About the Botanic Gardens

Extension's seven-acre outdoor educational Botanic Gardens surround the Extension office at 8050 Paradise Road in Las Vegas. The Plant Collection is curated and managed by the Botanic Garden Manager. Botanic Gardens are defined by Botanic Garden Conservation International as institutions holding documented collections of living plants for the purpose of scientific research, conservation, display, and education. The Extension Botanic Garden Plant Collection has been curated and designed to tolerate the xeric conditions of southern Nevada. All plant selections and garden designs are water-smart in accordance with SNWA restrictions. Many activities take place in the gardens, including research and volunteer activities.

The Botanic Garden Plant Collection contains over 4,500 plants, many of which are subjects of long-term observational studies. The Collection spans the Demonstration and Test Gardens, Pine Grove, The Cactus Garden, the Courtyard Gardens, the Dry Wash, and the Front Gardens.

The gardens are open to the public Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. for self-guided tours and guided tours with Master Gardener docents. Call the Botanic Garden Manager, Lauren McGue, at 702-940-5432 for guided tour information or if you have any questions regarding the Collection.


Our Collection

Demonstration and Test Gardens

The fenced area at the north end of the campus is referred to the Demonstration and Test Gardens, as this is where the bulk of the botanical research takes place. In addition to containing much of the Plant Collection, this area contains a red cork pathway and exercise equipment for visitors. All visitors are encouraged to exercise caution when using the equipment.

Native Wash

The dry wash that runs through the center of the main garden area happened by accident. This wash follows the natural contour of the property before it was developed. During construction, the design team mistakenly surmised that Extension Horticulture faculty and staff did not intend to plant anything in this wash. For this reason, no irrigation or plants were added. The Horticultural team decided to let this area develop on its own as an informal experiment.

Most but not all of the plants growing in the wash germinated on their own. The seeds have either blown or washed in as happens in nature. Some, such as wildflower seeds were planted, but not irrigated except by rainfall and water harvested from the hard surface of the parking lot and buildings.  A few native plants were planted as starters and hand watered until established, but 99 percent of the plants in this area germinated without human intervention.

This dry wash area demonstrates which plants can survive exclusively on water harvest (runoff) and rainfall. It also shows that many plants can survive on much less irrigation than they are typically given. In the spring time, especially after a moist winter, the wash is covered in beautiful wildflowers of various colors. Extension encourages the public to come throughout the year and enjoy a truly low water beautiful landscape. Native seeds collected by Master Gardeners are available to the public for free, for more information, please contact the Botanic Garden Manager at 702-940-5432.

Rose Garden

The Rose Garden is where all of the roses in the collection are located. This area features various rose types, including: Damask, Floribundas, Ground Covers, Hybrid Teas, Hybrid Rugosas, Miniatures Roses, Noisettes, Shrub Roses and Climbers. Master Gardeners assist the Botanic Garden Manager with this area. The Master Gardener Rose Committee holds an annual yard sale to fund new purchases, for more information please contact the Master Garden Program Officer at 702-257-5501.

Roses grown in the Mojave tend to have few diseases but must be well watered and mulched in order to withstand high temperatures and drying winds. Lush spring blooms and a second flush in the autumn make roses a good choice for landscape color.

Roses require seasonal pruning, fertilizing, mulching and maintenance. The Master Gardener Rose Committee is "In the Gardens" on Monday mornings twice each month and invite the public to view demonstrations and ask questions. Contact the Master Gardener Help Desk, 702-257-5555, for monthly dates and times.

Herb Garden

Many herbs originated in a dry Mediterranean climate and can grow well here in the Mojave Desert.

Most of the herbs in the collection can be found in the Herb Garden. Common culinary herbs include: basil, oregano, thyme, etc. Herb trials of more unusual herbs such as galangal, turmeric and ginger have been tested in the Herb Garden. Visitors can also find different varieties of mint, lavender, Alliums, basil, and more to see which grow best here. Edible flowers (nasturtiums, borage, bergamot) add color to the herb gardens. Also grown are greens such as shiso, arugula, and mustards. The Herb Collection changes season to season, for more information please contact the Botanic Garden Manager at 702-940-5432.

Monarch Butterfly Habitat & Milkweed Trials Gardens

Monarch butterflies, once common across the United States, have declined by approximately 90 percent over the past two decades. The adult butterflies can obtain nectar from a variety of flowering plants, but the caterpillar stage can only eat milkweeds (Asclepias spp., Funastrum, Gomphocarpus and Tweedia).

