Best Heat Tolerant Shrubs for Desert Landscapes

by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener

  • What plants can take full sun and heat?
  • Sun tolerant shrubs.
  • What shrubs plants do best in full sun?
  • Low maintenance heat drought tolerant shrubs.
  • What is a good bush to plant in front of a house?
  • Flowering shrubs that like full sun and heat.
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Crape Myrtle in the desert landscape

Shrubs can be very low maintenance, often permanent addition to the landscape. Shrubs are like big, bold perennial plants that get better year after year. You will find the summer selection of plants at the garden center like heat, sun, and drought, better than their spring cousins. For better color, fragrance, and Beauty, start with this list of top plants for local landscapes.

Barberry in a nursey container

Barberry is not picky and tolerates most soils, wind, and heat levels. Barberry can go in any direction in terms of height and appearance and is low maintenance and ideal for hedges. Plant this shrub in at least 6+ hours of sun with minimal pruning or upkeep.

butterfly bush pink dekight in the landscape

Butterfly Bush is locally named the summer lilac. The fruity fragrance with incredibly showy flowers is a summer magnet to both butterflies and hummingbirds. It is easy to grow with many new dwarf varieties that only grow to hip height for even easier maintenance and care.

cotoneaster inred clusterberry in a rock garden

Cotoneaster has many varieties, including ones that creep and trail. Red Cluster Berry can reach 10′ feet tall with an impressive spread. Coral Beauty spreads wide 10′ and under knee height. All cotoneasters bloom white in spring, take the summer heat, and a stunning red berry that often lasts through winter. This variety of plants is impervious to deer, rabbits, and javelina.

crape myrtle in bloom

Crape Myrtle has intense summer blooms in watermelon-pink, solar red, and LED white from summer through fall. Use as an accent or to cover unattractive views on a small scale. The best flowers are enjoyed close up, where you can enjoy its beautiful multicolored bark and sinuous branches. The flowers are striking against forest green foliage that turns red and orange in Autumn. Growing to just head height, every yard has room for at least one

mint julep jniper against a rock wall

Juniper includes everything from ground creepers to tall evergreen trees. They are excellent hedge plants, growing into perfect shape without pruning and shaping. Juniper is so flexible it can be planted in the yard, containers, or raised beds. Irrigate the first couple of seasons to establish, then let them go in a xeriscape fashion. Deer, rabbits, and javelina proof.

potentilla in the landscape

Potentilla is on the smaller side, growing only knee height with dainty yellow flowers spring through summer. It grows slowly but heartily, establishing itself even in poor clay soil. Sun is an essential key making it an excellent choice where heat-tolerant shrubs and plants are necessary. Deer, rabbits, and javelina proof.

spirea flowering shrub

Spirea is another gorgeous flowering shrub spreading out in a fountain of pink or white clusters of blossoms. It continues to thrive through the summer heat, culminating in orange autumn foliage. Varieties range from 2 to 6′ feet tall and wide. Choose the type that best suits your space and enjoy easy maintenance with attractive returns. All spireas are both deer and javelina resistant.

rosemary in blossom

Rosemary is medicinal, culinary, fragrant, and functional. Rosemary is a year-round favorite that fits equally well as a landscape shrub as it does in the herb garden. The fragrance repels insects, snakes, deer, and javelina with the daintiest blue flower in spring.

roses planted along a fence

Roses come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, providing fun garden projects. Mix and match varieties for an eye-catching look. Old gardeners’ tails say to put a nail in the ground with the new plants to help provide minerals. Harvest the hips at the end of the year for delicious organic rosehip tea. Whether Hybrid Tea, Floribunda, Shrub, or Groundcover, all roses need at least 6+ hours of sun to bloom well.

tiger eye sumac in the landscape

Sumac is an excellent shrub for heat and wind that also repels insects. With prevention as the best medicine in the organic garden, this is an important quality. After the summer sun has cooled, sumac’s blazing red foliage steals the Autumn show. Deer, rabbits, and javelina proof.

Watters Free Garden Class Series Saturday’s @ 9:30 am

Join the garden fun each Saturday as we share local tips, tricks, and garden advice sure to make a difference in your gardens.

June 12 – The Doctor is in the House – How to Heal Sick Plants

As we enter summer, the heat, bugs, and disease take their tole in the gardens. Frustrated gardens will have insight into proper water, grasshopper control, and how to get the most out of your gardens.

June 19 – Perennial Plants that Thrive in Summer Heat

June is the ideal month to plant perennials in the gardens. Students learn how to design seasonally for continual 4-season bloom.

June 26 – Best Mountain Fruit Trees and How to Plant Them Now.

Have your landscape and eat it, too! We’ll share the tips, tricks, and recipes that make for better, healthier, and tastier terrain.

Until next week, I’ll be helping gardens choose the best summer shrubs for their gardens.

Ken Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd in Prescott, or contacted through his website at or