Have you ever noticed circular areas missing from your leaves? If so, you aren’t alone. The other day I noticed several of my plants with neat semi-circular sections missing. But, was I worried? Nope, and I’ll tell you why in my latest garden video.

The Enigmatic Damage to Leaves

A Puzzling Leaf Discovery

Noelle: Hey there, fellow garden enthusiasts! Today, we’re diving into a bit of a mystery. As I was strolling through my garden, I couldn’t help but notice something quite peculiar – several of my plant leaves had neat, semi-circular sections missing. Now, I know this might raise some alarms for many gardeners, but fear not, for I’m here to share some insights and reassure you that it’s not as ominous as it might seem.

Noelle: First things first, let’s take a closer look at these mysterious leaf patterns. You can see here on this rosebush, there’s a semi-circular chunk missing from one of the leaves. And over here on this hibiscus, another one. So, what’s going on? Is it some nefarious garden pest?

The Twist in the Tale of Leaves

Noelle: Well, here’s the twist – it’s not a pest at all! In fact, this leaf damage is quite natural and not something to fret over.

You see, the culprits behind these neat, semi-circular holes are none other than the remarkable leafcutter bees. Leafcutter bees are a type of solitary bee, and they are truly fantastic pollinators. What might appear as leaf vandalism is, in fact, a vital part of their unique nesting process.

Leafcutter bees utilize these semi-circular leaf sections to construct their nests. If you take a closer look, you might even spot some of these leaf sections tucked away in the nooks and crannies of your garden.

leaf cutter damage on leaves

The Precision of Leafcutter Bees

Meticulous Craftsmen

Noelle: Leafcutter bees are known for their precision. They cut these perfect curves from the edges of leaves, and they’re surprisingly meticulous about it. The remarkable thing is that these bees aren’t interested in damaging your plants; they’re simply striving to build a safe and cozy space for their offspring.

Beneficial Garden Partners

Noelle: Now, here’s the best part – these bees are great for your garden! As they visit your plants to collect nectar and pollen, they’re inadvertently pollinating your flowers. This pollination process is an essential aspect of maintaining a healthy garden ecosystem.

Embrace the Leaf Patterns

A New Perspective

Noelle: So, the next time you come across these mysterious leaf patterns, don’t panic. Instead, take a moment to appreciate the hard work of these industrious leafcutter bees and the positive impact they have on your garden.

Thanks for joining me on this little garden mystery journey. If you enjoyed learning about leafcutter bees and want to see more fascinating garden insights, don’t forget to hit that subscribe button and give this video a thumbs up. Happy gardening!

In summary, the seemingly mysterious leaf damage caused by leafcutter bees is nothing to worry about. These industrious pollinators are beneficial to your garden, and their leaf-cutting activities are just part of their nesting process. So, next time you spot these neat, semi-circular holes in your leaves, remember to appreciate the role of leafcutter bees in your garden’s ecosystem. Happy gardening!

Has this happened in your garden? What plants were affected?

Exploring My Front Garden: More Than Just a Yard

Do you have a front garden adorned with perennials and succulents, or do you simply call it a front yard? Personally, I prefer not to refer to the front area of a home as a mere ‘yard’. The definition of the word ‘yard‘ is “a piece of ground adjoining a building or house.”

A Burst of Color from Perennials and Succulents

Now, while I do have a piece of ground adjoining my house – it is so much more than that.  

The piece of ground is filled with trees, shrubs, perennials, and succulents, which in my opinion makes it not a ‘yard’ BUT a ‘garden’.

So, I thought that I would show you a little of what is growing in my front ‘garden’….

 firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatonii) perennials and succulents

Blooming Beauties: Firecracker Penstemon and White Gaura

This time of year, my firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatonii) is in full bloom, much to the delight of bees and hummingbirds.

