Cold Weather in the Desert ? Are You Kidding ?

cold in the desert
cold in the desert

This may come as a shock to some of you….but, it does get cold in the desert.  Tonight’s temperatures are dropping to the low 30’s, which for us desert dwellers is cold.  Below, is a sampling of how winter looks in the desert.

cold in the desert

I was surprised when I moved here from Southern California, that is actually got much colder here in the winter.  I live in zone 8b and we do have a few nights a year with the temps in the 20’s, occasionally dipping into the high teens.  Tonight, my neighbors have their frost-sensitive plants covered with either frost cloth or old towels.   I just covered my 3 Lantana shrubs in the front yard with some old sheets.

I have enjoyed the photos of frost covered landscapes that many of you have posted.  My most memorable experiences with frost is of driving through the golf courses where I worked when there was a solid layer of frost on the grass.  Everything was white and looked so beautiful.

I do enjoy the winter months, but I am always ready for the spring and warm weather….    

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a author, horticulturist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."
25 replies
  1. LeSan
    LeSan says:

    Boy that was a trip down memory lane for me. You captured the desert beauty exquisitely. I have seen it snow in Phoenix before. I think the last time it snowed and stuck for a bit was back somewhere around '85 -I think. I have been gone from there since '01 so perhaps you have seen some since?
    You are right. The desert is about extremes and it can get pretty cold out there in the open desert. My favorite places were the golf courses. I loved all that moist greenery in the middle of the desert.

  2. Nell Jean
    Nell Jean says:

    What a contrast between your zone 8b and mine. The same few nights in the 20s and rarely, in the teens, but water makes a contrast. I really believe there is a difference in damp cold and dry cold, as well. I don't know about plants, but we feel the damp cold seep into our bones, just as our hair frizzes in the humidity.

  3. fairegarden
    fairegarden says:

    The stark beauty of the desert is amazing, Noelle. You have captured it perfectly. We just got our first snowfall of the season here in TN, amazingly early. I am ready for spring too, or at least thinking about spring. 🙂


  4. sweet bay
    sweet bay says:

    I knew that temps could drop a lot at night due to the low humidity. Winter in the desert looks green though! That's a beautiful shot. Your zone on paper isn't too different from mine.

  5. Carol
    Carol says:

    Oh Noelle, that first landscape photograph is wondrous! So much color and I am surprised to see so much green?? Is it grass? Lovely! Carol

  6. susie
    susie says:

    Nice photos, I don't think many people realize that the desert is green in winter & early spring. We've been cold here is So Cal too, down to about 38 the past few nights. Hopefully you get some of the rain after it blows through here.

  7. Grace Peterson
    Grace Peterson says:

    Hi Noelle~~ I'm plesantly surprised to see so much green in the desert landscape. Beautiful photos!! My fingers are crossed that you Lantana and other tenders sail through this cold snap.

  8. says:

    Hi LeSan,
    I am still waiting for it to snow where I live. Maybe someday….in the meantime, we drive up to Flagstaff to enjoy the snow. I loved working on the golf courses – they were so beautiful in the summer, spring, autumn and winter.

    Hi Villager,
    I'm not sure about 19 degrees. I hope you are keeping warm inside today.

    Hello Nell Jean,
    I have heard that too. I think humidity intensifies how the temperatures feel. I know that a dry heat is much easier to tolerate then a humid one. I learned that after traveling to some humid climates in the summer. Although they were beautiful and green, I though I would die ;-D

    Hi Frances,
    I appreciate your compliments about my photos – especially coming from you who are so good at taking them.

    Hi SweetBay,
    The photo I took is very green because we had also had some rain which made the desert grasses grow. Right now, there is not too much green on the ground, but we are expecting rain early next week 🙂

    Hello Carol,
    Yes, that is grass that grew after some rains. We haven't had much rain yet this year, but are expecting some early next week. **I do call it cold….I grew up in Los Angeles where it hardly gets cold ;0)

    Hi Susie,
    I am counting on the rain. I love how the grass on the hills in SoCal turn green in the spring 🙂

    Thanks, Kiki!

    With how hot it gets in the summer, it is hard to believe, isn't it? 😀

  9. debsgarden
    debsgarden says:

    Beautiful photos! I always though the desert was barren until I visited Arizona. Was I surprised! What fabulous landscapes there are in your part of the world.

  10. Rebecca @ In The Garden
    Rebecca @ In The Garden says:

    Hi Noelle, Must be quite a shock for the plants (& the people!). I saw some footage of snow in Texas. We are under 2 feet of snow, I'd be so happy with sunny skies and temps in the 30s ;). Beautiful pictures.

  11. gardener
    gardener says:

    Great pics Nicolle. We're heading to the low 30s here tonight too, -30ºC with the wind chil. Am looking forward to seeing your images of the dessert in bloom this spring.

  12. Tatyana@MySecretGarden
    Tatyana@MySecretGarden says:

    Wonderful photos! I remember being in Phoenix at Christmas time several years ago. Yes, it was cold! But I'd rather be in Arizona in December than in August (and I go there next August. I think I will die there…)

  13. says:

    Hello Again!

    Catherine, thank you for your compliments. Today, we have a very gray sky and are waiting for rain.

    Hello Janet,
    I took off the sheets today from my Lantana and they look great. Unfortunately, my Bougainvillea is looking droopy. It is too large to cover.

    Hi Deb,
    Isn't it funny the preconceived notions we have about different areas? I know I do. I am glad you were able to visit my part of the world.

    Hi Christine,
    I hope to have more posts soon to help warm up your part of the world :0)

    Hi Rebecca,
    Well, no snow but we are due for lots of rain and the temps are up in the 50's now – Yeah!

    Hello Gardener,
    I enjoyed your snowy photos from your balcony. It seems like a different world, although we probably look the same way to you too ;0)

  14. Rosey Pollen
    Rosey Pollen says:

    You dispelled another myth, way to go Noelle! I just pictured cacti and scorpions, not frost. I learn more and more about desert living from you. I was born in Tucson and left at two years old!

  15. catmint
    catmint says:

    There is a stereotype about deserts, e.g. the Sahara Desert all sand and no vegetation except in the occasional oasis. I have camped in the Simpson Desert in Central Australia and can confirm it gets extremely cold at nights. I am like you Noelle, I love the change of climate at different times of the year. Although I can't imagine living in such extreme temperatures as our fellow gardeners in the north of the US and Canada.
    cheers, catmint

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