Plant Nursery

Desert Survivors Native Plant Nursery is located on the banks of the Santa Cruz River in Tucson. We currently grow over 700 species of local and bioregional plants. We have chosen to define bioregional as plants which are native to within an approximate 500 mile range of Tucson.  The exception to this rule is that we grow and sell cactus and succulents that occur in Mexico, allowing a range much further than just 500 miles. Our plants are native to the Sonoran Desert, Chihuahuan Desert, and Mohave Desert, and adjacent mountain ranges.  We offer a fair number of species that are native to mid-elevation ranges, and enjoy working with customers from places like Sierra Vista, Oracle or Portal.  Our primary focus is growing plants that are native to southeastern Arizona.  Over the years, plants of various desert origin have been offered at Desert Survivors, but we have decided to grow only plants indigenous to our region. Native plants give us a sense of place, and are important to supporting native pollinator populations and fauna.  

Arizona is the 3rd most biodiverse state in the United States with over 4,500 species of vascular plants.  This gives us a huge number of plants to grow and offer to our customers.  In fact, over 600 species are native to the Tucson Mountains, over 1,000 species are native to the Rincon Mountains, over 1,350 species are native to the Santa Catalina Mountains, and over 1,100 species are native to the Santa Rita Mountains.  And this is just the diversity found within 50 miles of the Nursery. The plant diversity in southeastern alone is estimated at 2,200 species. 

Desert Survivors Native Plant Nursery also feels that is important to be as ecologically sensitive as possible, and we have utilized organic gardening practices for more than a decade. Unfortunately due to the introduction of a nasty insect pest (Euphorbia pitscale) several years ago, it was necessary to employ conventional pesticides to manage this situation. While this insect does not do well in our dry climate, it does persist in nursery situations. Regrettably we still use conventional insecticides at the nursery to keep this in check, but use organic fertilizers, fungicides and herbicides for all other applications. These chemical residues remain in the plants for between 2 and 3 weeks, and then the plants are suitable for butterfly caterpillars and other insects. Long-term drought, hotter summer temperatures and increasingly warmer winters have all caused a significant increase in pestilence.   

We also believe in maintaining mother plants on site, and trying to maximize our ability to collect seed on site.  Although seeds can sometimes be purchased in bulk from quality individuals that provide a wonderful resource to our communities, we view seeds from more of an ecological perspective.  In the wild, seeds offer a necessary food source for insects and wildlife, as well as maintaining genetic diversity and sustainability.  Making large seed collections of individual species can have an immediate local effect on wildlife, which can result in localized fatalies associated with starvation.  We want to do our part, and minimize taking valuable resources from our fragile and fragmented wild communities.  

We are also huge fans of volcanic soil supplements and have been quite impressed with the results of using volcanic cinder in our soil mixtures. Again, spending a little extra money on quality soil supplements is well worth the results. Volcanic supplements are rich in minerals, and provide excellent drainage and aeriation. This drainage has what has been key in our successful cultivation of many different native species.  While our soil mixes contain high quality volcanic cinder or pumice.  Although we are not able to grow all of the plants that we sell on our small 3.8 acre plot, we estimate that we produce about 75% of everything here onsite.

Our inventory includes a wide selection of trees, shrubs, subshrubs, grasses and vines. Please check out our Plant List on the web! This database is an overall look at the plants that we grow and offer at various times of the year, but please be aware that this is not an availability list.  Many of the things that we grow are seasonal, and can only be produced at certain times of the year.  It is also challenging for us to grow over 650 species on our 3.8 acre nursery lot, but that is half of the fun.  It is also difficult for us to determine how much of a certain species will be popular on a given year, so occasionally we are out of a certain species while we patiently wait for the next crop to become available.  Please feel free to email us at jim@desertsurvivors.org or call us at (520) 791-9309, to check on the availability on any specific plants.  

The plant nursery is open Tuesday through Saturday, between 8am and 5pm at our main office at 1020 W. Starr Pass Blvd, Tucson, AZ  85713.

About Our Plant Prices

Please check out our Plant Links page, for lots of useful lists and articles that we hope you will find helpful in planning your wildlife, pollinator or specialty garden.


© Desert Survivors 2016