This tough perennial blooms January through April in my zone 9a garden. In cooler climates, it will flower in the summer.

white gaura (Gaura lindheimeri) perennials and succulents

Underneath the front window, lies a row of white gaura (Gaura lindheimeri), which flowers in spring and fall.  This perennial is hardy to zone 5.

Embracing the World of Agave, Alongside Perennials and Succulents

artichoke agave perennials and succulents

Agave are my favorite type of succulent and I have several different types in my garden.

This one is near the front entry and is called artichoke agave (Agave parryi ‘truncata’).

It is a medium-sized agave and can grow in zones 7 and up.

As you can see, it has produced some offsets (babies, pups, volunteers). They are attached to the mother plant by a underground stem.

I have taken several of the offsets and replanted them around my garden…

artichoke agave perennials and succulents

This one was planted 2 years ago from the mother plant.

It is easy to take offsets and plant them in other areas in the garden.  I wrote about it a few years ago and you can read it here.

The Charm of Globe Mallow in Various Shades

globe mallow perennials and succulents

In late winter, I am always impatient to see my globe mallow begin to show the first glimpse of color peeking through.

I have several globe mallow plants and each one produces a different-colored flower.  

pink globe mallow perennials and succulents

Here is my pink globe mallow.

white globe mallow flowers perennials and succulents

And it’s neighbor, which has white flowers.

red globe mallow perennials and succulents

This globe mallow has vibrant, red flowers and is located on the other side of my front garden landscape with other perennials and succulents.

While I love all of my globe mallow flowers, I think that the pink are my favorite…

hot pink globe mallow perennials and succulents

The most common color of globe mallow is orange.  But, as you can see, there are other colors available.

Agave Wonders: Octopus Agave and Victoria Agave

octopus agave perennials and succulents

I mentioned that I had a few different species of agave in my garden.

This is my largest one, which is called octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana).  

octopus agave pups perennials and succulents

I raised this agave from a tiny pup (bulbil) from the flowering stem of its mother, who I had grown in a large pot.

This agave has a tropical look with its curvy leaves and does best in areas with filtered or afternoon shade.

Victoria agave (Agave victoria-reginae)

Victoria agave (Agave victoria-reginae) was named for Queen Victoria.

This smaller agave has a very distinctive look and is highly-desired, which makes it rather expensive.

I was given the largest one in the photo, above, by a client and it has since gone on to produce many babies for me.

A Twist on Lantana with a Splash of Color

lavender lace lantana

Some people may think that lantana is overused in the landscape with perennials and succulents, but I like to put a twist on the traditional lantana.

There is a lantana called ‘Lavender Lace’ that produces both purple and white flowers on the same plant.  BUT, it can be hard to find and is expensive.

So, I create the same look by planting both a purple and a white trailing lantana in the same hole.

Succulents Adding Texture to the Garden

desert spoon (Dasylirion acrotriche)

My favorite types of plants are flowering shrubs and groundcovers.  However, I like the different textures that succulents add to my front garden.

So, I have green desert spoon (Dasylirion acrotriche) on both sides in the front.  This species of desert spoon has a darker-green color then the gray/blue leaves of regular desert spoon.

Valentine: A Favorite Flowering Shrub

Valentine shrub perennials and succulents

Finally, I’d like to finish with my favorite flowering shrub, Valentine whose red blooms began to appear at Christmas and will last through April.

*********************

I hope you enjoyed this partial tour of my front garden.  I do have trees and other plants growing, but because they are dormant in winter, I will show you them in the future, once they are looking their best.

A 'Painted Lady' butterfly drinking nectar from a lantana.

A ‘Painted Lady’ butterfly drinking nectar from a lantana.

Learning from Mistakes in the Garden: A Green Thumb’s Journey

Embracing the Reality of Gardening

Do you know someone who has a green thumb? Usually, it’s someone with a beautiful garden that stands out among their neighbors with thriving plants that flourish. 

While you may think people with green thumbs are born and not made, I’ll let you in on a BIG secret – behind every green thumb is a trail of many dead plants.

