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Here is a list of Desert Evergreen Shrubs that do well in the Southwest. Some of these plants are not native but will survive the hottest part of the mid-summer seasons providing they are given lots of water.
Once established they do become tolerant to the mid-summer heat. Moderate waterings are ok. Use a good drip system except for the cactus, agave, and the creosote about 20-30 minutes every other day. They are good plants for native and or desert landscaping.
Agave or Mescal (spanish):
This plant is a beautiful succulent and primarily used for desert landscaping. Very little watering and care it likes gravelly soil and full sun. Several varieties including the Americana, Parrys agave plant, and Lechugilla.
Also called the century plant and will produce a tall flowering plume after several years. Grows well in southwestern New Mexico and west Texas.
Desert evergreen shrubs
Arborvitae or Thuja orientalis ‘Aurea Nana’
This Desert evergreen shrub, tree, or plant will grow in almost any type of soil is drought tolerant with a lime green color and small blue Berries. Can be used as a hedge plant or tree.
Can grow to 6 ft. tall and about 5 ft. wide. Plant several in a row for a nice short border.
Excellent in a container. It does require regular watering. Even more so during the hot summer months in the southwest.
Barberry or Berberis: Good hedge shrub with elliptical leaves and red berries moderate watering fast-growing. Produces small yellow flowers. Read more about this plant here. Japanese Barberry.
Other varieties include Colorado and Japanese barberry. They grow about 3-5 ft. height and wide.
Japanese Boxwood or Buxus microphylla: Small-leaved evergreen shrub and used mostly as a hedge. Like shade or sun and slow-growing. Lime green foliage grows short about 3-4ft. Grows best in southern New Mexico and El Paso.
Prickly Pear or Opuntia: Also called the flat ear cactus. Likes full sun and produces edible. Beautiful flowers in the spring they bloom in red or yellow. Do not overwater this cactus and there is no need for a drip system. More information on the Prickly Pear Cactus here.
Fast growing desert evergreen in southwest New Mexico. Plant away from heavy people traffic.
Nandina or nandina domestica: Very easy plant to grow, likes sun or shade. Moderate watering and grows slow.
This plant will turn a reddish/orange color in winter and green most of the summer. Can grow up to 6ft tall with red berries.
Very hardy shrub and can be planted along walls or xeriscaping yards.
Photinia: or Photinia x fraseri. Very hardy broad-leaved shrub up to 15 ft tall about 10 ft. wide. Fast grower leaves are green but tips turn a beautiful reddish color. The Photinia can tolerate the intense southwest heat but needs additional watering during the summer months. More about the Photinia Shrub. Usually dark green foliage all summer. Use them as a hedge or border plant.
Moore Dense Juniper – Juniperus sabina ‘Monard’. A great low growing shrub can also be used as ground cover. Use it in a container or around rock desert gardens.
Bright green foliage and drought tolerant once established. More types of Juniper plants here.
Blue Point Juniper – Juniperus horizontalis ‘Blue Chip’ – A great looking evergreen Juniper with silver-blue foliage all year long. Excellent as a stand-alone plant or use them in mass for a wondrous sea of silver foliage. See photo and much more here. Blue Point Juniper at Monrovia.
Pyracantha: Tall desert evergreen shrub with white flowers in spring. Used for screens and as a border plant. Produces red or orange like berries. Likes moderate watering. Numerous vine-like thorns. Can be used as an evergreen hedge or border screen. It does have sharp thorns on stems. There are several types of Pyracantha read about them on this page. Pyracantha Varieties.
Creosote or Larrea tridentata: Native New Mexican plant. Lower elevations of the desert southwest. Very hardy plant up to 10ft. height and wide. Likes full sun and will grow in almost any type of soil. Produces yellow like flowers during spring. Many folks consider this plant a large weed.
You will see this shrub all along the southwest Interstate roads. It is rare you will see this shrub in retail nurseries as they are hard to keep in containers.
India Hawthorne or Rhaphiolepis indica: Very exotic looking desert evergreen. An excellent choice for business landscapes or front/back yard homes. It can work in a Xeriscape landscape but needs additional watering during the summer months. Beautiful bright pink flowers in early spring. Can tolerate shade and full sun it’s a moderate grower and will grow up to 4ft tall and wide.
Pittosporum Shrubs: Evergreen shrub with small white flowers in spring. Used for screens and border plant. Is not really a desert type plant, however, with regular watering, it will look great especially if planted in partial shade. The dwarf specimen is about 3-4ft tall and regular plant is about 10ft. tall. Not really a desert shrub but will look great in a shady spot or underneath a large tree. Also called Mock Orange because of its orange flowering fragrance during the spring months.
Paul Guzman – Husband, Father, Grandfather, Gardener, and Webmaster of GuzmansGreenhouse.com