Small Desert Plants

Small Desert Plants

Last updated on April 6th, 2024 at 10:24 am

Small Desert Plants for the Southwest.  These small cactus plants are great for a small Xeriscape landscape design.  Most will require little water and will tolerate full hot sun…perfect for those small hot places that are bare.

Desert plants are susceptible to mealybugs and other insects.  Owners tend to neglect them because they are low in water and best to use Cactus juice to keep them healthy. Here are a few tips to help you ensure nice healthy desert plants.

  1. Ask the garden salesman what type of care they need before purchasing them.
  2. Observe your cactus plants regularly.  At least twice per month.
  3. Use cactus juice instead of regular fertilizers. Or dilute at half the recommended ratio.
  4. Make sure your container drains well.
  5. Check for Mealybugs and Scale Insects at least once per month.
  6. Here is a pic of what mealybugs and scale insects look like.
  7. Do NOT overwater but many desert plants require different watering schedules.

Small Desert Plants: Desert landscape ideas for backyards
Small Agave with Miss Huff Lantanas

The Queen Victoria Cactus (Agave victoria-reginae)

Nice small desert cactus for a small yard.   It will produce a bloom once it is well established, usually in its tenth year or so. It forms a tall spike densely packed with reddish-purple flowers.

Use it as a standalone specimen or plant it in a nice small decorative pot. You can also use it in a rock garden and or a small succulent garden.   It will grow to about one foot tall and a foot and a half in width. Very drought tolerant once established.

View of agave victoriae reginae is a small species of succulent flowering perennial plant grown on the ground noted for its streaks of white on sculptured geometrical leaves


The Dwarf Agave (Agave desmettiana)

A water-wise plant with long succulent fronds.  This Agave with curled-up leaves that give it that special look.  Is another desert plant that blooms in about 15 or 20 years of growth.  It is an evergreen plant.  Use it in a small pot and place one on each side of your front doorway entrance.  It is a slow grower but will eventually grow to about 3ft. tall and wide.

The Christmas Catus Plant

Small Desert Plants
Christmas Cactus

The Christmas Cactus will get long and leggy…growth is about 2-3 ft. wide and 2 ft. tall.  They come in pink, white, Fuschia pink, and bright red.  It’s best to re-pot each year after it stops blooming, normally in late spring. Re-pot into a larger container as this will help them bloom and thrive.  It likes temperatures right at about  70°.  Christmas Cactus is normally an indoor decoration plant.

How to make Christmas Cactus Bloom

Here is one quick trick to making your Christmas Cactus bloom.  Use a bloom booster at half the recommended ratio.  First, water your plant then apply your bloom booster.  There are lots of bloom boosters on the market, however, in my humble opinion Grow-More’s BR61 works best!

Desert landscape ideas for backyards

Spiral Aloe (Aloe Polyphylla) Is succulent and will grow about 1 ft. tall and 2 ft. wide.  It does not have a bloom or spikey plume.  It is grown and used mainly for its colorful foliage. This plant is best used as an indoor house plant. It can be placed outdoors but like most succulents, it will have a hard time with freezing temps and the hot scorching sun.

Top View of Spiral Aloe.  Aloe polyphylla closeup view.

Small Desert Plants for Desert landscape

Ferocactus Latispinus variety of barrel cactus that blooms at an early age. Also called the Crow’s Claw Cactus and the fishhook cactus.  Drought tolerant and is in the Cactus Barrel family.  It produces a red and or a yellow flower from mid to late spring.  They will grow to about 1 ft. tall and 2 ft. wide. It is a slow grower and is low-water cactus. It can tolerate cold weather…down to -4°.

Blue Glow Agave

A very hardy Agave plant that has blue-green leaves with yellow and red margins from its fronds.  Each frond or leaf has a sharp red-tipped spine…almost needle-like tip. It will grow to about 1 1/2 ft. tall and about 2 ft. wide.  Blooms are showy yellow flowers in about their tenth year of growth.  It does great in a rock garden or Xeriscape landscape but it does like more water than other drought-tolerant plants.  Especially during the hot mid-summer months.  If possible place it in the afternoon shade to protect it from the hot scorching Southwest sun.

Small Desert Plant
Several Blue Glow Agave in this landscape area.


Cactus Barrel

Small Desert Plants
A row of Cactus Barrel

The Golden Cactus Barrel (Echinocactus grusonii). The Golden Barrel cactus loves the full hot sun…even in areas where temps go over 115° during the summer months.  It produces a showy yellow flower after its 3-4 years of growth.  It will grow about 4-5 ft. tall and 2-3 ft. wide.  Perfect for a small cactus backyard or inside a rock garden.

Small Desert Plants

Cactus barrel in a pot
3 Cactus barrel plants in a pot. They will do great in a pot but be sure to use cactus soil/mix. The pot needs to have good drainage.

Echinocereus Cactus

This is what Wikipedia says about the this cactus plant; Echinocereus is a genus of ribbed, usually small to medium-sized cylindrical cacti, comprising about 70 species native to the southern United States and Mexico in very sunny rocky places. Usually the flowers are large and the fruit edible.


Do you have questions or comments about the small desert cactus?  Let us know by commenting below.


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