Behind the Scenes of a Green Thumb

dead plants and a not so green thumb

It’s true. There isn’t a single experienced gardener who has never had a plant die in their garden. Of course, someone with a green thumb may be hesitant to reveal this fact, and you may not notice because dead or failing plants are usually pulled out before people notice.

green thumb disaster dead plants

I’m not exempt from this either – I’ve had many plants die on my watch.

Newly planted 'Blue Bell' (Eremophila hygrophana) shrubs

Newly planted ‘Blue Bell’ (Eremophila hygrophana) shrubs

Factors That Affect Plant Health and Your Green Thumb

Believe it or not, the fact that plants die in your garden helps you to become better at growing them. While your first inclination may be to get frustrated about the loss of a plant, look at it as a gardening lesson instead.

“Every dead plant is an opportunity to learn about what went wrong and how to avoid it in the future and become a better gardener in the process.”

There are several factors that can affect whether or not a plant does well.  These include the following:

1. Climate Adaptation

Is it well-adapted to your climate?

2. Proper Exposure

Was it planted in the right exposure (sun, filtered sun, or shade)?

3. Irrigation Needs

Did it receive the proper amount of irrigation?

4. Maintenance Practices

Was it maintained correctly (pruning, fertilizing)?

New 'Blonde Ambition' (Bouteloua gracilis) makes for a beautiful green thumb planting

New ‘Blonde Ambition’ (Bouteloua gracilis)

Green Thumb Research and Experimentation

Researching plants before purchasing them will help you to avoid potential problems. But often the best way to learn how a plant will do is to grow them yourself.

Of course, it’s never a good idea to put a shade-loving plant in full sun, or vice versa as you’ll probably be replacing it soon.

As a horticulturist, I experiment in my garden with newer plants that have come onto the market. Several years ago, I planted several ‘Blonde Ambition’ (Bouteloua gracilis) grasses. I had heard a few different tips about how to grow them and the best exposure – one says that filtered sun is a must while another person says it can handle full sun. So, I am trying them out in my front yard to see for myself where they will receive filtered shade until the afternoon when they will be blasted by the sun. UPDATE – they do best in full sun 🙂

*One fun bonus of being a horticulturist is that growers often send plants for free so I can try them and give them feedback about how they grow in a low-desert garden.

The Role of Nearby Trees

A new Parry's penstemon (Penstemon parryi) finds a home next to my gopher plant (Euphorbia biglandulosa).

A new Parry’s penstemon (Penstemon parryi) finds a home next to my gopher plant (Euphorbia biglandulosa).

Other things that can affect how new plants will do are nearby plants – specifically trees.

One month later. A very strong green thumb view

One month later.

A tree that creates dense shade will make it difficult for many flowering plants to do anything but grow foliage at the expense of flowers. However, filtered shade from desert natives such as mesquite and palo verde create an ideal environment for many blooming plants that enjoy a little respite from the full sun.

New varieties of autumn sage with the brand new lavender 'Meerlo'.

New varieties of autumn sage with the brand new lavender ‘Meerlo’.

Unpredictable Nature of Gardening

Sometimes, there isn’t much information available on new plant introductions and how they will do in an area with extreme weather such as our hot, dry one.  In this area, a grower sent me plants to see how they would fare in a low desert garden. From past experience, I knew that salvia would need some shade, but the lavender was a mystery. I’ve seen some other species of lavender doing well in full sun while others doing well in filtered shade.

Green Thumb

As you can see, the ‘Meerlo’ lavender did very well in my zone 9 garden even though the actual information on the plant tag states that it does best in zone 8 and below.

Green Thumb Lessons

This is a lesson that I could have only learned by trying out this plant in my garden. While it could have died, it didn’t and I’ve learned from the experience, which adds to my overall garden knowledge. 

