southwest with these Desert Botanical Garden resources to help you make your desert landscape the envy of all the neighbors:
And if you still can’t find the answer to your question, just let us know: Call our Desert Plant Hotline at 480 481.8120 Monday - Friday, 10 - 11:30 a.m. Or, email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Desert Gardening Guides
Click on the links below to download the corresponding desert gardening guide.
Trees, Shrubs & Wildflowers:
Problems In Your Garden:
Miscellaneous Gardening Topics:
Q: I have a large, mature saguaro and I have noticed birds pecking holes in it. What should I do?
A: Woodpeckers and flickers normally make their nests in saguaros, usually with no harm done to the plant. Do not attempt to block the holes, as this can lead to moisture build up and infection of the tissue inside. Find out more fascinating facts about the saguaro in the Planting and Caring for a Saguaro Desert Gardening Guide.
Q: I recently moved to the Valley and would like to know if you can recommend any desert-adapted plants for my landscape?
A: Whether you are new to the Valley or have been a long-time resident wanting to convert to a low-water use landscape, there are a number of interesting and diverse plants that can be added to your plant palette. Click here to see our Recommended Plant List for Desert Landscapes.
Q: During the summer months, I notice that my cacti and agaves will start to yellow. What is happening and what can I do to prevent this.?
A: What you are noticing is sun-stress or sunburn on your plants. This condition is the result of the breakdown of the chlorophyll within the plant’s tissues caused by the extreme heat and intense sunlight. Most plants have not evolved under conditions as harsh as we experience here in the low desert. Many cacti, agaves, and other succulent plants are found growing in the shade of a shrub or on mountain slopes where the amount of direct sunlight received is limited. While some plants will adapt to the full sun with age (think of the Saguaro-Palo Verde nurseplant relationship), others will need protection throughout their lives. Shade cloth can be used to protect the plants for the summer, or consider planting a shrub or perennial on the west side of the plant. Anything that provides shade or cooling will help.
Q: I have a swimming pool and would like to know if there are any desert-adapted plants that produce very little litter around the pool?
A: Plants will at some point produce some amount of debris such as spent flowers, leaves, fruit, or seed. But there are some desert-adapted plants that produce relatively low litter. Click here to see our Poolside Plants for Desert Landscape.
Q: I have an agave that is blooming, and I see tiny little plants at the top of the stalk. Can these be rooted in potting soil and later be transplanted to the ground?
A: The baby plants are called bulbils. They are genetic clones of the parent plant, and are usually very easy to root. The best success is achieved when the bulbils are allowed to develop to 2-3 inches in size before they are removed from the stalk. They will root in almost any type of potting soil, provided there is good drainage, the plants are not planted too deeply, and they are protected from the intense sun. Using a crushed granite top dressing can help to stabilize the plants while they are producing roots. The granite will also help to slow the loss of moisture from the potting soil. The goal is to keep the potting soil moist but not soaked as the plants put on new roots. In most cases it is preferable to keep the plants in pots until they have developed a root system and have grown to at least 6-8 inches tall before planting in the ground.
Q: I have a lot of rabbits and other critters in my yard that will eat many of my plants. Can you recommend any plants that they will not eat?
A: It is important to remember that native plants used in the landscape are a natural food source for many animals and during times of drought rabbits and other critters will eat just about anything. However, there are some plants that seem to be less palatable to rabbits. You can also encircle newly planted material with chicken wire until plants mature and are able to withstand some nibbling. Click here to see our Desert Gardening Guide on Rabbit Resistant Plants.
Q: I would like to grow wildflowers in my yard. When is the best time to plant in the low desert?
A: Wildflowers are a beautiful addition to the landscape providing color, texture, and sometimes even fragrance. The best time to plant spring-flowering annual wildflowers is in the fall when daytime temperatures are below 90 degrees. Click here to see our Desert Gardening Guide on Planting Desert Wildflowers.
The Desert Botanical Garden’s herbarium database is continually being updated. This is a particularly useful tool if you are unable to utilize our herbarium on-site.
Wholesale grower Mountain States Wholesale Nursery has information about hundreds of plants suitable for desert gardening, how to choose the perfect plant for conditions in your yard, and/or find retail nurseries that carry their plants.
The University of Arizona, Maricopa County Cooperative Extension Service offers a wealth of information for desert gardeners. A variety of demonstration gardens are offered at the main office.
Desert USA provides a variety of information ranging from plants to wildlife and geology, as well as associated updates and activities.
City of Glendale Xeriscape Botanic Garden surrounds the Glendale Main Library, offering mature plant specimens, examples of good plant combinations and ideas for your landscape.
The United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service offers the PLANTS Database, providing standardized information about the vascular plants, mosses, liverworts, hornworts, and lichens of the U.S. and its territories.
The Arizona Herb Association is a nonprofit organization, established as an educational forum so that its members and the public can easily obtain, share and utilize information about the uses, culture, history and lore of herbs. Members maintain interests in culinary, cosmetic, medicinal, ornamental, dye and ethnic herbs. All other interests in herbs are encouraged and welcomed.
The Arizona Native Plant Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to the appreciation and protection of Arizona’s native plants. Monthly meetings (link to details page in Events & Exhibitions) of the Phoenix chapter, open to all plant enthusiasts, are held at the Desert Botanical Garden, and a variety of activities are offered to members state-wide.
The Central Arizona Cactus and Succulent Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to sharing information about, and encouraging conservation of, cacti and other succulents. Monthly meetings(link to details page in Events & Exhibitions), open to the public, are held at the Desert Botanical Garden, and a variety of activities are offered to members.
The Arboretum at Arizona State University maintains the goals of the acquisition, development, maintenance, and display of plants which illustrate the complex ecological systems on earth, the diversity of the plants, and their botanical relationships. Included are a wide array of plants useful to humans, those most appropriate for general landscape purposes in the arid Southwest, and rare plants of the world.
The Arboretum at Flagstaff has the mission to increase the understanding, appreciation, and conservation of plants and plant communities native to the Colorado Plateau, to identify, evaluate, display, and introduce plants adaptable to the climatic and soil conditions of the Flagstaff environment, to seek through scientific research innovative solutions to conservation issues of this high altitude environment, and to develop educational programs that will increase the understanding of the need for wise stewardship of our natural environment.
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a private, non-profit institution whose mission is to inspire people to live in harmony with the natural world by fostering love, appreciation, and understanding of the Sonoran Desert.
Boyce Thompson Arboretum is cooperatively managed by Arizona State Parks, University of Arizona, and the nonprofit Arboretum corporation, offering desert plants from around the world a spectacular setting.
Tohono Chul Park is a private, non-profit garden whose mission is to enrich people’s lives by providing them the opportunity to find peace and inspiration in a place of beauty, to experience the wonders of the Sonoran Desert, and to gain knowledge of the natural and cultural heritage of this region.
Tucson Botanical Gardens is a non-profit garden with the mission to provide horticultural and ecological education, to encourage responsible environmental stewardship, and to provide a setting for enjoyment, relaxation and renewal for residents and visitors of all ages.
University of Arizona Campus Arboretum has the mission to conserve, manage, enhance, and expand a vital collection of plants adapted to an active urban Sonoran Desert setting; and to showcase the historic, aesthetic, environmental, economical, and educational value of these plants within our community and the American Southwest.