When people think about what a desert garden looks like, what comes to mind? Perhaps, visions of lots of brown with rocks and a cactus or two? Maybe visions of mostly brown terrain with scattered rocks and a couple of cacti? But in reality, the possibilities for colorful plants for the desert garden are far greater. Picture a vibrant landscape adorned with the entire spectrum of colors – from varying hues of red, orange, and purple to shades of pink and yellow.

I’m excited to introduce you to eight vividly colorful plants flourishing within my desert garden. All are vibrantly colorful and thrive in a hot, dry climate:

Bougainvillea 'Barbara Karst' is boldly vibrant with hot pink blooms

Colorful Plants for the Desert Garden

The Best List of Colorful Plants for the Desert Garden


Bougainvillea – Bougainvillea ‘Barbara Karst’

You can’t beat Bougainvillea for the vibrant color in the garden. It thrives in our dry, hot climate and flowers off and on spring through fall. Record-breaking heat doesn’t bother it in the least. Its resilience makes it a prime candidate for covering walls and facing challenging western exposures. For maximum flowering, they need to be in full sun. For those that don’t like the messy flowers, you can opt for dwarf varieties or plant one in a large pot, which will limit its size.

Hardy to 20 degrees F. Plant in full sun for optimal flowering.

Coral Fountain Russelia equisetiformis has cascading red tubular flowers

Coral Fountain – Russelia equisetiformis

Often referred to as Firecracker Bush, this resilient plant is a colorful plant for a desert garden. It is a tropical beauty has a lovely cascading growth habit. Arching stems produce orange/red tubular flowers that delight hummingbirds. Blooming occurs spring through fall. This shrub takes a year or two before really taking off, but it’s worth the wait – I like to use them in groups of 3 to 5. It is also a good choice for adding to large containers – especially blue ones!

Cold hardy to 10 degrees F. Plant in full sun.

Firecracker Penstemon Penstemon eatoni has bold red flowers that bloom off long stems

Firecracker Penstemon – Penstemon eatoni

Winter color is often lacking in desert gardens. However, there are many colorful plants for a desert garden that offer color through winter. This western native is my favorite during winter and spring in my front garden when it burst forth with brilliant orange/red blooms. Hummingbirds really enjoy the blooms as there aren’t many other plants for them to feed on this time of year. Prune off spent flowering stalks once the flowers begin to drop and you may get another flush of blooms to extend the season. It can be hard to find Firecracker Penstemon in box stores but local nurseries usually carry them.

Hardy to -20 degrees F. Plant in full sun.

Yellow Bells Tecoma stans var. stans is a lovely green shrub with bold yellow flowers

Yellow Bells – Tecoma stans var. stans

Admittedly, there are many yellow-flowering plants in the desert, but this one is my favorite! I look forward to the gorgeous yellow blooms opening each spring in my back garden. Yellow bells bloom spring through fall,and hummingbirds are attracted to their flowers. They are fast growers and have lovely, lush green foliage. To keep them looking their best, prune them back severely to 1-2 feet tall once the threat of frost has passed in spring. There are several notable varieties of Yellow Bells in shades of orange including ‘Crimson Flare’ and ‘Sparky’.

Hardy to 10 degrees F. Plant in full sun to filtered sun.

Shrubby Germander Teucrium fruticans 'Azurea' is a Mediterranean shrub with blue-purple flowers

Shrubby Germander – Teucrium fruticans ‘Azurea’

Photos don’t do this Mediterranean native justice. When viewed in person, people are immediately transfixed by the light-blue flowers (they appear more purple in photos), which appear in spring. I have several scattered throughout my back garden, and for me, they bloom throughout winter too! Using plants with silver-gray foliage near those with darker green leaves is a great way to add interest to the landscape, even when not in flower. I dearly love this shrub for its colorful winter/spring blooms in my desert garden.

Hardy to 10 degrees F. Plant in filtered sun.

Purple Lilac Vine Hardenbergia violaceae is a great desert plant that has lovely lilac-like blooms

Purple Lilac Vine – Hardenbergia violaceae

Here is another winter-flowering beauty. Purple flowers cover this vine from February into early March. Believe me when I say that they are a welcome relief to the winter blahs. Bees enjoy the blooms, which resemble lilacs but aren’t fragrant. It does require a trellis or other support to grow up on. When not in bloom, its attractive foliage adds a welcome splash of green throughout the year on vertical surfaces. The Purple Lilac vine is a very colorful plant for a desert garden and can be found in nurseries in fall and winter, during its flowering season.