So, the next time you find a dead plant in your garden, see if you can figure out why it died and learn from it. Sometimes plants die when they should be thriving for no apparent reason. Nature isn’t always predictable and sometimes you may have no answers, but you’ll be surprised at what you can learn, and before you know it, your thumb may slowly turn ‘green’.

Fuss-Free Plants for Fall Planting

Wildflowers ,  California bluebells and red flax

California bluebells and red flax

Cultivating Wildflowers: Nature’s Colorful Display

The Beauty of Spring Wildflowers

One of spring’s many joys are the fields of wildflowers that we often see growing along the side of the road.  It is one of the many miracles of nature how such lovely flowers can grow in the wild without any help from people.

I find it kind of ironic that if we want to grow these flowers of the wild in our own garden we  have to give them a little assistance to get them going.  But, the preparation is fairly simple and the rewards are definitely well worth the effort.

Wildflowers , Arroyo lupine with white gaura

Arroyo lupine with white gaura

Planting for a Spring Show

To achieve a breathtaking spring wildflower display, it’s crucial to plan ahead. When it comes to wildflowers, autumn emerges as the ideal time for sowing seeds that will later burst into vibrant spring blooms. This strategic timing allows the seeds to establish strong root systems during the cooler months, ensuring they’re well-prepared to flourish when spring’s gentle warmth and longer days arrive.

So, as summer transitions into fall, seize the opportunity to sow the seeds of nature’s beauty in your garden, and you’ll be rewarded with a picturesque wildflower spectacle come springtime.

Wildflowers in a field

Lessons from a First Wildflower Garden

I’ve planted wildflower gardens throughout my career, but I’ll never forget my first one.  It was on a golf course and I sowed quite a bit of wildflower seed in that small area – and I mean a LOT of seed.  The wildflowers were growing so thickly together and probably would have looked nicer if I had used less seed and/or thinned them out a little once they started to grow.  But, I loved that little wildflower garden.

Embrace Wildflowers in Your Garden

If you have a fondness for wildflowers and the enchanting beauty they bring, consider carving out a dedicated space within your garden to cultivate your own captivating wildflower haven. By allocating a portion of your garden to these lovely, untamed blooms, you not only embrace the allure of the wild but also foster a unique and vibrant ecosystem right in your backyard.

With some thoughtful planning and care, you can create a harmonious blend of native or adapted wildflowers that not only adds natural charm but also supports local pollinators and wildlife. So, why not embark on the journey of nurturing your personal wildflower oasis and experience the wonders of nature’s artistry up close?

purple lupines and Wildflowers

**Do you have a favorite wildflower?

Cultivating Wildflowers: Nature’s Colorful Display

Rediscovering the Desert’s Beauty in Fall

As summer begins to slowly fade and the heat begins to dissipate, the Southwestern garden comes alive with second spring.

"Second Spring" in the Southwest Garden

In the absence of scorching 100+ degree temperatures, both plants and people reawaken to the vibrant beauty of the desert landscape during the fall season.

The Allure of Autumn is “Second Spring”

When people talk about their favorite season, many will tell you that spring is the time that they enjoy the most as their gardens come alive, spring forth with new green growth and colorful blooms. But in the desert Southwest, there’s another season that deserves just as much acclaim – fall, often referred to as the “second spring.”

Sky Flower (Duranta erecta) during second spring

Sky Flower (Duranta erecta)

While spring is a glorious time in the desert landscape with winter blooms overlapping with spring flowering plants along with cactus flowers – it isn’t the only ‘spring’ that the desert experiences.

"second spring" garden beauty in the desert Southwest

A Season of Renewal

Fall in the desert brings a rejuvenating touch. The cooler temperatures breathe new life into plants, coaxing them into refreshed appearances and prolonging their flowering displays. Irrigation becomes less of a chore. Birds, butterflies, and various wildlife also make a prominent return during the daytime hours.

