.  Plants which flourish in 100 degrees plus temperatures
  .  Plants which can survive single digit temperatures and humidity while experiencing strong cold, dry winter Santa Ana winds
  .  Plants which require little or no water once established
  .  Plants which fit into the regional ecosystem
broad-billed_6.gif (25258 bytes) .  Click on the left hummingbird icon for our complete data base of  300 such native water-wise plants, more than 150 of which are commercially available now
Click to see an enlarged picture .   Click on Caeser bust icon for plants list by scientific (Latinized) name
Trees Shrubs Perennials Yuccas Cacti 

Butterfly Garden

There a large selection of native High Desert plants which attract butterflies.  Even if your primary plan for your garden is for something other than butterflies, you can have both if you choose.

Fire Retardant Garden

A Fire Retardant garden may be indicated in areas of high fire exposure or to protect wood or other structures which may be extraordinarily vulnerable to fire.  This is mostly a native plant list but some popular non-natives are listed. 

Ethnobotanical Garden The plants represented in this garden were used by Native Americans for food, tools, weapons, housing, cordage, and/or a myriad of other uses.  This is an educational garden and not necessarily a water-wise one.  This is an application for all of Southern California, therefore many of the plants in this listing may not flourish in the High Desert.


Fragrance Garden


Many of the plants of the Southwest are among the most fragrant of all plants.  Placing them near sitting areas or along sidewalks will result in a pleasant fragrance experience for most, if not all, of the year.


Hummingbird Garden Plant the hummingbird plants and they will come.  Further, sugar water is not particularly healthy for hummingbirds, so by featuring these plants in your garden, you are doing these great little visitors a considerable favor.  Should you use hummingbirds feeders, however, you should fill them with high fructose sugar water.


Mojave Garden Most of these plants will require no water whatsoever once established.  Nonetheless, many will grow faster and bloom more profusely with a little watering help.  Plants which require no water will be marked with *.

Moonlight Garden A moonlight garden consists of plants which have light colored branches and foliage, and white flowers which can be seen in the moonlight or ambient artificial light ... a great feature for warm summer nights.


Mountain Garden Many trees and shrubs which grow several thousand feet above the Mojave Desert, grow well in the High Desert and require little or no water once established.  Indeed, you can have the Lake Arrowhead or Crestline look if you so desire.  Most mountain plants, however, are pollinated by wind and are hard on people with asthma or allergies.


Songbird Garden Food and nesting sites are an attraction for songbirds and the plants featured in this garden selection do just that.  Augment your songbird garden with waterers and birds houses and you will enjoy the result.


Sonoran Garden Many plants of the Mojave Desert also grow in the much lower and hotter Sonoran Desert and visa versa.  It should also be noted that some Sonoran plants will not grow, however, in the High Desert.  Here is a selection that will.


Thornless Garden Plants for a park or for a place where children will be playing are obviously more ideal if they are thornless.  Most of these plants, however, do not do well with the volume of water it takes to maintain grass.  Thornless plants are also recommended along walkways.





A list of nurseries which inventory native plants native to the High Desert of the Western Mojave.


Planting Here is a "How To" for planting success of native plants.


Watering This is required reading if you are to understand our philosophy of watering native plants which are planted from pots.


Envelope Construction The concept of envelope construction is the simple one of leaving a minimum construction scar at the given site.  Depending upon what is being built, an area around the immediate construction is cleared to give adequate construction access to the workers.  The native area surrounding the immediate site is not disturbed.  Upon completion of construction, native plants are introduced or re-introduced into the disturbed area.  If indicated, these native plants may be fire retardant.  This method of construction results in minimum environmental damage and savings to the developer and is now required in many southwestern desert communities.

High Pollinators All high pollinating plants are not necessarily totally undesirable, but their application should take place with eyes widen open.  Clearly high pollinating plants should not be used in landscaping for a health care facility, or in a condominium, apartment, or hotel courtyard.  Neither should these plants be set close to a house, especially if it has occupants who are afflicted with asthma or allergies.  The high pollinators are plants which use the wind to spread their pollen.  The worst are dioecious plants which have separate male and female plants.  Here the males must expel huge volumes of pollen in order to germinate distant female individuals to ensure the survival of the species.  These include our ubiquitous native California Junipers and ephedras (Mormon teas and Jointfirs).  Some other junipers, cypresses, and ephedras are high pollinating dioecious plants.

But there also monoecious plants which depend on the wind for pollination, even though both male and female sex organs are on the same plant.  Though these plants do not emit the same volume of pollen as the dioecious plants, they nonetheless are relatively high pollinators, and should not be used in the aforementioned landscape applications.  The main culprits in this category are the conifers (pines, firs, and spruces), oaks, mimosa or silk tree, poplars (including the cottonwoods and aspen), sumacs, olives, and numerous sod type grasses including fescue, Bermuda grass, Johnson grass, Kentucky bluegrass, orchard grass, sweet vernal grass, and Timothy grass.  Grass pollinization may be mitigated by regular mowing.

Some people may be allergic even to plants which do not emit pollen, but have fragrances caused by aromatic oils in leaves or flowers.  Such hyper-allergic persons should do their research before purchasing any aromatic plant.


