About the Desert Flowers


Visitors to the Sonoran Desert are eager to view the hillsides covered in flowers as they may have seen pictures of this scenery on postcards or calendars. Naturally, people wonder, "when is the best time to visit?" Those incredible photos are taken during years when rainfall, temperature and timing are favorable. This does not happen regularly as seasons change from year to year. In order to produce a season of wildflower superblooms, we need multiple seasons in a row of favorable conditions, which can be quite rare. Soils and terrain are also an important factor, so, with all of these variables at play, there is no perfect way to predict any year's bloom for any one place. Saguaro National Park has some flowers in bloom nearly every month of the year, and visitors can expect to see at least three flowering seasons. Just keep in mind the unpredictablity of of the timing and/or extent of blooming for these showy desert flowers.


Spring Flower Season (March)

The spring flower season is entirely dependent on local conditions. Here at Saguaro National Park, blooms are often best mid-late March. Soils at the park are not suited to host large displays of these flowers, but most of the flowers listed below can be found in a normal season.

desert lupine
Desert lupine

NPS photo / T. Wiewel

Twist Flower (Streptanthus carinatus) White Wildflower
Wild Zinnia (Zinnia acerosa) White Small Shrub
Bladderpod (Lesquerella gordonii) Yellow Wildflower
Fiddleneck (Amsinckia intermedia) Yellow Wildflower
Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata) Yellow Wildflower
Paper Flower (Psilostrophe cooperi) Yellow Small Shrub
Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) Yellow Small Shrub
Gold Poppy (Eschscholtzia mexicana) Yellow - Orange Wildflower
Globemallow (Sphaeralcea laxa) Orange Wildflower
Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) Red Shrub
Fairy Duster (Calliandrea eriophylla) Pink Small Shrub
Indigobush (Dalea pulchra) Pink Shrub
Parry Penstemon (Penstemon parryi) Pink Wildflower
Desert Verbena (Glandularia goodingii) Purple Wildflower
Larkspur (Delphinium parishii) Blue Wildflower
Desert Lupine (Lupinus sparsiflorus) Blue Wildflower

Cactus Flower Season (April - May)

More reliable in blooming, water-storing cacti put on a great display in the spring of most years. The first week in May is when you will likely find the greatest number of species in bloom at Saguaro National Park. Specifically, the saguaro cactus is often in peak bloom toward the end of May. Many shrubs and trees also bloom at this time.

cholla blooms
Staghorn cholla

NPS photo / T. Wiewel

Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea) White Cactus
Teddy Bear Cholla (Opuntia bigelovii) Green Cactus
Prickly Pear (Opuntia phaeacantha) Yellow Cactus
Staghorn Cholla (Opuntia versicolor) Yellow - Orange Cactus
Chain Fruit Cholla (Opuntia fulgida) Pink Cactus
Fishhook Pincushion (Mammillaria microcarpa) Pink Cactus
Strawberry Hedgehog (Echinocereus fasciculatus) Magenta Cactus
Claret Cup (Echinocereus triglochidiatus) Red Cactus
Soaptree Yucca (Yucca elata) White Leaf succulent
Palo Verde (Cercidium spp.) Yellow Tree
Mesquite (Prosopis velutina) Cream - Yellow Tree

Summer Flower Season (June - September)

This season stretches throughout the hot summer months and includes a variety of plants. Good summer rains can increase late blooming of many species, and the high elevations of the Rincon Mountains harbor many summer-blooming flowers not found on the cactus forest floor.

barrel cactus bloom
Barrel cactus

NPS photo / T. Wiewel

Night-blooming Cereus (Peniocereus greggii) White Cactus
Desert Cotton (Gossypium thurberi) White Shrub
Sotol (Dasylirion wheeleri) Cream - White Leaf Succulent
Century Plant (Agave palmeri) Yellow Leaf Succulent
Desert Senna (Senna bauhinioides) Yellow Wildflower
Broom Snakeweed (Gutierrezia microcephala) Yellow Wildflower
Burroweed (Isocoma tenuisecta) Yellow Small Shrub
Turpentine Bush (Ericameria laricifolia) Yellow Shrub
Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus wislizenii) Yellow - Orange Cactus

Last updated: March 20, 2024

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