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Many people tell me that they are tired of their boring, round green shrubs.  Often, they are surprised when I tell them that those ‘boring’ green balls would actually flower if given a chance.

So, how do you take those boring green balls and turn them into beautiful, flowering shrubs?  

‘Green Cloud’ Texas Sage shrubs

 

The first step is to rejuvenate your green ‘balls’ by severely pruning them back.  
 
Now I warn you, this is an ugly stage.  Your shrubs will look like a bunch of sticks poking out of the ground.
Red Bird-of-Paradise shrubs, newly pruned.
This is best done at certain times of the year, depending on what type of flowering shrub you have.  For example, if you severely prune summer-flowering shrubs back in December, you will have to wait a long time for them to leaf out, once the weather warms.
 
I pruned the ‘Rio Bravo’ Sage (Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Rio Bravo’) shrub below in March and by early April, it had already begun to produce new branches.
‘Rio Bravo’ Sage, 1 month after severely pruning.
So, when should you prune your shrubs?
 
Here is a list of some of the most common shrubs in the low desert and when they should be pruned.
(If you live in the high desert, you can adjust the timing by a month or so later.)
Bougainvillea
Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea species) – March
Red Bird-of-Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) – March
Baja Fairy Duster (Calliandra californica) – March
Cassia species (Senna species) – May (once flowering is finished)
Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) – June
Valentine Bush (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’) – May
Texas Sage (Leucophyllum species) – March
Oleander (Nerium oleander) – May or June
Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans) – March
Cape Honeysuckle (Tecomaria capensis) – March or April
 
If you look closely at the list above, you can see that in most cases these shrubs are either pruned once they have finished flowering OR just after the danger of frost is over in the spring.
 
The reward for your efforts is a beautiful, flowering shrub like the ‘Green Cloud’ Texas Sage, below.
‘Green Cloud’ Texas Sage
 
If your shrub is getting a bit large later in the year, you can prune it using hand pruners and removing no more then 1/3 of the growth.  Just be careful not to use hedge-trimmers.
 
So, do you have to prune your flowering shrubs severely every year?  
Absolutely not.  
 
As long as your shrub is attractive and not outgrowing its space, you can save severe pruning for every 3 years or so, which will remove older branches and cause new ones to grow in their place.  This is what I do in my own garden.
Want to learn about pruning flowering shrubs the right way? I invite you to check out my popular online pruning workshop. I’ll teach you how to maintain beautiful flowering shrubs by pruning twice a year or less.

This past Monday my sister (Daisy Mom) took me and my family to a very special place at the base of the desert mountains.  Beautiful gardens, plant collections from around the world and wild animals were on display for all to see at “The Living Desert”.

Teddy Bear Cholla, Ocotillo and the yellow flowers of Brittlebush grace the desert.
 
The Palm Springs area  is located in the midst of the California desert.  One of the first things that you notice about this area is that it is surrounded by tall, snow covered mountains.  It is a wonderful example of how mountains block much of the rain from entering the desert.
My nephews, niece and children were all ready for a fun day.
We were still in the parking lot when I knew that I was in trouble….I felt pulled in so many different directions by the beautiful and unusual plants that I saw.
 
Saliva coccinea
In general, flowering plants are what I am drawn to and there were so many to look at.  Countless flowering plants were enjoying the warmer then normal temperatures of the upper 70’s.
The tiny purple flowers of Trailing Indigo Bush (Dalea greggii), contrast nicely with the gray-green foliage of this groundcover.
Beautiful trees were also in flower…
   Australian native, Weeping Wattle (Acacia saligna) is covered with golden puffball flowers.
Flowering Parry’s Penstemon (Penstemon parryi)
 Yellow Columbine benefits from the water from this stone fountain.
My son, two daughters and niece stop by the pond to see the tadpoles.
 One of my favorite flowering plants that grows well in light shade, Mexican Honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera).
Salvia (I haven’t looked this one up yet)
Another Penstemon 
Did I mention already that I love Penstemons?
This low-growing shrub is absolutely covered in tiny purple flowers.
Are you tired yet? 
Today’s portion of our tour is almost over…
 
I love these African Daisies with their orange petals and purple center.

I have a preference for plants that produce plumes of flowers, such as this Coral Fountain (Russelia equisetiformis).
I mentioned yesterday that I took over 500 pictures of our visit and I did promise not to make you sit through all of them.  But I do have a few more to show you.  So our next visit together will focus on some of the unusual plants that we saw.  
There were many smaller paths that led off from the main path and there were always surprises around the bend – usually spectacular vistas along with some unusual plants.  More about that next time…. 
 My daughter, heading down a path – not sure what she will find at the end.
Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to view some of the beauty of this special place.
I have left one of my favorite pictures for you to view in preparation for tomorrow’s post of unusual plants.
 
 Now, I am off to the dentist….
  
 
During this exceptionally rainy week, we did have a one day’s respite from the rain.  I love how clean the landscape looks after it rains.
 Aloe flower
I took advantage of the sunny day and went out to do errands, when I came upon on some blooming plants.  So, I whipped out my small camera, which I always carry for opportunities like this and started snapping pictures.
Cuphea Bloom
 
Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa)
 
Chuparosa (Justicia californica)
I believe that we appreciate any plant that blooms in January because the majority of plants are dormant during the winter.  This is also true in the desert.  During the summer months, the landscape is riot of color.  The winter months can bring shades of brown to the landscape…yet, I am so thankful for the plants that wait until winter to produce their blooms for me to enjoy.