10 Most Popular Desert Plants That You Can Also Grow Indoors

Add a unique color and texture to your garden and indoor space with the most popular desert plants.

By: THURSD. | 06-04-2024 | 10 min read
Indoor Plants Garden Plants
Desert Plants

Desert plants are well known to be less demanding; due to their adaptability to extremely harsh conditions in their native environment.

If you live in a dry region or a location with an arid-like climatic condition then the below-listed desert plants with thrive in your garden but also indoors you can grow these plants.

From their striking and intriguing appeal, adjustment to any environment to low-maintenance requirements; makes desert flora a befitting choice for your garden and also indoors. If you fancy the idea of bringing the desert feel and character to your space; then you are in for a treat with growing the below desert plants.

The following 10 most popular desert plants should be at the top of your list as you embark on a desert plant-growing journey;

  1. Barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii)
  2. Desert Palm (Washingtonia filifera)
  3. Mother of Pearl Plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense)
  4. Pancake Prickly Pear (Opuntia chlorotica)
  5. Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia)
  6. Zebra Cactus (Haworthia fasciata)
  7. Soaptree Yucca (Yucca elata)
  8. Elephant Tree (Bursera microphylla)
  9. Saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea)
  10. Panda Plant (Kalanchoe tomentosa)

5 Bonus popular desert plants, widely grown as houseplants also listed below;

  1. Desert Rose (Adenium obesum)
  2. Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis Miller)
  3. Jade Plant (Crassula ovata)
  4. Oleander (Nerium oleander)
  5. Bottlebrush (Callistemon)

Desert Plants and their Adaptation Techniques

Wandering how desert plants manage to survive amid the acute dry seasons experienced in the desert? Here are some interesting facts on how desert plants have managed to navigate the dry conditions and even grow to maturity and bloom eventually. Due to their succulent adaptations, they can store water in their leaves, stems or roots extensively. Desert plants have fewer leaves if any exist but most have reduced leaf area surface like the spines or needles to reduce water loss through transpiration. Often cactus are found in the desert, you can read about the 10 best indoor cactus varieties here.

A deep rooting system is among the key traits of desert plants, this adaptation technique allows them to survive extremely dry conditions. A deeper rooting system gives desert plants the power to access deeper water reserves and maximum the occasional rain experienced in the deserts. Cuticle is a waxy coating found on the leaves and stems of desert plants, due to excessively high temperatures evaporation can be really high. Cuticle helps prevent plants from experiencing high evaporation rates.


Desert Plants
Picture by @Airy the Ghostbird


Additional survival techniques include; strategic and short flowering periods, especially during the rainy seasons or maybe due to a trigger of pollinators to avoid exhaustive use of energy and less-available water.

Adoption of Desert Plants into Indoor Gardening

Desert plants have been adopted gradually into home gardening; a specific period cannot be established exactly regarding when desert plants gained entry into home gardening, whether indoor or outdoor. However, increased awareness about desert plant care requirements and continuous innovation in gardening; has contributed immensely to the popularity of desert plants and other dought-resistant ornamentals in outdoor and indoor gardening.

Furthermore, the adaptation techniques and resilience of desert plants give plant lovers the opportunity to add elegance and texture to their homes and offices.

Below is a list of 10 intriguing and yet popular desert plants which you can adopt in your garden, or even inside your room. However, there is also a list of 5 extra plants popularly grown as houseplants already but with desert-like growing traits and care needs.

Barrel Cactus (Echinocactus grusonii)

The Barrel Cactus is definitely one of the most well-known desert plants to keep in your home. It is a striking desert plant with a barrel-shaped succulent covered in rigid spines. Its unique shape and spines make it a beautiful addition to any indoor space.

Due to its barrel-shaped growth, the name came about; but another common name is Golden Barrel cactus.


Desert Plants
Picture by @Fran Serrano


Echinocactus require bright and direct sunlight but less watering, in fact, allow the potting mix to completely dry before watering. Grow Barrel Cactus near your window, which has sufficient access to bright sunlight during the day.

Zebra Cactus (Haworthia fasciata)

Zebra Haworthia from its word 'Zebra' has white zebra-like stripes and spiky leaves. Mount this alluring desert plant near a window, to access a few hours of light daily, and allow the soil to dry out before watering.


Desert Plants
Picture by @Go Green


Grow Zebra Haworthia alongside other succulents because do not have to worry about length or outgrowing because the maximum height for this plant average at 4-6 inches.

Desert Palm (Washingtonia filifera)

Palm trees are well-known to thrive at the beachside, but did you know these beachside staples can also grow in desert regions? Desert palms differ significantly from the normal fans, when their fronds die, they fold around the trunk, giving the desert palm a strong protection layer.


Desert Plants
Picture by @Tom McGuire


Desert palm is a hardy desert plant, able to tolerate intense sun exposure, low humidity, and inconsistent night temperatures. The following desert palm varieties are suitable for growing in hot and dry conditions; Acrocromia species, Bismarck palm tree, Cuban paddle palm tree, and Ravenea Xerophila.

Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia)

Native to Arizona, Utah, California, and Nevada, the Joshua tree grows to an impressive height of 15m but after so many years. Joshua tree can also be referred to as; yucca palm, and palm tree yucca. Thanks to its strong rooting system Joshua tree is able to thrive in arid conditions by tapping into deep water tables.


Desert Plants
Picture by @Joshua Tree National Park


The green leaves which grow at the end of its short and stunted branches; give the tree a barren look but make it easy to identify it from a distance. An interesting fact about Joshua Tree is that it has a lifespan of 200 years!

Soaptree Yucca (Yucca elata)

Soaptree Yucca is a hardy desert plant that can withstand a mix of cold and hot weather. However, Yucca elata fancies the sun a lot and that is why it grows so well as a desert plant.


Desert Plants
Picture by @White Sands National Park


Sonora and Chihuahua deserts are the most common places to find this desert plant. Notably, Soaptree yucca is a 10-18 feet tall desert plant with leaves growing at its base. 

Mother of Pearl Plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense)

Mother of pearl plant also formerly known as the ghost plant, is a succulent desert plant that is suitable for both, cold hot and dry climatic conditions.


Desert Plants
Picture by @Vee


This elegant ground-covering desert plant is originally from Mexico; as it grows the leaves create a rosette shape. The intriguing shape created by the porcelain succulent adds character to the plant. Another common name for the Mother of Pearl plant is sedum weinbergii.

Panda Plant (Kalanchoe tomentosa)

The panda plant is an appealing succulent with fuzzy, grey-green foliage with red-brownish tips. It can grow to 2 feet tall when grown indoors, but it takes a longer period to achieve such a height. 


Desert Plants
Picture by @Catherine Chea


When watering, give it minimal water, allowing it to dry before resuming the watering. However, be careful not to drop some water on the leaves because it can easily contribute to rotting.

Prickly Pear (Opuntia chlorotica)

The prickly pear cactus is one of the most popular or iconic desert plants with green succulent and spiky leaves. Prickly pear cactus through its thick and greenish succulent leaves, store enough water to survive the harsh desert conditions.


Desert Plants
Picture by @Karine Aigner


Due to its hardy personality, prickly pear just like other desert plants highlighted above can thrive even in your home garden, with less watering and sufficient exposure to sunlight.

The prickly pear cactus earned the name 'Pancake Prickly Pear cactus' because of its pancake-like arm which can grow to 7 feet tall.

Elephant Tree (Bursera microphylla)

Elephant trees can be grown as desert plants due to their easily recognizable huge trunk, used for water storage. The elephant tree is relatively short, with equally small branches.


Desert Plants
Picture by @T davenport


Provision of the sunlight exposure and water infrequently, allows the elephant tree to bloom with yellow flowers, which fade to white or cream in color when fully opened.

Saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea)

The Saguaro cactus is a huge cactus; with large and stretching-out arms like branches. Carnegiea gigantea through its thick stems, stores enough water, enabling this huge desert plant to survive the driest of conditions in the desert. The saguaro cactus is a blooming plant, between April and June, its trumpet-shaped flowers emerge.


Desert Plants
Picture by @Airy the Ghostbird


However, being a slow-grower, it makes it ideal for growing in your home garden, to add a touch of a desert feel to your environment.

The below additional plants have a desert origin but also desert-like growing traits. Due to their hardy nature, they have been massively adopted and grown in home gardens and also as houseplants.

Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera is popularly known and has been grown for its medicinal benefits for centuries. However, this versatile indoor desert plant is succulent with fleshy and thorny leaves and the easiest to grow, even for beginner growers.


Desert Plants
Picture by @Maxi Hamar


Its sap which can be extra inside the leaves can be used to alleviate sunburns and treat wounds. Aloe Vera requires bright sunlight and minimal watering, avoid hot sun because it can scorch the leaves eventually.

Desert Rose (Adenium obesum)

Due to its slow growth, desert rose plants can grow up to 12 inches annually. Native to Africa and the Middle East, the Desert Rose plant can be planted as a bonsai plant due to its succulent stem and its thin leaves, with trumpet-like blooms.


Desert Plants


Due to its trumpet-shaped pinkish flowers, Desert Rose stands to be the focal point of your indoor space. Growing this beautiful desert plant is easy, though it demands bright sunlight, allowing the soil to dry out before watering because it does not appreciate a lot of water.

Jade Plant (Crassula ovata)

Being the most popular succulent and indoor desert plant; the Jade plant is a symbol of good luck and success in different cultures. Jade plant has thick and glossy foliage, with also a tree-like appearance. Generally, Jade plants are not tall but when grown indoors can reach a foot in height.


Desert Plants
Picture by @Stylist Bali


Keep your Jade plants happy by allowing the soil to completely dry out before watering, also give your Jade plant an opportunity to access bright light regularly.

Oleander (Nerium oleander)

Oleander is a shrub that can be grown both in home gardens and also in the desert regions. Nerium oleander has medicinal value and it can be used to treat cardiac, and asthma illnesses, and also in wound healing as an antibacterial. Oleander seeds and leaves are used in manufacturing medicine.


