The Top Low Water Use Plants for a Lush But Eco-Friendly Garden

succulents and low water use plants in pots

At one time, a desert gardener had a minimal number of plants. Not so now. Because of the burgeoning popularity of desert gardening and water-wise gardening, many low-water-use plants from around the world have become readily available at nurseries.

These plants are colorful, and many of them are fragrant as well. While you may use many of your old favorites in your oasis garden (see Designing Desert Gardens), you now have great choices for the transitional zone and arid zones of your garden.

Here are some plants that are perfect for the transition zones of your desert garden:

Low Water Use Plants

Deciduous plants

Western Catalpa

Native Chokecherry

Gambel Oak

Flowering Locust varieties

New Mexico Locust

Littleleaf Linden

Conifer plants

Rocky Mountain Juniper

Bristlecone Pine

Bosnian Pine

Limber Pine

Austrian Black Pine

Pinus nigra: Austrian Pine Seeds


Southwest White Pine

Pine, Southwestern White -

Scotch Pine


Utah Serviceberry

Pygmy Peashrub

Siberian Peashrub

Bluemist Spirea

Chinese Juniper

Littleleaf Mockorange

Mugo Pine varieties

Water Ash

Shrub Live Oak

Rocky Mountain sumac

Austrian Copper Rose

Woods Rose

Silver Buffaloberry

Common Lilac


Silvery Yarrow

Tall Yarrow

Moonshine Yarrow

Double bubblemint

Perennial Hollyhock

Pasque Flower

Silver anthemis

Porter's Aster

Chocolate flower

Bearded Iris

Lavender varieties

Poppy Mallow


Threadleaf Coreopsis

Blanket Flower

Coral Bells



A great many of these plants have long blooming seasons. Many have beautiful foliage. And still others have interesting autumn colors. Additionally, there are plants which provide great beauty in winter with their seed stalks, fruit and winter colors.

There is a great CD just produced by High Country Gardens that not only teaches some basic principles on desert gardening, but also offers photos and names of some fantastic plants that are perfectly adaptable to arid and transitional zones. Many of these plants are sub-varieties that have been developed by High Country Gardens. Cost of the CD is $14.95.

The Xeriscape Flower Gardener, a Waterwise Guide for the Rocky Mountain Region, by well-known xeriscape proponent Jim Knopf and published by Johnson Books is a fairly good resource as well.

A third book I have found is Native Plants for High Elevation Western Gardens by Janice Busco and Nancy Morin. Published in partnership with the Arboretum at Flagstaff, this book has some great plants, both native and introduced, that do well in desert gardens.

There are a number of other books also dedicated to desert gardens, which you may want to research.

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