The Great Outdoors Beckons

With the arrival of fall, desert residents find themselves irresistibly drawn outdoors. Whether it’s leisurely walks, al fresco dining, or simply working outdoors, the comfortable temperatures and captivating landscapes make every moment spent outside a delight.

"second spring" pathway in the desert Southwest

Fall is the ideal season for making alterations to your garden. It’s the perfect time to replace thirsty, old plants with drought-tolerant alternatives or expand your outdoor living space by adding new features like patios or pergolas.

Flame Acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus v. wrightii) during second spring

Flame Acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus v. wrightii) 

Second Spring Planting for the Future

Regardless of your garden’s location, fall stands as the prime season for introducing new plants to your landscape. With three growing seasons ahead, it offers them the opportunity to establish robust root systems before the next scorching summer arrives.

No matter what garden region you live in – second spring is the best time of year to add new plants to the landscape as it provides plants with three seasons in which to grow a good root system before the heat of the next summer arrives.

**Thinking of making some changes to your landscape?  Click here for a list my favorite drought tolerant plants that provide fall blooms.  

Exploring the Beauty of the Desert Museum Palo Verde

Lovely flowering Desert Museum Palo Verde Tree

‘Desert Museum’ Palo Verde Trees

The Desert Museum Palo Verde (Parkinsonia ‘Desert Museum’), a beloved tree in arid climates, graces numerous residential, commercial, and community landscapes. Its striking medium-green trunk, feathery foliage, and golden late spring flowers contribute to its widespread popularity. While wind damage can be a concern, proper care and selection can ensure these trees thrive.

Avoiding Storm Damage of the Palo Verde Tree

Fallen ‘Desert Museum’ Palo Verde trees after a monsoon storm

These wonderful trees stand as a captivating addition to arid landscapes. Its medium-green trunk, delicate foliage, and vibrant late-spring blooms make it a cherished choice for many. However, understanding and addressing potential wind damage is crucial for their successful growth.

Understanding Wind Damage Concerns

One common hesitation in planting palo verde trees is their perceived susceptibility to wind damage. However, most issues arise from improper maintenance, unsuitable locations, or the selection of the wrong tree type within the Palo Verde family.

Palo Verde Tree in full yellow bloom

Desert Museum Palo Verde tree in my backyard

Personal Success with Desert Museum Palo Verde

I have three of these Palo Verdes around my house. They range in age from 10 to 20 years old. In all that time, I have not lost a single one. While minor branch breakage occurred at times, these resilient trees quickly recovered, showcasing the hardiness of this species.

So, how can you enjoy the beauty of this tree while lessening the danger of wind damage? As a retired certified arborist, I’m here to tell you that there are definitely things you can do.

5 Strategies for Structurally Healthy ‘Desert Museum’ Palo Verdes Trees

1. Water deeply to a depth of 3 feet.

Deep roots are key to the stability of a tree and also decrease the chance of uplifting roots. Apply water toward the outer reaches of the branches where the roots are concentrated. As a tree grows, its roots move outward, so move your drip emitters or hose as needed.

Be sure to plant in an area where there is adequate area for root growth. Parking lot islands and narrow areas don’t allow enough room for roots to anchor the tree.

A blooming Desert Museum Palo Verde Tree

‘Desert Museum’ palo verde that has grown too rapidly due to excess irrigation

2. Irrigate less frequently to avoid your tree growing too fast.

This is a big cause of wind damage with palo verde trees. It’s important to remember that they are desert trees and don’t need as much water as other plants in the landscape. But, people often overwater their desert trees, which causes them to grow too quickly. This causes the formation of weak wood because they haven’t had the time to grow strong trunks and branches. In the photo above, notice how thin the multiple trunks are.

Established native desert trees, that have been in the ground for at least 3 years, can follow these general guidelines – water 1 to 2X a month in spring/fall, 2 to 3X a month in summer, and monthly in winter. These guidelines are for our current drought situation but can be modified as needed.