Hardy to 20-25 degrees F. Plant in full to the filtered sun but avoid west-facing exposures.

'Rio Bravo' Texas Sage Leucophyllum langmaniae 'Rio Bravo' has masses of purple flowers

‘Rio Bravo’ Texas Sage – Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Rio Bravo’

If you love the color purple, you’ll want to include this variety of Texas Sage in your garden. Branches covered in masses of purple flowers appear off and on spring through fall, often in response to periods of increased humidity. The more humidity, the more flowers produced. There are many different types of Texas Sage and all add color to the desert garden. Now, you may not see them looking like this for the sad fact that many people prune them into unnatural shapes like balls, cupcakes, and even squares. Which would you rather have – a green ‘blob’ or a gorgeous purple beauty like this?

Hardy to 10 degrees F. Plant in full sun for maximum flowering.

Desert Willow Chilopsis linearis tree has colorful pink blooms

Desert Willow – Chilopsis linearis

I want to include a tree in our list of colorful plants for the desert garden. Desert Willow is small to medium-sized tree that are native to the Southwest. Throughout the warm season, branches with bright green leaves are covered with pink blooms. The flowers add a lovely shade of pink, which is a color not always seen in the desert. There are many newer varieties of Desert Willow – I have four different ones in my garden, but ‘Bubba’ is my favorite. This is a deciduous tree and will lose its leaves in winter. 

Hardy to -10 degrees. Plant in full sun.

SO, where can you find these plants?

Where to Buy Colorful Plants for the Desert Garden

I am often asked where is the best place to buy plants. Yes, you can head to your big box store, but they usually lack variety and are known to sell plants that don’t do well in our hot, dry climate.

My advice is to look to your local garden center and nursery for these and other plants for your garden. 

This is a Fantastic Desert Nursery

I’d like to share with you about a new nursery that is mixing things up in a good way! Four Arrows Garden is a family business, located in Vail, AZ, where you order your plants online and they deliver them to you!

The Chavez family began their business with cuttings from succulents in their backyard that soon grew to people wanting them to offer other types of plants. She explains their unique nursery, “Our business model has changed over the year to fill the need in our community. We have transformed into “not your average nursery” because of a niche market to deliver landscape plants and creating an online shopping outlet for desert-adapted plants. We are different because we allow customers to shop for plants from the comfort of their homes.”

This Nursery Has Special Desert Plants

They source their plants from wholesale growers in the Phoenix and Tucson area. While their delivery area is primarily in the greater Tucson area, They can accept special requests from Phoenix area customers.

I encourage you to incorporate colorful plants within your desert garden to improve your curb appeal and your enjoyment of your outdoor space. Local nurseries are the best sources for these plants. If you are in the Tucson area, visit Four Arrows Garden’s online nursery to make your special order and they will deliver it to your door. Check them out on Facebook where Linsay keeps you updated on the latest plants available!

*Disclosure: This post has been sponsored by Four Arrows Garden. My opinions and advice are my own.

Protecting Your Desert Garden From a Heatwave

Protecting Your Desert Garden From a Heatwave

Summers in the desert garden is hot. That’s no surprise. However, there are periods within these hot months when temperatures climb higher than normal. Because of this, we do need to help protect our gardens from the effects of a heatwave.

So, what is considered a heatwave in the low to mid-altitude desert? As a rule, when the mercury edges above 110 degrees F. During a heatwave, they can even go close to 120 degrees – ouch!

Thankfully, there are things you can do to help prepare the plants within your garden right now.

Here is my #1 tip…

Water your plants deeply the night before three – four day span of 110+ degree are forecast. This is in addition to your regular drip irrigation schedule.

The goal of this supplemental irrigation is to water deeply. This allow the soil to stay moister for longer, which will benefit your plants.

Under normal circumstances, I water my plants for 1 1/2 hours. However, in preparation of a heatwave, I water 2-3 hours. Plants will need more water in order to deal with the extreme temps and the extra water that will be lost to the atmosphere through their leaves.

