Summer time brings a riot of color to our desert gardens, which are but a distant memory in December.  However, cooler temperatures do not mean that our gardens have to take a holiday.  In our desert climate, there are many plants that flower reliably in December.  Here are some of my favorites….
Parry’s Penstemon (Penstemon parryi)
Beautiful flowers and a magnet for hummingbirds.  Need I say more….?
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
The delicate light blue flowers are so beautiful.

Baja Ruellia (Ruellia peninsularis)
I just love this shrub and it’s pretty purple flowers.  Most blooms are produced in spring, but some flowers are still produced in winter.
Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii)
Reliable bloomer fall through spring.  Hummingbirds will appreciate this small shrub in the garden.
Pink Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua)
Blooms fall through spring.
Baja Fairy Duster (Calliandra californica)
Flowers year-round.  Slows down in the winter, but continues to flower in protected areas.
 
 Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatonii)
My favorite plant in the garden.
Angelita Daisy (Hymenoxys acaulis)
Year-round bright color.  Heaviest blooming occurs in the spring. 

Valentine (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’)
This is what my Valentine looks like in December.  However, peak flowering occurs in February, hence the name ‘Valentine’.
So, just because it is December, it does not mean that you have to resign yourself to a landscape without flowering plants.  Try one or more of these and see the difference a little color in December adds to your desert garden.
 
Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a horticulturist, certified arborist, 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. T Opdycke
    T Opdycke says:

    Noelle…what colorful flowers grows in the desert when the snow is flying in Ohio. The world is such a grand place.

    I'm wintering over one of my favorite plants, rosemary, but it certainly is not flowering. I love the valentine plant. I hope you'll treat those of us in the frozen tundra with photos of it in February. Wonderful photos!

  2. Pam/Digging
    Pam/Digging says:

    Gorgeous. We in Austin can grow most of these plants, but they wouldn't be blooming here now since we had a couple of freezes. I sure love penstemon blooms against a stucco wall!

  3. Catherine@AGardenerinProgress
    Catherine@AGardenerinProgress says:

    I love how bright they all all. The Parry's Penstemon is really pretty. I haven't seen that type before. My Autumn Sage was just planted this year and made it through the icy weather we had. I'm crossing my fingers that it will be blooming next summer.

  4. Shady Gardener
    Shady Gardener says:

    Noelle, I saw the Baja Fairy Duster in real life last April when we were out there. It's very distinctive! All your flowers are so pretty – rather surreal when you consider what I look at out my window! ha. Getting ready for Christmas??

  5. catmint
    catmint says:

    Hi Noelle, you have often commented on how we have many plants in common, which is both disconcerting (I don't live in a desert) but also reassuring (if it becomes desert, doesn't mean you can't have a garden). Familiar plants include salvia gregii, one of my faves. The mallow seems close to lavatera and penstemons are old loyal trusty friends. Rosemary is one of the oldest survivors in my garden, so by now is an old old lady.

  6. fairegarden
    fairegarden says:

    A fabulous array, Noelle! Your pentsemons are so perfect and Valentine is wonderful. Now if we lived in the desert, I would rush out to add every single one to that garden. As it is, we have the greggii and some other penstemons, even with flooding rains and cold below freezing temps. Plants are so adaptive!
    Frances

  7. Muddy Boot Dreams
    Muddy Boot Dreams says:

    Noelle, everything looks so beautiful. I think that we don't have quite the fortune with winter color that you do.

    But the hellebores are starting to bloom around here, so that will be lovely.

    Jen

  8. Autumn Belle
    Autumn Belle says:

    Noelle, thank you very much for your speedy reply. Dr. Francis Ng has identified my flower as Ruellia humilis, common name blue shade or wild petunia, native to Texas, USA. You are right! Mine is not the same as yours here.

  9. Mike
    Mike says:

    Hi Noelle there are many Australian Natives that flower for long periods over winter. Banksias are just one example. Banksia Ericafolia, Spinulosa and Giant Candles are all really easy to grow and attract the bird like you wouldn't believe.

  10. Nell Jean
    Nell Jean says:

    It all evens out — you get to have bright colors in winter. Others get picturesque snow. I get Robins demanding a drink. We had frost this morning, and ice. While I was getting my coat, the dog put her paws on my desk and helped herself to coffee.

  11. Lynda
    Lynda says:

    It's beautiful to see such beautiful colors when our gardens are all sleeping. Thanks for sharing and brightening up this dreary day!

  12. Liisa
    Liisa says:

    Noelle,
    I just love the 'Firecracker' penstemon. What a beautiful display of color. I will try to suffocate my zone envy under my blanket, and forget that darn thermometer that reads 18 degrees!!

  13. arizonaplantlady@gmail.com
    arizonaplantlady@gmail.com says:

    Hello,

    I have been overwhelmed by your kind responses. I never thought about the fact that Rosemary may not flower in other climates. Thankfully, flowering has nothing to do with the fragrance and delicious taste of Rosemary. For those of you envious of our temperatures, believe me…the shoe will be on the other foot come summer time 🙂

  14. gardeningAngel
    gardeningAngel says:

    Noelle,

    I love all your penstemons, especially the Parry. They are so good for the pollinators. Hope that you have a wonderful Holiday, and happy Winter Solstice!

    Kathy

  15. Janet
    Janet says:

    Wonderful bloom collection! I like the mallow blooming from fall to spring. It is good to know there are plenty of blooms for the hummingbirds to enjoy as they move south.

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