Desert Plant
Picture by @Alessandro D'Alfonso


However, despite being a blooming shrub with attractive pinkish flowers, avoid direct skin contact with the oleander plant because of its irritation. Avoid excessive watering when dealing with oleander planted in your garden and also enhance it has access to enough sunlight throughout the day for it to thrive and eventually bloom.

Bottlebrush (Callistemon)


Desert Plants
Picture by @Priscille Homeopathy


Bottlebrush in a hot desert climatic region, with minimal watering this desert plant can thrive to its blooming stage. Callistemon is known as the bottlebrush due to its red flowers, which grow in a bottle-like shape. Native to Australia, bottlebrush grows in different climatic conditions in Australia including arid regions.

Bottlebrush can be added to your garden plants portfolio but watch out on how you water this desert plant because excess moisture is detrimental to its growth.

The above popular desert plants offer a wide range of colors and textures to choose from; which can perfectly fit into your garden desert plants' preferences. With their capabilities to thrive under arid climatic conditions, and their aesthetic appeal; desert plants are undoubtedly the missing piece in your garden and houseplants portfolio.


How do I care for desert plants indoors?

Caring and maintainance of desert plants; differs from one plant to another. For Aloe Vera for instance, exposure to bright but not hot sun is needed but for a Zebra plant it needs consistent access to bright sunlight throughout the day. However, as a rule of thumb all desert plants requires minimal watering, preferably wait until the soil or potting mix dries out completely before watering again. Despite being hardy and can withstand harsh conditions and treatment, the bear minimum for desert plants to thrive include; access to bright sunlight a few hours a day; infrequent watering and in general checking on when to repot based on their growth especially for Zebra and Snake Plants.

Can desert plants survive in low light conditions?

YES! Desert plants despite getting accustomed to acutely hot conditions and scorching sun in the desert biome; they can survive low light conditions or enviroment. However, failure to get bright sunlight access to the Christmas cactus can led to it failing to bloom. Therefore, despite of most of the desert plants thriving under low-light, for some like Christmas cactus, Zebra Plant and Desert Rose, access to bright sunlight sufficiently throughout the day is crucial.

What is the ideal watering frequency for desert plants?

The best strategy to watering desert plants grown indoors involves infrequent watering. The best way to put it, wait until the soil or potting mix completely dries up and you cannot feel any moisture especially in the top soil, only then can resume watering but keep it to the lowest levels as much as possible.

Are there any toxic desert plants that I should worry about?

Yes! Most desert plants are pet and people friendly but there are afew which you should be aware of their toxic traits and take care of your pets, children and yourself in that regard. One example is the Crown of Thorns, which is toxic to both pets and people and its thorns should also worry you to avoid any injuries. Barrel cactus' spines are extremely sharp and fierce, so good to handle with a lot of care to avoid any injuries.

Can I grow desert plants indoors without a desert-like environment?

Yes Desert plants have impeccable adaptation capabilities, which makes them survive the arid climatic conditions. Through storage of water in its stems and thick and fleshy foliage to growing deepper rooting system, desert plants adopt these adaptation tehniques to survive in any enviroment, even in the extremely harsh conditions. However, when grown indoors strive to create desert-like enviroment but avoiding watering desert plants frequently and enhancing their access to sufficient bright sunlight during the day.

What are desert plants?

Desert plants are plants which grow and thrive in an arid enviroment; areas which is generally hot and dry for the better part of the year and receives minimal rainfall. These plants require minimal care and watering due to their hardy traits and adaptation techniques. Desert plants can easily store water in their leaves, stems and also grow deeper roots to tap into the deep water tables. Plants with such adaptation style are referred to as; desert plants.

What are the benefits of growing desert plants?

Apart from the aesthetic appeal, adding texture and color to your garden and space; desert plants are easy to grow, whether you reside in a dry region or you want to grow desert plants in your garden; the maximum requirements for them to grow well include; infrequent watering, exposure to sufficient sunlight, apply minimal fertilizer during watering only. Anyone can grow desert plants successfully because unlike other plants they are not overly demanding to grow and care for.

What are the common issues and challenges when growing desert plants?

Despite of desert plants being hardy and able to withstand any harsh conditions, the following are some of the issues and challenges which might hinder their optimal growth, when grown in your garden or as houseplants. 1. Soil PH value- extremly acidic soils can hinder the growth of your desert plants, good to test your soil and regulate accordingly with supplement nutrients to bring the PH levels to optimal. 2. High Temperatures- If you live in dry region, though it is good for your desert plants, the extreme heat can lead to tremendous water loss. To mitigate this, water your plants in the morning when the sun is not extremely hot and water loss will be minimal, others prefer to water at night too. 3. Extreme sun, wind and heat exposure- Though the sun is crucial for your desert plants' growth, sometimes it can cause some damage. Ensure your pair your desert plants well, with short plants being grown next to high growin plants to enhance they are shielded properly from any danger.


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