Tag Archive for: drought tolerant

Do you like red-flowering plants?

I do.

baja fairy duster

Many of the landscape plants in the southwestern landscape tend to be found in shades of purple and yellow.  As a result, I tend to include plants with red flowers whenever I create a design to help balance the purple and yellows in the plant palette.

Baja Fairy Duster (Calliandra californica) is one of my favorites because it has such unusual flowers.

They do look like ‘fairy-dusters’, don’t they?  The unique shape of the flowers is due to the fact that the showy part of each flower is actually a bunch of stamens grouped together – you don’t see the petals.

You can learn more about this beautiful, drought-tolerant, low-maintenance shrub including what zones it will grow in, in my latest plant profile for Houzz

 
 

Which red-flowering plants is your favorite?

Plant Palette for New Landscape Area: Trees and Shrubs

Little Daisy

Do you like daisies?

I do.

Especially one that can handle the tough conditions often present in the desert garden.

Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum) thrives in full sun – even areas that receive hot, afternoon sun.  All while being drought-tolerant.

To find out more about this desert perennial and ideas on how to add it to your garden, check out my latest plant profile for Houzz.com.

 

Remodeling, decorating, and more ∨

From kitchens to the living room, window treatments add a finishing touch to any room in the house.
For small bathroom ideas, browse photos of space-saving bathroom cabinetry and clever hidden mirrored medicine cabinets.

 

 

When you envision a drought-tolerant landscape, does a landscape covered in colored gravel with a cactus or two come to mind?

Drought-Tolerant Landscape

Believe it or not, this type of landscape style was popular back in the 70’s and some people have never moved beyond this outdated trend.

Well, let us fast-forward to present day when a drought-tolerant landscape can look like this…

beautiful landscape

I drove by this beautiful landscape, filled with succulents and other drought-tolerant plants on a recent trip to Santa Barbara, CA.

I love the magenta-colored brachts of the Bougainvillea, the green spiky Spanish Bayonet Yucca (Yucca Aloifolia) along with the gray/blue of Century Plant (Agave americana).

The orange flowers of Aloe arborescens are also a favorite of mine.  I also like how the blue/gray leaves of the ‘Blue Chalk Sticks’ variety of Ice Plant (Senecio mandraliscae) provides a cool color contrast.

You may be surprised to discover that this beautiful, drought-tolerant landscape is part of an entry to a large estate and that there is another side filled with drought-tolerant plants.

Rosmarinus officials 'Prostratus

On this side, you can see Trailing Rosemary (Rosmarinus officials ‘Prostratus’) spilling over the front with Tropical Bird-of-Paradise (Strelitzia reginae) right behind.

A low-growing pink Bougainvillea shows off its bright colors along with the spiky orange flowers of the Aloe nearby.

Look closely, and you can see the paddles of a Prickly Pear cactus (not sure what species) and the variegated spikes of Agave americana ‘Variegata’.

Drought-Tolerant Landscape

In this last view of this spectacular garden, we see a California Pepper tree (Schinus molle), which is quite familiar to Californians.  (We had these trees lining our neighborhood street where I grew up in Southern California.)  They are found in the low-desert areas of Arizona, but it is rare to see them.

In the background, you can see two very different types of palm trees.  The large one is a Canary Island Date Palm (Phoenix canariensis) while the skinny one is a Mexican Fan Palm (Washingtonia mexicana).

If you look closely, you can see the flowering stalk of an agave as well as the upright columns of a Cereus cactus.

To the left of the mailbox, there is a Jade plant growing, a flowering Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia millii), which I also have growing in my garden.

So, if you think that having a drought-tolerant landscape means looking like this…

Drought-Tolerant Landscape

It doesn’t!

The majority of plants in the lovely garden in California, can be grown in desert climates.

So, which drought-tolerant landscape would you prefer – a colorful one or one that is boring?

When you pair beauty and low-maintenance in a single type of plant – that is one that I highly recommend.

Earlier this week, I was doing a landscape consult with a client who had multiple (Hesperaloe parviflora) plants throughout his garden and I was reminded again, how much I enjoy this succulent plant.  

I’d love to share with you just a few of the many reasons to add red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) to your landscape…

beautiful red yucca

First of all, its flowers are beautiful and appear May through September and hummingbirds find them irresistible. Red yucca isn’t only drought tolerant but is hardy to -20 degrees, making it suitable for planting in many different planting zones. Although it often referred to by the common name ‘yucca’ – it isn’t a yucca at all.

succulent

Even when not in flower, its grass-like succulent foliage add texture to the landscape. I really like how they look when planted in groups of three.

Grab my FREE guide for Fuss-Free Plants that thrive in a hot, dry climate!

**When adding multiple plants of the same kind – focus on adding them in odd numbered groupings such as 3 or 5.  The reason is that odd numbered plant groupings are more pleasing to the eye.

succulent

In addition to the more traditional red/pink colored flowers, there is also a yellow variety available.  They are the same as red yucca with the flower color being the only difference.

Their requirements are few…. full sun, well-drained soil and periodic deep watering.

succulent

Red yucca plants are extremely low-maintenance. All you need to do is to prune off dead flower stalks in the fall.  

Don’t prune the foliage like the homeowner did in the photo above – why create more maintenance then is needed?  Especially when it results in turning an attractive plant ‘ugly’?

**You can read more about my past experience with this type of pruning to red yucca that was done by a member of my crew in a previous blog post:

“Do This, Not That”

beautiful red yucca

Red or yellow yucca thrive in areas with reflected sun and heat.  They also do well around swimming pools and in pots.

