Steve Plath's Top Plant Recommendations: Favorite Shrubs and Specialty Plants for Arizona.
Blue Hesper Palm - Brahea armata
This is an ideal palm for the desert garden and can be a focal point as a specimen or a small grouping. The sky-blue colored fronds really set this plant off in the garden. It does like regular irrigation in the summer but will withstand just about any amount of heat. The incredibly long flower stalks are an impressive feature if allowed to develop.
Littleleaf Cordia - Cordia parvifolia
I like the open nature of the branches and foliage making this almost a see-through plant. The white crape-paper flowers make a wonderful display at the height of summer. Littleleaf Cordia is evergreen with regular irrigation but can be very drought tolerant once established. Selective pruning is all that's needed to keep this shrub looking great.
Ocotillo - Fouquieria splendens
This is one of icons of the desert southwest and it's distinctive growth habit make a dramatic statement in the garden. The red flowers at the tips of the branches in spring make it a favorite with the hummingbirds. Periodic rainfall and/or irrigation will cloth the branches in leaves which drop at the onset of drought to conserve water. Patience is required when re-establishing bare-root plants but seed grown material is becoming more readily available.
Coalhuilan Hesperaloe - Hesperaloe funifera
Even though this can be considered a succulent plant I place it here as a specialty plant. Compared to the more common Red Hesperaloe the Coahuilan Hesperaloe is a giant growing 4 feet or more tall. The stiif, straight, light green leaves make a dramatic statement. Even though the white flowers aren't specifically showy the 10 foot tall flower stalks are.
Silver Cloud Texas Ranger - Leucophyllum candidum "Silver Cloud"
Despite all the new species and cultivars of Texas Rangers that are available on the market my favorite is the old variety "Silver Cloud". The intense dark purple flowers contrast strikingly with the almost white colored foliage. This plant takes a little time and careful watering to get established.
Texas Mountain Laurel - Sophora secundiflora
This evergreen shrub to small tree is one of the toughest plants you can grow in the desert garden. It is extremely hardy to drought, lousy soils and temperature extremes once established. The purple wisteria-like flower clusters in spring bring the aroma of grape Kool-aid to the garden so plant them close enough so your nose can enjoy it. Texas Mountain Laurel is notoriously slow but worth the patience.