Don’t do this every night, only every 4 days or so during a heatwave.

My second piece of advice…

Provide temporary shade for young plants in your landscape as they are more susceptible to stress from a heatwave.

This is because they don’t have a well-established root system to uptake much water and sparser foliage, so there aren’t many leaves to shade other parts of the plant.

Shade cloth is useful for protection lasting over several months. But for short-term shade during a heatwave, you can use burlap, sheets, an umbrella, or even place a patio chair over a susceptible plant. Uncover plants once temperatures are within the normal range.

Hot temperatures are a fact of life during the desert summer as are heatwaves. But, implementing one, or both, of these tips will help the plants in your garden.

For more tips for heat-proofing your garden, check out Heatproof Garden: 5 Amazing Tips.

Many of us are familiar with how over-pruning can take away much of the beauty of flowering shrubs and contribute to their early death.

But, have you ever wondered what they look like on the inside?

I found this ‘ugly’ example alongside the drive-thru of Taco Bell.

Over Pruned Shrubs

Over Pruned Shrubs

It isn’t pretty, is it?

The side of the ‘Green Cloud’ Texas Sage was sheared away because it was growing over the curb.

The result of planting the shrub too close, OR the wrong plant in the bad space.

You can see the thin layer of leaves that cover the shrub and the dark, interior where sunlight seldom reaches.

This isn’t healthy for your shrubs, shortens their lifespan, and increases the amount of water they require.

If this resembles your shrub(s), the good news is that you can often fix them.

Over Pruned Shrubs

Imagine going from the shrub on the left to the one on the right.

It is possible and often a specific type of pruning known as ‘rejuvenation pruning’ is the way to do this.

In my online shrub pruning workshop, I love teaching my students how to rejuvenate their over-pruned shrubs.

It’s important to note that not all shrubs respond to rejuvenation pruning, but Cassia (Senna species), Sage (Leucophyllum species), Ruellia, Fairy Duster (Calliandra species), and Lantana shrubs respond well as long as they aren’t too old and healthy.

I encourage you to declare your landscape free of shrubs pruned into balls, cupcakes, and squares and transform it into one filled with beauty 🙂

The Pitfalls of Improper Pruning: A Tale of Flowering Shrubs

Flowering Shrubs need pruning, but how they are pruned makes such a difference. Aren’t these shrubs beautiful?

Texas Sage ‘Green Cloud’ (Leucophyllum frutescens ‘Green Cloud’)

flowering shrubs need pruning

Texas Sage ‘Green Cloud’ (Leucophyllum frutescens ‘Green Cloud’)

Thunder Cloud Sage (Leucophyllum candidum ‘Thunder Cloud’)

flowering shrubs need pruning

Thunder Cloud Sage (Leucophyllum candidum ‘Thunder Cloud’)

Rio Bravo’ Sage (Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Rio Bravo’)

flowering shrubs need pruning

‘Rio Bravo’ Sage (Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Rio Bravo’)

You would think that the beauty of these shrubs, in flower, would be enough for people to stop pruning them into absurd shapes, but sadly, this is not the case. In the Desert Southwest, there is an epidemic of truly horrible pruning that affects not only Texas Sage (Leucophyllum species), but also Cassia (Senna species), Fairy Duster (Calliandra species), and even Oleander.

The Consequences of Excessive Pruning

Unsurprisingly, excessive pruning like this is NOT healthy for shrubs and it strips them of their beauty.

The ‘Frisbee’ Phenomenon

You don’t have to go far to see these sad shrubs. All you need to do is drive down the street as I did…

flowering shrubs need pruning

Okay, it should be rather obvious, but I will say it just the same,  “Do not prune your shrubs into the shape of a ‘frisbee’.

The ‘Pillbox’ Pruning

I kept driving and found even more examples of truly awful pruning.  Sadly, all are within a 5-minute drive of my house.

pillbox

I call this ‘pillbox’ pruning. These Texas Sage & Cassia shrubs were located across the street from the ‘frisbee’ shrubs.

Leucophyllum frutescens 'Green Cloud

An attempt at creating a ‘sculpture’? Texas Sage ‘Green Cloud’ (Leucophyllum frutescens ‘Green Cloud’)

flowering shrubs need pruning

 A second attempt at creating a sculpture?

