top of page

3 Best Shrubs for the Desert Southwest

Updated: Jun 22

Finding the perfect shrubs for your desert southwest landscape can feel overwhelming. With scorching temperatures, limited water availability, and the desire for vibrant color, it's important to choose shrub plants to install in your landscape that will thrive in these harsh conditions.

Look no further! Civano Growers has many varieties of desert-adapted shrub plants. In this article, we are featuring three exceptional heat-loving shrubs that are specifically suited for the demanding desert southwest climate. These low-maintenance beauties will add a pop of color and attract pollinators to your yard, all while saving water and beautifying your urban landscape.

Table of Contents

Tecoma 'Red Hot' is a hummingbird magnet and one of the best shrubs for the desert southwest.
Tecoma 'Red Hot' is a hummingbird magnet and one of the best shrubs for the desert southwest.

Tecoma 'Red Hot': A Compact Powerhouse for Hummingbirds

Calling all hummingbird enthusiasts! The Tecoma 'Red Hot' is a must-have for your desert southwest landscape. This revolutionary dwarf Tecoma boasts an intense, fiery red flower color that's guaranteed to turn heads.

Standing out from the crowd, the Tecoma 'Red Hot' breaks the mold by reaching only 3-4 feet tall and wide at maturity. This compact size makes it ideal for urban landscapes with limited space. Don't underestimate its toughness – once established, this Tecoma is root hardy down to 15°F, making it a resilient choice for the desert.

But the best part? The Tecoma 'Red Hot' is a prolific bloomer, putting on a dazzling display of red flowers throughout a long season. This makes this shrub one of the best shrubs for the desert southwest. These vibrant blooms are a magnet for hummingbirds and other pollinators, creating a delightful buzz in your yard.

Here's why the Tecoma 'Red Hot' is perfect for desert southwest urban landscapes:

  • Compact size ideal for limited space

  • Eye-catching red flowers

  • Long blooming season

  • Attracts hummingbirds and pollinators

  • Cold hardy to 15°F once established

Sphaeralcea ambigua 'Orange Crush'  best shrubs for the desert southwest
Sphaeralcea ambigua 'Orange Crush' has an amazing winter bloom time with bold orange flowers.

Sphaeralcea ambigua 'Orange Crush': A Winter Wonder for Busy Bees

Tired of waiting for spring to enjoy blooming flowers? Look no further than the Sphaeralcea ambigua 'Orange Crush'. This winter-blooming wonder breaks the mold by producing a profusion of bright orange blooms from November all the way until May!

Unlike the sprawling native globemallow, the 'Orange Crush' boasts a low, mounding, and compact form. This means you get all the beauty of the vibrant orange flowers without the wild, unkempt appearance of some native plants.

Sphaeralcea ambigua 'Orange Crush' best shrubs in the desert southwest

A true desert native, the Sphaeralcea ambigua 'Orange Crush' thrives in the harsh desert southwest climate. This heat-loving perennial flourishes with minimal water and care, making it a perfect choice for busy homeowners or water-conscious landscapes.

Here's why the Sphaeralcea ambigua 'Orange Crush' is perfect for desert southwest urban landscapes:

  • Low-maintenance and drought-tolerant

  • Blooms throughout winter and spring

  • Compact size for easy placement

  • Attracts bees and native birds

  • Vibrant orange flowers add a pop of color

Calliandra californica 'Mexicali Rose' best shrubs for the desert southwest
Calliandra californica 'Mexicali Rose' easily fits in as one of the best shrubs for the desert southwest

Calliandra californica 'Mexicali Rose': A Showstopper for Butterflies

Calling all butterfly enthusiasts! The Calliandra californica 'Mexicali Rose' is a butterfly haven waiting to happen which makes it an excellent candidate to be in the best shrubs for the desert southwest category. This Baja native boasts an abundance of soft, red, puffball-like flowers that are irresistible to butterflies, including the majestic Monarch and Queen.

Calliandra californica 'Mexicali Rose' best shrubs for the desert southwest
Calliandra californica 'Mexicali Rose'

But the 'Mexicali Rose' isn't just a butterfly magnet, it's also a low-maintenance dream for desert southwest landscapes. This shrub exhibits a dense and naturally symmetrical growth habit, making it a great choice for property lines or borders.

