The best plants for your oh-so-hot Scottsdale garden


Gardeners love to experiment and those of us who toil under the hot desert sun are no different. I don’t know about you, but I’ve tried a number of different plants over the years, losing many but being pleasantly surprised by others. Roses, for instance, do far better here in the desert than I’d ever dreamed. Sure, some species are better adapted to the heat, but I’ve had good luck with many.

Finding what will thrive in our dry heat is challenging, but rewarding when we hit on the winners.


You’ll often hear the canna (Canna spp.) referred to as the “canna lily,” although it has no relationship to the true lilies. What it will do in your Scottsdale garden, however, is provide lots of color. Depending on the species or cultivar, the foliage will be muted or interestingly veined. It’s the tropical-looking flowers, however, that will add real punch to the landscape.

Especially heat-tolerant cultivars include ‘Toucan Yellow,’ the deep-pink ‘Los Angeles’ and  'South Pacific Scarlet Hybrid' (buy seeds for the latter online at Park Seed).

Use care when choosing the planting location for your canna, keeping them away from buildings or block walls where the radiant heat may damage the foliage as well as the flowers. You’ll also need to keep the soil consistently moist for many cultivars, others (such as ‘Toucan Yellow,” mentioned above), are a bit more drought-tolerant. Then, forego the rock mulch as well. A loamy soil, water and sunshine is really all the canna needs.

Ice Plant

It seems obvious that a succulent plant that originated in Africa might do well in our Scottsdale landscapes and it does. The genus Delosperma contains more than 100 species but one of the cultivars we love is ‘Jewel of the Desert.’ This petite ground-hugger has blooms in deep red with white and yellow centers, orange with white centers and white with yellow centers. Grow all three in one spot for a striking display of summer color (see a photo of that here).

Give ‘Jewel of the Desert’ soil with good drainage and lots of sun and it will spread like crazy. Notice we didn’t say “water?” This plant rarely needs it.


Did you know that the Arizona poppy (Kallstroemia grandiflora) isn’t actually a poppy? Be that as it may, no self-respecting Scottsdale flower garden would dare be without it. It does look somewhat like the California poppy, but the resemblance ends there as ours is far more drought-tolerant, so it’s a fine choice for areas that are seldom watered. 

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