Several Palo Verde Trees grouped together

Trees that have been pruned up too high (lion-tailing)

3. Prune your tree correctly.

There are examples of awful pruning. One common one is known as ‘lion-tailing’ which is when trees have been over-pruned so the majority of the tree is devoid of branches except for the very top. This pruning deprives the branches of foliage needed to produce energy for the tree and to increase tree strength. It also increases the amount of overhanging branches toward the top making the tree more likely to fall.

Many landscapers don’t know the right way to prune trees and can inadvertently cause harm to your tree. I highly recommend enlisting the services of a certified arborist to prune your tree correctly.

4. Select a multi-trunk form of Palo Verde instead of one growing on a single trunk.

Desert trees naturally in a multiple trunk form, which distributes the weight of the upper branches. Palo Verde trees that have been trained to grow on a single trunk, are under more stress from the wind with their heavy top half. The majority that you see fallen have been trained into a single-trunk tree.

a large desert museum palo verde tree

This tree needs pruning before the monsoon season to lessen the weight of the canopy

5. ‘Desert Museum’ Palo Verde trees generally need pruning at least once (sometimes twice) a year.

You want to be sure to prune them before the onset of monsoon season – removing any heavyweight or branches that are weakly attached.

Desert Museum Palo Verde Tree in the front garden

Newly-pruned ‘Desert Museum’ palo verde tree ready for the monsoon season

Ensuring the Future of Your Desert Museum Palo Verde

Desert Museum Palo Verde trees are a valuable asset to desert gardens, offering beauty and shade. By following these tips, you can safeguard your tree’s health and stability for years to come. Join me in celebrating the enduring allure of these magnificent desert trees.

Want to learn more about this and other Palo Verde tree species? Check out my previous blog post here.

The Sunburn Experience: Not Just for Humans

Have you ever had a sunburn? Maybe a better question is, “Who hasn’t?”

Well, did you know that many plants get too much as well?

Sunburned Citrus: A Common Concern

On a recent visit to a client who was worried about her newly planted citrus trees.

new citrus trees planted in pots.

Sunburned Citrus

The Leaf Yellowing Dilemma on Citrus Trees

This particular client has a large courtyard with several new citrus trees in pots. Her citrus trees, planted in spring, showed yellowing as summer progressed.

sunburned citrus leaves

Now yellow leaves can indicate a number of different problems.  In this case, the diagnosis was rather simple – her citrus tree has a case of sunburn.

Common Signs of Sunburned Citrus and Other Plants

– The areas of the leaf that are yellow are in the center and NOT along the tips or edges.

– Often, the yellow areas begin to turn brown.

– Signs normally occur in the summer months.

– The sunburned leaves are usually located on the south and west-facing parts of the plant.

– This particular citrus tree is in an area that receives reflected, afternoon sun.

Citrus-tree-in-container-ASU


How to Prevent Sunburned Citrus

In this case, the solution is simple. Move the citrus tree to another part of the courtyard that receives afternoon shade is all that is needed to prevent further sunburn damage. Another choice is to put 50% shade cloth on from mid-May through September.

Citrus do best when planted at least 10 – 15 ft. away from walls. Unfortunately walls absorb the heat of the day and re-radiate it out.

Avoid planting where they get the full force of afternoon sun.

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.

Cactus Farm

The Art of Container Cacti

Have you ever seen the beauty of cactuses showcased in containers? Adding a cactus to a container helps to set it apart from the rest of the landscape and helps it to stand out so that its unique texture and shape really stand out. However, if the thought of having to plant a prickly cactus yourself has given you second thoughts about doing it yourself, it isn’t as hard as it seems. Let’s take a closer look at how to plant a cactus in a pot.

Cactus Farm

Tried and True Cactus Planting Steps

I have planted my share of cactus over my career (usually) without getting stabbed with the spines. My method of choice is to use an old towel to cover the cactus while I removing it from a pot and planting it. However, on a trip to B&B Cactus Farm in Tucson, I was able to observed an expert at work (see the video below for a few smart tips).