Let’s get real. Shrubs pruned this way does nothing to add beauty to the landscape. And, when pruned this way, they cost more, take more time, and use more water – it’s true!

‘Cupcake’ Pruning: An Unappetizing Approach

Now on to some of my favorite ‘cupcake’ examples:

Leucophyllum frutescens 'White Cloud

An entire line of ‘cupcakes’. ‘White Cloud’ Texas Sage (Leucophyllum frutescens ‘White Cloud’) 

flowering shrubs need pruning

Do you think they use a ‘level’ to make the tops perfectly flat? I honestly wouldn’t put it past them.

flowering shrubs need pruning

You can see the dead area on the top, which is caused from this shrub being sheared repeatedly.

flowering shrubs need pruning

This dead growth is caused by lack of sunlight.  Repeated shearing (hedge-trimming) keeps sunlight from reaching the interior of the shrub.   As a result, branches begin to die.

After driving around for a while, I drove toward home when I saw the saddest ones of all…

Flowering Shrubs Need Pruning, but these are Disappointing

flowering shrubs need pruning

 Now if you look closely, you can see a light layer of gray-green leaves, which really don’t begin to cover the ugly, dense branching that has been caused by years of repeated shearing.

Texas Sage

 I actually like topiary, but not when done to a Texas Sage. Some people prune up their shrubs so that they can clean up the leaves underneath more easily.

The Goal Should be to Prune with Purpose

Now, I am not against formal pruning, when performed on the right plants. But, it is not attractive when done on flowering, desert plants and it is also unhealthy for the shrubs themselves and contributes to their early death in many cases.  Add to that the fact that it greatly increases your maintenance costs due to repeated pruning and having to replace them more frequently.

Now if you have shrubs that look like any of these pruning disasters, don’t panic! They can be fixed in most cases.

flowering shrubs

 Now, why would anyone want to remove the flower buds from your shrubs by shearing,  when you can have flowers like this?

Join the ‘Cupcake-Free’ Movement

If you are tired of unnaturally shaped shrubs in your landscape, I understand. Believe it or not, most flowering shrubs need pruning once or twice a year at most – and NOT the type of pruning into weird shapes. I find it ironic that your yard will look better when you do less.

flowering shrubs

So, if you are wanting to declare your landscape a ‘cupcake-free’ zone, I have something I think you’re gonna love. I invite you to check out my popular online shrub pruning workshop where I teach you how to maintain flowering shrubs by pruning twice a year or less. Hundreds of students have taken the course and are reaping the rewards of a beautiful outdoor space filled with colorful shrubs at a fraction of the work.

Are you ready to break out of the cycle of green blobs?

Desert Garden heat with little fuss.

Let’s face it. Hot summers are not surprising to desert dwellers. In fact, a typical desert garden with native and desert-adapted plants will weather intense heat with little fuss.

However, this summer has been one for the books and I’ve seen signs of heat-stress that I’ve never seen before. And yes, within my own garden.

Desert Garden heat-stressed Rock Penstemon and Golden Barrel Cactus

Heat-stressed Rock Penstemon and Golden Barrel Cactus

I must admit that it’s been hard to see certain plants struggling in my desert garden and I know you may have similar feelings. So, why has this summer been so much more difficult than others?

Pink Trumpet Vine partially defoliated due to the heat in desert garden

Pink Trumpet Vine partially defoliated due to the heat

While it is normal to have several days above 110 degrees F., the summer of 2020 is one for the record books. We have experienced not just a couple of stretches of above-normal temps but, several long spans of infernal heat. Damage to plants is often cumulative. This means that the more days of above-average (or below-average) temperatures – the higher incidence of reaction from plants.

Take a walk outside in your garden. You will likely notice some plants that are yellowing, wilting, or have given up and died. However, you may also note that there are some that are doing well.

Why is that? Let me show you some examples from my own garden – the good AND the ugly.

Let’s start with the ugly:

New Mexican Fence Post cactus transplants desert garden

New Mexican Fence Post cactus transplants

In March, much of my backyard was renovated. This included the addition of two separate plantings of Mexican Fence Post cacti. They are located along my back wall and as you can see, one is doing very well while the other makes me cringe when I see the yellowing.