Invaders Invasive plants are a major problem in the High Desert.  Particularly vulnerable is that area of the Mojave River in which water remains on the surface the year-round.  Most of these plants send their seeds down river during the rains where they germinate and choke out native species.  Some, however, are spread by wind.  By far, the most invasive plant is the High Desert are the Phragmites, or as most people call them, River cane or Bamboo.  These plants can not only reproduce sexually by seed, but they can reproduce asexually with rhizomes (subterranean root suckers).  The national data base of invasive plants lists, in addition to Phragmites, Locusts, Olives and Salt Cedar or Tamarisk.  We have also observed Mimosa and Pampas grass invaders growing along the Mojave River in Victorville and Oro Grande, as well.  Please visit this link for the government list of invasive plants:


Water Hogs All riparian plants are water hogs whose only valid use in the High Desert, in some cases, is along the shores of the Mojave River or on park or limited residential lawns in which the grass must be watered regularly anyway.  Nonetheless, many riparian plants have shallow roots and have a propensity to damage nearby sidewalks, driveways, and foundations, and to invade septic tanks and sewer lines.  The riparian plants seem to be the most popular plants offered at the local nurseries, particularly the "big box" hardware stores who, despite their advertising claims, seem to know little about what kind of plants are best for the High Desert.  The following are some riparian plants which meet the aforementioned description:
Alders Cottonwoods Weeping Willow
Ashes Poplars Wild Roses
Aspens Sycamores Willows
Betonies Palm Trees Salt Cedars or Tamarisks


Non-native Plants Even though they are endorsed by many local agencies as being drought-tolerant, few non-native plants are suitable for the high desert.  Almost all require much more water than do any of the non-riparian native plants ... case-in-point:  Cork Oak, Italian Stone Pine, Austrian Black Pine, Aleppo Pine, and Spanish Oak, to name a few, all require moderate watering, much more than the native plants and all are recommended as water-wise plants by our powers-that-be. 


Food Gardens and Orchards There is nothing better nor healthier than fruits and vegetables from one's own garden.  We would hope that there never comes a time when such endeavors are discouraged.  So few citizens pursue home gardening that we doubt that their effect upon the water usage statistics is even measurable.


Palm Trees Palm trees are beautiful and majestic, but they do not grow well in the High Desert, and they use considerable water.  They are not native to the western Mojave Desert.  To plant them therefore is a gamble.  Many died as a result of the severe winter of 2006-2007.  Hundreds of thousand of dollars were lost this year to those who gambled.  Many nurseries and landscape architects assured their customers and clients that palm trees could survive the extreme weather of the High Desert.  They were dead wrong.


Other Observations
1.  Native plants like their debris or litter.  Some do not drop a great deal of debris, but others do.  Native plant debris is not flammable, not even pine needles or oak leaves because their is little oxygen in the debris layer.  Rake up this debris and your native plants will not thrive.  The debris keeps out competing weeds and retains needed moisture.  If you are bothered by the appearance of the debris, it can be replaced by a layer of cedar chips (use only cedar chips designated for this use).  Once the cedar chips are in place, allow the debris to rot and break down into the cedar chips.  Sorry, but this may take a little time.  Also, do not pile the cedar chips up around the trunk.  This may cause trunk rot and kill the plant.


2.  Honey bees are not native to the Americas.  They were brought here by the early Europeans.  Native plants are pollinated by one or more of the following:  wind, hummingbirds, moths, butterflies, bumble bees, and/or bats.  Nonetheless, honey bees can pollinate many of our native plants.  They are excluded however by many of the trumpet shaped plants which are favorites of hummingbirds like penstemons, some keckiellas, and others because they can't reach the nectar.  Don't want bees?  Try these.


3.  All native grasses are bunch or clump grasses.  They grow in tufts or clumps as opposed to sods.  Many will put down roots as far as five feet thereby allowing them to flourish in extremely dry conditions.  Bunch grasses are perennials meaning they will often dry out in the fall and come back the following year.  All grasses rely on wind for pollenization, but sod grasses emit considerably more pollen than bunch grasses.  Grasses such as Bermuda, Johnson, Kentucky, Orchard, Sweet vernal, and Timothy are extremely high pollinators.  Visit for additional information.

4.  The native plants represented in this data base were not only a supermarket for the Native Americans, but were a pharmacy.  It is not recommended that you, however, ingest these plants for any purpose suggested herein or in any other source, particularly for medicinal purposes.  Medicinal or toxic strength may vary significantly from plant to plant, and it is easy to misidentify plants.  Further, many ethnobotany sources have been published by unqualified authors.  An example is that one local native plant is touted as an effective expectorant.  Indeed it is, but it may also cause severe liver damage, which is not mentioned in several sources which recommend its use.  The Ethnobotanical Garden listed herein includes plants which are NOT necessarily water wise and some plants which will not grow in the High Desert.  The purpose of this garden is educational especially for all Southern California 3rd and 4th graders who study California Indians as part of their school curriculum.  This garden is designed to assist them in establishing their own educational gardens.  However, this data should be of considerable value to students and others of all ages in conducting ethnobotanical research.


California Native Plants for the Garden
, Carol Bornstein, Cachuma Press, 2007
  Ethno-botany of the Coahuilla Indians of Southern California, The, David Prescott Barrows, University of Chicago Press, 1900
"Medicinal Plants of the Southwest,"
  Mojave Desert Wildflowers, Pam MacKay, Falcon, 2003
  Native American Ethnobotany, Daniel L. Moermon, Google Books
  Native Landscaping from El Paso to L. A., Sally & Andy Wasowski, Contemporary Books, 2000
  Sunset Western Garden Book, Kathleen N. Brenzel, Sunset Publishing
  Temalpakh: Cahuilla Knowledge and Uses of Plants, Lowell Bean, Saubel, Malki Press, 1972
  For further information, landscape architecture services, or consulting for the High Desert, contact:
        Larry Sunderland
      Mojave Desert Nursery (Not yet open to the public)
        P. O. Box 400385
        Hesperia  CA  92340
        15669 Stoddard Wells Road
          Victorville  CA  92395 
        760-475-2196  cell