A desert tree is one that tends to do well in a hot, dry environment. In most cases, it has physically adapted over time so that it does not require as much water or cool weather as other types of plants or trees. Most people think of the cactus and not much else when they consider desert landscaping, but there is much more to arid areas than just cacti.
Most desert trees have a few traits in common. Nearly every desert tree requires little water, since most have found ways to conserve any rainwater and use it to its full advantage. Additionally, most native desert trees need space due to the competition for moisture, so spacing each a few feet apart usually is encouraged for the trees to thrive.
Gardening in the desert is sometimes called xeriscaping, which actually refers to landscaping that needs very little water and very little maintenance. Plants that are good for xeriscaping are usually called drought-tolerant or water-conservative. Some beginning gardeners prefer this type of landscaping because it usually does not involve much mowing or trimming, watering, or general upkeep.
In keeping with the trend of planting water-conservative trees, gardeners interested in the desert tree should know that they should mimic the pattern of rain in the desert for the most success. While most people know this means very little water, they might not be aware that it also means that most desert plants do not need water in the winter at all. This is because the plants and trees are not used to much rainfall during that time. On the other hand, deserts typically receive the most rainfall in the summer, as strong thunderstorms that are referred to as monsoons sweep the area. Add to this the extreme heat, and it means that the typical desert tree does best with a good watering at least once per week during the summer.
Some of the larger trees one can find in the desert include the Mediterranean Cypress, Afghan Pine, Alligator Juniper, California Juniper, Joshua tree, and Aleppo Pine. Among the smaller trees are the Guajillo, Sweet Acacia, palo verde, Texas Ebony, and the Velvet Mesquite. Of course, several types of cacti, such as the large Saguaro Cactus, can be found in many deserts.
Every continent has at least one desert, which is why desert trees might look familiar to most people. In fact, Antarctica is a desert due to its lack of much rainfall. While inhabitants of continents with several deserts, such as Asia, Africa, and North and South America, might see the typical desert tree more often than others, anyone can learn the basics of what makes desert trees different from others.