Does the yellowing cactus need more or less water? No. Many succulents yellow in response to summer heat. Of course, this very hot summer has made it more severe. So, why the difference between the two?

The one on the left gets filtered shade in the afternoon from a nearby Palo Verde tree. You can tell that the one on the right doesn’t get any shade but full afternoon sun. In a normal summer, it would be normal to see some yellowing that will return to green once temperatures cool. I am hopeful that will happen. As plants age, they tend to handle heat stress better and as these are young, the stress was especially severe.

Signs of heat stress desert garden

Signs of heat stress

In another area of my garden, I have Green Desert Spoon and Hardy Spineless Prickly Pear, which are very heat-adapted. Yet, they do show signs of mild heat-stress that I haven’t seen before. But, they will green back up in fall. Other plants that are struggling include Artichoke Agave, Gopher Plant, and Shrubby Germander.

I am thrilled that my young Desert Willow tree in this photo is thriving despite the heat. I have four others scattered throughout my landscape and all are doing just as well.

Here are some of the good:

Young Baja Ruellia (Ruellia peninsularis) doing very well in desert garden

Young Baja Ruellia (Ruellia peninsularis) doing very well. The neighbor’s Dwarf Myrtle isn’t.

'Sparky' Tecoma shrub (Tecoma 'Sparky') in desert garden

‘Sparky’ Tecoma shrub (Tecoma ‘Sparky’)

Pink Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris). Will soon burst forth in burgundy plumes in fall

Pink Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris). Will soon burst forth in burgundy plumes in fall.

Gold Lantana in full sun all day in desert garden

Gold Lantana in full sun all day

Feathery Cassia, Purple Trailing Lantana, and Yellow Bell shrubs are also doing well.

Here are a couple of exceptional performers that get full, reflected sun:

'Rio Bravo' Texas Sage in desert garden

‘Rio Bravo’ Texas Sage

Bougainvillea in desert garden

Bougainvillea

There are still six weeks of summer heat ahead of us. So, what should we do for now?

  1. Be sure plants are receiving enough water. You may need to increase the frequency when temps are above 110 degrees.
  2. Don’t fertilize. Feeding plants simply makes them work harder to produce new growth when all they are trying to do is deal with the heat.
  3. Don’t prune away heat-damaged growth until September. While brown leaves are ugly, they are protecting the interior of the plant. Some pruning is recommended in mid-September, which I teach in my Shrub Pruning Workshop.
garden in the desert with small tree and plants

We don’t know if this summer will be an anomaly or the beginning of a new normal. But, instead of throwing in the towel, I invite you to do the following instead:

Take a stroll through your garden and take note of which plants are doing well and those that aren’t. If this is to be the new norm, it would be a good idea to add more of those that handle the heat well.

desert garden

I am not going to make any major changes in my own garden. Most of my plants have done just fine in past summers. I’ll replace the few plants that died but am hopeful that next summer will be one with average temperatures. If not, then I know what plants have withstood the heat best.

Before we know it, fall will be here, and I for one, can’t wait!

Gorgeous Germander for Desert Gardens

sunburnt roses with dog

Photo: Roses Feeling The Heat , My Abraham Darby shrub rose and my little dog, Tobey.

Challenges of Hot Arid Climates for Roses

If you live in a hot arid climate, chances are that your roses are feeling the heat and aren’t looking their best right now. While gardeners in cooler climates celebrate summer with beautiful rose blooms, the opposite is true for those of us who live in the desert.

Surprisingly, roses actually grow quite well in hot, southwestern zones, and even though mine look somewhat sunburned – I’m not worried because this is normal. Understanding proper irrigation makes a big difference, but roses feeling heat will still have concerns.  

Effects of Roses Feeling Heat with Intense Sun and Warmth

You see, roses that are grown in the low desert regions, don’t like the intense sun and heat that summer brings. As a result, the flowers become smaller, and the petals burn in the sun and turn crispy.  By July, you are unlikely to see any new roses appearing until Fall.

roses with leaf burn

Impact on Rose Plant Leaves

The rose blooms aren’t the only parts of the roses feeling heat concerns in summer – the leaves can become sunburn.  