In an effort to provide butterfly habitat in the Mojave Desert, the Master Gardener Monarch Committee planted 26 different species of milkweed and are documenting their survival, monarch preference and potential for use in the home landscape. Landscape considerations include: evergreen vs. winter dormant, attractiveness of flower, leaf shape and plant size. This research project received the Search for Excellence award at the 2017 International Master Gardener Conference.

Test plots of the various milkweeds are scattered throughout the gardens. Populations are kept separate to prevent hybridization. The Master Gardener Monarch Committee collect the milkweed seeds and make them available to the public at the appropriate times for planting. For instance, the native Rush Milkweeds should be planted in late January for the best results. For more information, please contact the Botanic Garden Manager at 702-940-5432.

Youth Garden

Located near the Mini Orchard, the Youth Garden functions as an outdoor classroom for the Youth Horticulture Education Program. Visiting school groups and other youth groups may learn about gardening in a hands-on manner here. In this garden, visitors can find annual vegetables, annual flowers, and herbs. Designed in 2017, the Youth Horticulture Education Program expands on previous efforts to offer a four-corner garden-based learning approach for all of Clark County's youth environments. The program offers horticulture projects for youth, families, and educators in collaboration with community volunteers and partners.

Using a four-corner approach, YHEP delivers:

  • knowledge development
  • career readiness
  • professional development
  • basic garden support for youth environments

For more information about the Youth Horticulture Education Program, please email the Program Manager, Tricia Braxton Perry.

Iris and Bulb Garden

Located near the Teamwork Development Course, the Iris and Bulb Garden contains many cultivars of Iris, Tulipa, Narcissus, and more. A welded, decorative gate surrounds this area and will be completed in 2023.

Mini Orchard

This area contains the majority of the fruit trees in the collection and serves to demonstrate to visitors which fruit trees can grow successfully in southern Nevada. The fruit grown here is part of a long-term observational study and is not free to pick for the public. It is also a site where people can see different pruning techniques, both proper and improper. Master Gardener volunteers assist staff and faculty with the research done in this area.


Because of the challenges presented by the high salt levels, high pH and low amounts of organic matter in southern Nevada soils, growing vegetables in this area is easier in a raised bed, where amendments such as compost increase the tilth and nutrient levels of the soil.

Vegetables fall into two general categories:
  1. Cool Season: Cool season vegetables are planted so that most or all of their growth is in the cool part of the year. These are the tubers (potatoes); roots (carrots, beets); bulbs (garlic, onions); stems (asparagus); leaves (chard, lettuce, cabbage); pre-flower structures (broccoli, cauliflower).
  2. Warm Season: Warm season vegetables are planted so that most or all of their growth is in the warm (but not the hottest) part of the year. These vegetables are usually the fruits (tomato, pepper, cucumber, melon) and seeds (beans, sunflowers).

Cool season vegetables generally require less sunlight than warm season crops, but do require at least of six hours of sunlight per day. In the late spring, these crops need protection from the hottest afternoon sun.

In southern Nevada most vegetables grow well; however, timing is everything. All plants, whether cool or warm season, will "shut down" most of their metabolism when the temperature is over 95 F. The plants will continue to take up water to stay alive, so they need to be watered regularly, but most plants will not produce new leaves, roots, flowers or fruits when the temperatures are that high. Of course there are exceptions: melons, squash, eggplant, okra and sweet potatoes will still grow well and produce through our summer heat.

When planting vegetables keep the seed bed moist after planting. When the plants are established, apply a layer of organic mulch around the planting area, but about an inch away from the stems, to maintain soil moisture and to regulate soil temperatures.

Extension's vegetables can be found in the raised bed area and Community Demonstration Garden. The vegetables grown on-campus are part of long-term observational studies and are not free to pick for the public.


The Compost Area is located at the far north end of the Demonstration and Test Gardens. Dedicated Master Gardener volunteers collect coffee grounds and other compostable material to make fresh, rich compost for use in the vegetable and mini orchard research areas.  The compost made in the Botanic Gardens is for Extension use only. For questions about compost, please contact Elaine Fagin at 702-257-5573.

Steps to Building a Compost Pile
  1. Locate the pile in an inconspicuous spot
  2. Place a layer of coarse material such as straw several inches thick on the ground for drainage
  3. Place a layer of material to be composted about three inches thick
  4. Place a layer of soil (or compost from a previous batch) in the initial mix only
  5. Place a layer of dry material like shredded leaves, wood chips, or shredded paper, about six inches over that
  6. Water thoroughly
  7. Aerate the pile by using a fork or shovel to mix it up every few days

Repeat steps 3 through 7. Omit step 4 after the initial mix.