Here's why the Calliandra californica 'Mexicali Rose' PPAF is perfect for desert southwest urban landscapes:

  • Dense and symmetrical growth habit

  • Prolific red flowers attract butterflies

  • Exceptionally cold hardy and heat-tolerant

  • Low-maintenance and drought-tolerant

Planting and Care Tips for These Best Shrubs for the Desert Southwest

These three exceptional heat-loving shrubs are all relatively low-maintenance, but there are still a few things to keep in mind when planting and caring for them in your desert southwest landscape:

How to Plant Your Shrub:

Tecoma 'Red Hot' in pot best shrubs for the desert southwest
  • Sun exposure: Choose a location that receives full sun exposure, at least 6-8 hours a day. Most desert plants thrive on sunlight and won't flower as well in shady areas.

  • Soil preparation: Amend your planting hole with well-draining soil. Desert soil can be heavy in clay or caliche, so adding sand, gravel, or compost can improve drainage and prevent root rot.

  • Digging the hole: Dig a hole that is at least two times wider than the root ball of your shrub. This allows the roots to spread out properly and establish themselves.

  • Planting depth: Plant your shrub at the same depth it was growing in the container (see the Tecoma 'Red Hot' container in the image to the right). Avoid burying the root crown, which is the area where the stem meets the roots.

  • Watering after planting: Water your newly planted shrub deeply and thoroughly to soak the root ball.

Watering Shrubs in the Desert Southwest:

  • Frequency: During the first year after planting, water your shrubs deeply and infrequently, allowing the soil to dry out completely between waterings. This encourages the roots to grow deep and search for water.

  • Established shrubs: Once established, these desert southwest shrubs are drought-tolerant and require minimal supplemental watering. However, they will benefit from occasional deep watering during the hottest and driest parts of the summer, especially if they are not receiving any monsoon rain.

  • Signs of thirst: Watch for signs that your shrub needs water, such as wilting leaves or dry, crispy foliage. When this occurs, give the shrub a deep watering to soak the root zone. For helpful watering tips, utilize regional watering guides.

prune shrubs regularly best shrubs for the desert southwest

Pruning Desert Shrubs:

  • Purpose: Light pruning can be done after flowering to maintain the desired shape and size of your shrubs. Pruning can also encourage bushier growth. Do not prune shrubs into unnatural shapes such as small balls and cubes in the Desert Southwest. Heavily shaved shrubs are more likely to fail in extreme heat or frost conditions.

  • Timing: Avoid pruning in the late summer or fall, as this can stimulate new growth that is susceptible to frost damage. The best time to prune these shrubs is in late winter or early spring before new growth begins.

  • Technique: When pruning, use sharp bypass pruners or lopping shears. Make clean cuts just above a bud or outward-facing branch. Avoid making stubs or shearing the entire plant, as this can encourage leggy growth.


  • Importance: Desert southwest soils are often nutrient-deficient. While these shrubs are low-maintenance, a light application of fertilizer can help them thrive and produce more flowers.

  • Frequency: Fertilize your shrubs lightly once a year in early spring. Use a balanced fertilizer formulated for desert plants, following the application instructions on the label. Avoid overfertilizing, as this can damage the roots and encourage excessive foliage growth at the expense of flowers.

mulch for the garden best shrubs for the desert southwest.
Adding mulch around shrubs can help plants hold moisture.

Additional Desert Shrub Tips:

  • Mulch: Apply a layer of organic mulch or gravel around the base of your shrubs to help retain moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature. Aim for a 2–3-inch layer of mulch, keeping it a few inches away from the stem of the shrub to prevent rot.

  • Monitor for pests and diseases: While these shrubs are generally pest and disease-resistant, be on the lookout for common problems like aphids, scales, and fungal diseases. If you notice any issues, treat them promptly with an organic pesticide or fungicide according to the label instructions.

Tecoma 'Red Hot' is a perfect dwarf variety and one of the best shrubs for the desert southwest.
Tecoma 'Red Hot' is a perfect dwarf shrub variety for the desert southwest.

Best Shrubs for the Desert Southwest? Yes - These are Perfect for the Garden!

With their compact size, vibrant blooms, and pollinator-attracting qualities, these dwarf shrubs are the perfect solution for beautifying your desert southwest urban landscape. They require minimal water and maintenance, making them ideal for busy homeowners or water-conscious gardens. So, if you're looking to add a splash of color and life to your yard, look no further than the Tecoma 'Red Hot', Sphaeralcea ambigua 'Orange Crush', and Calliandra californica 'Mexicali Rose'. These desert southwest superstars will thrive in the heat and reward you with a season-long display of blooms!



bottom of page