Does the idea of having to venture outside, when temperatures are above 100 degrees, to care for your garden have you thinking twice? I must admit that there have been times when I have let the plants in my landscape fend for themselves in summer after setting the irrigation controller. But, there is often a price to pay afterward when you have to play catch up with extra pruning and other maintenance.
There are however many different plants that thrive in summer with little fuss allowing you to enjoy the comforts of your air-conditioned home while viewing your beautiful garden through the windows. Here are some of my favorite fuss-free plants for the summer garden.
Mexican honeysuckle has lush green foliage and produces tubular orange flowers throughout the entire year. They do best in filtered shade and attract hummingbirds. I like to plant them underneath trees such as mesquite or palo verde.
Learn more about Mexican honeysuckle.
Artichoke agave is highly prized for its rosette shape, and it’s easy to see where it got its name. The blue-gray color and maroon edges add great color contrast to the garden when it is placed alongside plants with dark and light-green foliage.
Of course, these are but one species of agave that would make a delightful, fuss-free addition to the summer garden. I also recommend cow’s horn agave (Agave bovicornuta), smooth-edge agave (Agave desmettiana), and Victoria agave (Agave victoria–reginae) to name a few.
‘Summertime Blue’ is a delightful shrub that needs next to no maintenance throughout the year and decorates the garden with its bright green foliage and violet-blue flowers that appear spring through fall. It grows slowly but will reach approximately 6 feet tall and wide. If given enough room, it can go a year (or two) before needing pruning. While you may have to look around for a nursery that carries it, it’s well worth the effort. It is also usually found at the Desert Botanical Garden’s spring and fall plant sales.
Lady’s Slipper is a uniquely shaped succulent with thornless stems that have a ‘Medusa-like’ growth habit that is more pronounced in light shade. The upright stems add a welcome vertical element to the landscape, and small orange flowers are produced off and on through spring and fall. They can be grown in containers or planted in the ground and do well in full sun or light shade.
Bush lantana is a familiar sight to many who live in arid climates like ours. This species of lantana is slightly different than the trailing gold and purple lantana. It has larger leaves, grows taller, and has multi-colored flowers that vary according to the variety. Bush lantana is a great choice for a colorful summer garden as they are seemingly heat-proof.
Totem Pole ‘Monstrosus’ (Lophocereus schottii ‘Monstrosus’)
Totem pole ‘Monstrosus’ has become quite a popular addition to the desert garden and it’s easy to see why with its knobby shape. Another bonus is that they are almost always thornless, which makes them suitable for areas near entries or patios where a prickly cactus aren’t welcome. Plant in full sun in a row for a contemporary look or place next to a boulder for a more natural appearance.
Learn more about totem pole cactus.
‘Heavenly Cloud’ Texas sage is well worth adding to your landscape for its lovely purple blossoms that appear off and on throughout the warm season, often in response to increased humidity. All species of Texas sage do well in summer and can be nearly maintenance-free if allowed enough room to reach their 8 foot tall and wide size as well as left to grow into their natural shape. This particular species blooms more than the more common ‘Green Cloud’ Texas sage.
Golden Barrel Cactus (Echinocactus grusonii)
Golden barrel cactus are wildly popular, and it is easy to see why with the globular shapes and yellow coloring. This cactus is quite versatile, able to grow in both sun and light shade. I like to use it in groups of three next to boulders or in a row. They also do well in containers planted singly or along with other succulents.
Learn more about golden barrel cactus.
The leaves are beginning to turn and air is finally becoming cool and crisp. I always look forward to fall as it is my favorite time of year, full of holidays.
My entry for this month’s Monthly Garden Bouquet (MGB) consists of a simple, but beautiful bouquet of some of my favorite flowers.
Now, as I ventured out into my garden to cut the blooms, the rain that had been falling had stopped. But wouldn’t you know it…..after I made the trek to my side garden, the heavens opened up and I was caught in a torrential downpour.
I didn’t want to be a ‘sissy’ and decided to cut the blooms as quickly as I could and then run inside. Well you guessed it….I was completely soaked when I came inside. But, I was successful and had a bunch of blooms from my single plant.
After drying my hair, I placed the blooms in my vase….
It may seem odd to refer to colorful flowers as friends, but that is what I think of the blooms of my red bird-of paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) shrubs.
They are located beneath my kitchen window and this time of year, the blooms have just begun to reach up to the window. What is even better is that the first blooms of the season are just beginning to open.
Those who know me quickly learn that I love a bargain. I get so excited when I find something on sale. It gets even better when I have a coupon for the sale item. Finding a good bargain is in my DNA. I come from a long line of women who love to find great deals.
Well for me, this also extends to the landscape. Now, it may seem a contradiction when I state to my clients that they can save a lot of money by using large plants. We all know that large plants cost a lot of money at the nursery.
I quickly go on to explain to them that I DO NOT recommend buying large-sized plants at the nursery. In fact, I love finding shrubs in the 1-gallon size at the nursery. They are much cheaper, which pleases the bargain hunter in me. What I DO recommend is buying plants in small containers that will grow large fairly quickly.
For example, this 1-gallon Green Cloud Texas Sage cost about $5 dollars at the nursery.
The blooming of my desert willow tree (Chilopsis linearis), is beginning to slow down. The leaves will fall in December. However, there were a few lovely pink flowers left.
I also love the multi-colored blooms of my lantana ‘Patriot Desert Sunset.’ They will soon stop blooming for the winter.
The vibrant colors of my red bird-of-paradise, (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) add vibrant color to my garden and nectar for hummingbirds.
In another month, many of these flowers will no longer be flowering, but until then, I’ll enjoy the view.
I just finished pruning my Red Bird-of-Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima), taking off about 1/3 of the height. This helps to promote additional flowers in early October.
The keyword here is to prune lightly, not severely prune. By pruning carefully at this time, it will help your plants look better throughout the winter months instead of looking messy and overgrown. Light pruning will also enable your plants to produce some new growth before the weather cools down and most plants stop growing.
Another plant that this works well for is many of your Lantana species. Lantana often suffers frost damage in the winter (in zones 9 and below) and by pruning lightly, it will minimize the size of the unsightly frost damage in winter.
In general, this method of pruning works well for most summer-flowering shrubs and perennials.
If you’d like to learn more about pruning shrubs in the desert garden, I invite you to learn more about my popular online pruning workshop. I’ve helped countless people just like you learn how to maintain beautiful, flowering shrubs with pruning twice a year or less!