Mulch is anything placed on the surface of the soil to keep soil temperatures moderate, decrease evaporation of soil water, improve the appearance of a garden or landscape and decrease the population of weeds. It is generally broken down into three types:

  • Organic
  • Inorganic
  • Living (rarely used)

A variety of mulches are used in the Botanic Gardens. Located near the Youth Garden is a mulch demonstration filled with different types of mulch.

Although rock mulch is commonly used, it can stress plants that are not native or desert adapted. Light and heat reflect off the surface of the rock, making the air around plants hotter. 

The organic wood mulch chips used on campus are mostly sourced from pruned tree branches from trees in the Botanic Gardens. The mulch piles north of the Cactus Garden are for Extension use only.

Cactus Garden

The Cactus Garden is located outside the northeast corner of the Extension office building. This area was chosen for cacti because initially there was no amended soil or irrigation and only hardy plants would be able to survive in such conditions. Over the years, the area has been fully developed into the area visitors see now, and another renovation is planned for fall 2023. There are well over 200 cacti species and cultivars the Collection. Most are within the bounds of the Cactus Garden. Although most blooms are produced by the cacti in the spring and early summer, visitors may find blooms throughout the warm season. The Botanic Garden Manager encourages people to visit and enjoy the diversity of cacti from various parts of the Americas.

Teamwork Development Course

Extension's Team Development Course encourages participants to develop as individual professionals, grow as high-functioning teams, improve customer service and excel as innovative organizations. The course offers both an inside and an outside hands-on team experience for professional development.

The course will provide a group challenge experience to hone team-building skills such as listening, leadership, strategy and communication while embarking on an adventurous and challenging mission. Through fun activities participants acquire a deeper understanding of themselves and others, learn to communicate more effectively with colleagues, understand why they react to situations differently than others and discover many valuable insights that have innumerable applications in work, family and personal relationships.

The course has three objectives:

  1. Increase the decision-making, problem-solving and personal leadership skills of participants
  2. Increase the effectiveness of teamwork
  3. Increase overall customer service for businesses

For more information, contact Extension Director Eric Killian at 702-257-5542.


Courtyard Gardens

Between the two Extension buildings is a courtyard packed with plants. This special, shielded area is where visitors may find the more unusual and exotic plants in our Collection.

Courtyard Palm Area

The majority of the palms in the collection are located in the central courtyard between the two Extension office buildings. Here visitors will find many palms and other plants not commonly found in southern Nevada. The partially shaded central courtyard is shielded the harsh weather of the Mojave, which allows plants like Ficus elastica and Caryota to grow. In the round bed in the center of this area, visitors can find many pollinator-friendly plants like Ruellia and various Lantana camara. For questions about palms, please contact Professor Robinson at 702-257-5529.

Container Garden

This area is located at the southeast corner of the space between the two Extension office buildings. The Container Garden demonstrates how some plants that do not thrive in the ground in southern Nevada may be grown in containers. Some container plants in this area are irrigated and others are not to show drought-tolerant, low-maintenance options to visitors.

Pomegranate Passage

Most of the pomegranates in our collection are located along the passage toward the east side of the Extension office buildings. These pomegranates are grown for ornamental purposes more than fruit. Also featured in this area are perennial flowering plants. To learn more about pomegranate cultivation in Southern Nevada, read this publication.

Coming soon: Improvements to the west side of the courtyard!

The west side of the courtyard will be renovated in 2023.

Pine Grove and Nevada Naturalist Area

The west-most side of campus is lined with Afghan Pines. At the start of this pine grove is the Nevada Naturalist research area.

Front Gardens

The areas at the south end of the campus are referred to as the Front Gardens. These beds contain many go-to landscape plants for gardeners in Southern Nevada as well as some rarer selections like Nannorrhops ritchiana and a Mule Palm. Surrounding the overflow parking area are many fruitless olive trees, Eucalyptus, Mastic Gum trees, and more.

Contact the Botanic Garden Manager for more information about the Plant Collection at 702-940-5432.

News Articles, Fact Sheets, Reports...
Nicole with stems for propagation
Propagation of Stems and Leaves
Nicole Hansen, of the Youth Horticulture Education Program, teaches how to propagate plants by stem and leaf cuttings.
Hansen, N. 2020, Extension, University of Nevada, Reno, YouTube Channel
Pruning Desert Shrubs
Pruning Desert Shrubs in Southern Nevada-Type Climates
This publication is a guide to correct pruning of desert and desert adapted shrubs in the landscape. It details how to prune and why correct pruning is important to the health and beauty of the plants.
Robinson, M.L., O'Callaghan, A., and Anderson, J. 2014, Extension, University of Nevada Reno, SP-14-13

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Learn more about the program's team

Lauren McGue
Program Leader & Contact
M.L. Robinson
Program Contact