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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.

I love color in the garden.  My garden is full of flowering shrubs and perennials.  I am blessed to live in an area where it is possible to have flowers in my garden 12 months of the year.  My favorite way to accomplish this is to include plants that flower most, if not all year long.

Today, I would like to share with you some of my favorites….

 
Angelita Daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis)
Flowers year-long with heaviest bloom occurring in spring and fall.
Red Fairy Duster (Calliandra californica)
This shrub has beautiful flowers 12 months of the year.  Blooming does slow down in winter, but flowers are still present.

 
Pink Bower Vine (Pandorea jasminoides)
Two of these vines grace the front entry to my house.  They produce flowers all year, but do slow during the hot summer months.
‘Blue Bells’ (Eremophila hygrophana)
Resembles Texas sage, yet stays compact at 3 feet tall and wide.  Purple flowers are produced all 12 months of the year.

Baja Ruellia (Ruellia peninsularis)
One of my absolute favorite shrubs.  Purple flowers are present all year, but blooming slows down in winter.

 
Cape Honeysuckle (Tecomaria capensis)
Reliable bloomer throughout the year.  Hummingbirds flock to the beautiful orange flowers.  Winter temperatures slow down blooming.
Mexican Bird-of-Paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana)
This versatile shrub can be trained as a small tree.  I have 4 in my landscape.  Yellow flowers are produced off and on all year.

 
Purple Trailing Lantana (Lantana montevidensis)
In a protected area (under an overhang or underneath a tree), this groundcover can bloom all year long.  The lantana pictured above, was located underneath an overhang which is why is still looked wonderful in January when I took this photo. 
I live and work in zone 9a and so the plants bloom times are affected by our highest and lowest temperatures.  As a result, many of the plants that do flower all year long will slow down in the winter and fewer blooms will be produced.  But, in my experience, there are still flowers even in January.  

Plants such as the lantana and cape honeysuckle will produce more blooms in the cold winter months if planted in protected area.  Examples of protected areas are up against a house, underneath the eaves or underneath a tree.  I have a bougainvillea that has stayed green all winter and still has flowers on it because it is located underneath a tree.

I hope you will try some of my favorite flowering plants.  For those of you who live in different climates, look for plants that will provide you with color for as long as possible.  If you cannot have blooming flowers year-long, then try incorporating plants with beautiful foliage and textures so that there is always something beautiful to see in your garden every single month of the year.

**For more suggestions for colorful plants for your arid garden, I recommend Arizona Gardener’s Guide, which lists hundreds of trees, shrubs and perennials that add beauty while thriving in our often challenging climate.



January is the slowest time of the year for blooms in the desert.  However, due to our year-round growing climate, there are still a lot of flowers to see…
   
 Bower Vine (Pandorea jasminoides)
My Valentine shrub (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’) is in full bloom.
One of my Mexican Bird-of-Paradise trees (Caesalpinia mexicana), happily blooming away…
Radiation Lantana ‘Desert Sunset’ is still blooming underneath my Dalbergia sissoo tree. 

The tree has protected it from frost damage.

The flowers are starting to peek out of the Silvery Cassia (Senna phyllodenia).
More blooms will soon follow from this Australian native.
 
One of the Geraniums in the Children’s Flower Garden. 
In case you are getting tired of the flowers in my garden or just want to see more colorful blooms, I thought I would also show you some of the flowers currently blooming at Double S Farms.
 
Baja Ruellia (Ruellia peninsularis) is a reliable year-round bloomer.

The flowers of the ‘New Gold Mound’ Lantana lighten in the winter, but are still beautiful.
I found this single flower on the Cape Honeysuckle (Tecomaria capensis)

Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii)

I’m not sure if fruit counts as a bloom for GBBD, but just in case….

Kumquats reaching towards the sky.  
And lastly, a photo of a single rose from the Neglected, Overgrown, Nameless Rose just before I pruned it back.  I realize I did not take the photo on the 15th, but it would have still been there if I had not pruned the rose bush back over the weekend.  
I also wanted it to have one last opportunity to show off it’s flowers before the new flush of rose blooms come in March.
 

English Rose ‘Glamis Castle’

Thank you for joining me for January’s Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day.  Please visit May Dreams Gardens for more sites featuring Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day.