1. Selecting the Right Container

Choose a large pot with good drainage that is at least 2-3 inches wider in diameter than the cactus. Ensure the container is made of a durable material like terracotta or ceramic. This will provide stability and allow the cactus to grow comfortably.

2. Gathering Your Materials

Gather the necessary materials:

  • Large cactus
  • Well-draining cactus potting mix
  • Gravel or small rocks
  • Safety gloves
  • Tongs, newspaper, or plastic bag
  • A piece of burlap or an old towel

3. Preparing the Pot

  • Start by placing a layer of gravel or small rocks at the bottom of the pot to enhance drainage.
  • Fill the pot with the well-draining cactus potting mix, leaving enough space at the top for your cactus.

4. Handling the Cactus

  • Put on safety gloves to protect your hands from the cactus spines.
  • Use tongs or wrap the cactus in newspaper or plastic bags to gently lift it out of its current container. Be cautious not to damage the roots or prick yourself.

5. Positioning the Cactus

  • Carefully position the cactus in the center of the prepared pot, ensuring it sits at the same depth as it was in its original container. You may need someone to help hold the cactus steady while you fill in the soil.

6. Filling the Pot with Soil

  • Using the well-draining cactus potting mix, start filling in the space around the cactus. Tamp the soil down gently to provide stability.

7. Mulching (Optional)

  • Consider adding a layer of decorative gravel or small stones on top of the soil for both aesthetics and to help prevent moisture loss.

8. Watering

  • Water the newly potted cactus sparingly, allowing the soil to become slightly dry between waterings. Overwatering can lead to root rot.

9. Placement and Sunlight

  • Find a suitable location for your potted cactus. Most cacti prefer bright, indirect sunlight, so place it near a window with filtered light. Avoid direct, intense sunlight initially.

10. Maintenance

  • Regularly inspect your cactus for signs of pests, disease, or any issues with drainage.
  • Re-pot your cactus into a larger container when it outgrows its current pot.

By following these steps, you can successfully plant a large cactus in a pot, creating an attractive and low-maintenance addition to your indoor or outdoor space.

Cactus Farm

B&B Cactus Farm

Exploring B&B Cactus Farm

Whenever I find myself in Tucson, I always try to find time to visit B&B Cactus Nursery. They have a large selection cacti, including my favorites – Torch cactus (Trichocereus hybrids).  While they are rather unassuming when not in flower, they transform win spring when their large blossoms open.

Cactus Farm

‘First Light’ Torch Cactus Hybrid

‘First Light’ Torch Cactus Hybrid

My first visit to B&B Cactus Farm was several years ago and I had the intention of buying one torch cactus. However, as often happens with me and plants, I came home with two, including this stunning ‘First Light’ torch cactus.

On my second visit, I bought a new torch cactus hybrid and a colorful blue container to plant it in. 

Cactus Farm

Meeting a Cactus Expert

Normally, I plant my own cactus, but a conversation with one of the cactus experts at the nursery changed my mind.

Damon was busy potting cactus at a table with a large pile of succulent potting mix behind him. I struck up a conversation with him and found that he had an interesting story that had him ending up at a cactus nursery in Arizona. He worked in the banking industry and moved to Arizona from Oklahoma a year ago, and began work at a local bank.

Cactus Farm

After awhile, he decided that being a banker wasn’t for him and found happiness working with cactus. As he put it, “People are always stressed about money when they visit the bank, but everyone who comes to the nursery is happy, because plants make people smile.”

We had a great time talking and I decided to have him pot my cactus, which would make it easier to transport home. When I explained that I had a gardening website and wanted to take a video of him potting the cactus, he graciously agreed and provided lots of helpful advice.

So here is a banker turned cactus expert, showing you how to plant cactus in a pot: 

I hope you enjoyed Damon’s helpful tips. For more helpful videos, subscribe to my YouTube Channel