The sight of brown crispy petals and leaves may make you want to prune them away, but don’t.    

Why?

Avoiding Premature Pruning

Pruning will stimulate new growth that will be even more susceptible to sunburn damage.  Second, the older branches and leaves will help to shade the growth underneath the sun.  

Strategic Pruning Schedule will Help Roses Feeling Heat

I know that it is very hard not to prune away the brown leaves – I feel you. However, in September, pull out your pruning shears and prune back your rose bushes by 1/3. This removes the sun-damaged flowers and leaves and stimulates new growth. 

beautiful rose bloom

Comparative Benefits of Hot Arid Climates

If you lament the less-than-stellar appearance of your summer roses feeling heat, and think it’s easier to grow roses in other climates, you would be wrong. 

Oh, certainly, we have to deal with our roses not looking great in the summer.  But, compare that with gardeners in other regions who have to deal with the dreaded Japanese beetle that shows up every summer and eats their roses. Or, people who live in more humid climates and are having to deal with severe cases of blackspot or powdery mildew (white spots on the leaves).  

Blessing of Dual Bloom Seasons in the Southwest 

Lastly – we are fortunate to enjoy two separate bloom seasons for our roses.  In fall, when many other gardeners are putting their roses to bed for the winter, ours are getting ready to bloom a second time that year.

hot pink roses

And so, I will ignore my less than beautiful roses this summer, because I know that they will look fantastic this fall It is that simple 🙂

Two New Roses Find a Home in a Desert Garden

self-planted bouquet

The Joy of Unexpected Bouquets in the Garden

A Garden Surprise with Sandpaper Verbena

Have you ever had the experience of receiving an unexpected self-planted bouquet?

I’ve been blessed to have gotten bouquets throughout my life from my wonderful husband, my children, and in the past – from a boyfriend or two.

Blooming Definitions: Exploring the Concept of Bouquets

But recently, I was presented with a bouquet from an unlikely source.

If you look up the definition of the word, ‘bouquet’, it states “an attractively arranged bunch of flowers, especially one presented as a gift or carried at a ceremony.”

self-planted bouquet

Nature’s Gift: The Unplanned Bouquet in My Garden

This spring, I was delighted to see that my garden had presented me with an unexpected bunch of flowers – in other words, a bouquet.

This area in my front garden has a lovely Sandpaper Verbena (Glandularia rigida), which is a ground cover with vibrant purple flowers. It blooms spring through fall and thrives in full sun.

I planted the Sandpaper Verbena, however, I didn’t add the other flowers in this area.

The Unexpected Garden Companions: Blackfoot Daisy and Angelita Daisy

Last year, I noticed the white flowers of Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum) growing up in the middle of the Verbena. It came from a seed from a nearby plant that alighted in this area and grew in the presence of irrigation.

I liked the look and as the plants were doing well together, I left them to their own devices.

angelita daisy
Angelita Daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis)

Well evidently, someone else wanted to join the party. Enter, Angelita Daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis) that came up on its own. I have several throughout the landscape and they do self-seed sometimes.

I absolutely adore colorful plants and I must say, I am so happy with this bouquet growing in my garden. As long as they play nice and one doesn’t try to take over the other, they can remain.

Who knows who will show up in my living bouquet next year?

mesquite tree Branches

Have you ever paused in the shade of a mesquite tree (Prosopis spp.) and noticed that its branches grow every which way? 

I was reminded of this when I was visiting a client earlier this week and was advising him on how to care for his mesquite tree. I looked up and saw a cluster of branches growing up, down, sideways, and in curvy pathways.

mesquite tree Branches

Texas Honey Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa)

In an ideal situation, mesquite trees resemble the shape of more traditional tree species, as shown above. However, they don’t always turn out this way. 

mesquite tree Branches

Have you ever wondered why mesquite trees grow in such crazy ways?

The answer is quite simple – in nature, mesquites grow as large shrubs. The branches of shrubs grow in all directions, up, down, sideways, etc., and so do mesquites.  

The problem arises when we train them up as trees, and their branches don’t always behave as trees do. Because of this, mesquites that have been pruned into trees, do best being pruned by a professional, particularly when they are young and certain branches are being chosen to remain while others are pruned off.

mesquite tree Branches

Of course, this doesn’t always happen, and you can see the results of bad pruning practices in many places. 

I do love the shade that mesquite trees provide and I must admit that I enjoy a good chuckle when I see the unusual shapes that some mesquite trees have taken.

How about you? Have you ever seen a mesquite tree with crazy branches?

To Do About Aphids

Dealing with Aphids on Your Plants: To Act or Not to Act

What do you do when you spot aphids on your plants?

Do you reach for the nearest bottle of insecticide? Spray them off with a hose or remove them with your fingers?  

Believe it or not, sometimes the best thing is to do nothing.

So, is this something I learned in school? No. I figured it out by observing the plants in my first garden.

To Do About Aphids

Lessons from Oleanders: The Case of the Yellow Aphids

I remembered this early lesson when I passed by a severely pruned oleander shrub in front of my favorite bagel shop.  

The oleanders were growing back nicely. However, there were yellow aphids on the young leaves.

To Do About Aphids

Our Instinct to Eradicate: The Impulse to Remove Bugs

Years ago, my oleander shrubs had an infestation of yellow aphids like this, and I was anxious to get rid of them. Really, this is our first reaction when we see bugs on our plants – we want them gone.

I had several methods at my disposal – insecticidal soap, a strong jet of water or my fingers – all of which, would help get rid of most of the bugs. But, life got in the way, and I didn’t have a chance to get out to treat my shrubs until about ten days later.  

The Unexpected Result: The Disappearance of Aphids

Can you guess what I found?  Not a single aphid.  I didn’t have to do a thing, and the aphids were gone, and my shrubs look great.

So, what happened to the little critters?

When harmful insect pests first appear, it can take a week or two before their natural predators follow. In the case of aphids, lacewing and ladybugs showed up and ate the aphids.  

To Do About Aphids

A Hands-Off Approach: Trusting Nature’s Course

Plants are tougher than we give them credit for and can handle a certain amount of insect pests without any adverse effects.  

So, when I come back in a couple of weeks to the same bagel shop, I expect to see no aphids in sight and a healthy oleander shrub.

The lesson here is that you don’t need to freak out when you see these bugs as the normal cycle of nature will take care of them. However, you can step in to get rid of them if you see adverse effects on plants such as wilting, smaller blooms, or discoloration.

Discovering the Beauty of ‘Orange Jubilee’ and ‘Sparky’ Tecoma Shrubs

One of my favorite things I do as a landscape consultant is to show my clients newer plant and shrub introductions on the market.

Imagine being the first person on your block with the latest plant that all your neighbors will want to add in their landscape.  

Orange Jubilee shrub

Tecoma x ‘Orange Jubilee’

The Allure of Tecoma x ‘Orange Jubilee’

Many of you may be familiar with the large, orange-flowering shrub Tecoma x ‘Orange Jubilee’. This popular shrub has clusters of trumpet-shaped flowers and a long bloom period. Its large size 8-12-foot height makes it a favorite for screening out a block wall or unfavorable view.

While the flowers and lush foliage are a plus, Orange Jubilee is too large for many smaller areas, which is why this newer shrub is one of my new favorites. 

Introducing ‘Sparky’ Tecoma: A New Shrub Sensation

'Sparky' Tecoma new shrub for the garden

‘Sparky’ Tecoma is a hybrid that has bi-colored flowers and is named after Arizona State University’s popular mascot due to the coloring. It was created by a horticulturist and professor at ASU.

Sparky shrub

‘Sparky’ is about half the size of ‘Orange Jubilee,’ which makes it suitable for smaller spaces. It has smaller leaves and a slightly more compact growth habit, reaching 4-5 feet tall and wide.

Both types of Tecoma have the same requirements – plant in full sun and prune away frost-damaged growth in March.  ‘Sparky’ is slightly more cold tender than ‘Orange Jubilee’.

yellow and orange flowering new shrub

Personal Experience: Adding Tecoma Shrubs to My Garden

I have added three of these lovely shrubs in my front garden. One along my west-facing side wall, and two that flank either side of my large front window. They add beautiful color 9 months a year.

For those of you who are U of A alumni, you can plant one and call it something else. To date, there isn’t any word of a red, white and blue hybrid yet – but, I’ll be sure to let you know if they create one 😉