I love how this yellow yucca was placed between garage doors, don’t you?  It is almost impossible to find a plant that will do well in this unforgiving location.

beautiful red yucca

Over time, red yucca can become overgrown.  The photo above are from my client’s front yard.  His red yucca aren’t quite overgrown yet, but will eventually get there in 2 – 3 years.

What I recommend is to simply take them out and replace them when that happens.  You don’t even have to buy a new red yucca to replace them with. Simply separate a small section of the overgrown plant that you just removed and re-plant it.

beautiful red yucca

What’s not to love about this fabulous plant? I hope you will decide to try red or yellow yucca in your landscape.  

Recently, the drought that is being experience in Texas has dominated much of the news. I have a friend who lives in Dallas and she says that it is pretty bad.

For those of us who live in the Southwest, the idea of a drought is not foreign to us.  We have some years with plentiful rainfall and others with little at all. Cycles of drought are normal. If you happen to live in the desert in the Southwest and you look at the desert around you, it is clear to see that most of the plants weather drought very well.

How Do Plants Deal With Drought

How Do Plants Deal With Drought

Have you ever wondered why?

Well, if you really look closely at many native desert plants, you can see how wonderfully adapted they are in regards to how they are designed to conserve water.

For example, let us look at the ‘Rio Bravo’ Sage (Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Rio Bravo’), which is native to the Chihuahuan Desert.  

How Do Plants Deal With Drought

If you look closely at the flowers above, you can see tiny hairs that cover the surface. What you cannot see is that there are also tiny hairs that cover the leaves, giving them a grayish cast.

The tiny hairs help to reflect the sun and help to keep moisture inside the flowers and leaves.

Here is another great example….

How Do Plants Deal With Drought

How Do Plants Deal With Drought

Here are the leaves of my Palo Blanco tree (Acacia willardiana), which is native to the Sonoran Desert. The leaves are so tiny, which helps to limit how much water is lost to the atmosphere.

It helps to think of it this way – plants lose water through their leaves (in a process called transpiration). The more sunlight, the more water that is lost.

**At this point it is probably rather obvious that I am somewhat of a ‘science geek’.

Now, did you know that there is a reason that cacti have spines? 

Spines of a Saguaro cactus

Photo:Spines of a Saguaro cactus

Besides providing protection from animals who may want to eat them, the thousands of spines provide shade on the surface of the cactus, which helps reduce the amount of water lost.

Lastly, is one of my favorite trees….

How Do Plants Deal With Drought

How Do Plants Deal With Drought

Palo Verde trees are perhaps most famous for their green trunk. Well, besides being beautiful, the green trunk serves as an important survival mechanism when drought occurs.

In the Sonoran Desert, you will find Palo Verde trees growing all over.  Now unlike the Palo Verde trees found in a landscape setting (above), that receive supplemental irrigation the Palo Verde trees in the desert survive on rainfall alone.

So what do they do in drought conditions?  Well, they drop all their leaves, which greatly reduces the amount of water lost to the atmosphere.

Now most trees would die soon without leaves to continue to make ‘food’ for the tree (photosynthesis).  But, the green trunk of the Palo Verde can make ‘food’ for the tree, even in the absence of leaves.

Pretty cool, huh?

So, you have all ‘heard’ some of what I talk to people about when I meet with them in person regarding their landscape.  In addition to helping people learn how to care for their plants, I love to tell them more about the amazing plants that they have in their garden.

I hope I didn’t bore you, but I find the ways that plants adapt to their environment just fascinating.

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

I hope your week is off to a good start.

This is what I call my ‘writing week’ when I work on my gardening articles.  I haven’t been given my subjects yet from my editor, but I am writing in advance for the month of November.  After a long summer, I am so looking forward to fall 🙂

Drought Tolerant and Beautiful: Aloe Vera

I have been enjoying sharing with you some of my favorite lesser-known plants.  These are plants that are not used enough in the landscape and can brighten up an otherwise boring landscape filled with over-used landscape plants such as Lantana, Dwarf Oleander, etc.  My last post featured the beautiful Valentine shrub.

I am very excited to talk about this lesser known plant.  Let me introduce you to chaparral sage (Salvia clevelandii).

Lesser Known Plant

Isn’t it beautiful?

Years ago, I planted the chaparral Sage above along with many others around a golf course.  Their blue-purple flowers were a definite focal point in the spring time landscape.

Lesser Known Plant

The striking flowers begin to form in the spring and continue on into early summer.

This shrub is native to San Diego county and performs well in well-drained soil.

Like most of my favorite plants, this flowering shrub is low-maintenance.  There are also many other reasons that I think you should definitely try this out in your garden:

Hardy to 10 degrees F.

And so mine is still green despite temps dipping into the low 20’s this winter.

Has a beautiful, naturally round shape.  Only requires pruning by at least 1/2 its size in February and removal of spent flowers in the summer.

Hummingbirds will be congregating around the beautiful flowers.

Reaches a mature size of approximately 4′ x 4′.

The foliage is highly fragrant and is attractive even when not covered with flowers.

Lesser Known Plant

In the low deserts, it is wise to place the shrubs where they will receive filtered shade in the afternoons.  In high desert locations, they can be set out in full sun.

The foliage is quite fragrant and while most people enjoy its fragrance, some do not.  So, be sure to find a Chaparral Sage plant ahead of time to make sure that you enjoy the fragrance as much as I do before you buy some for your garden.

The fragrance is best enjoyed from a short distance, so I recommend not planting right next to walkways or windows.

Chaparral Sage looks great when planted near yellow, red or pink flowering plants.

I hope you will decide to try this shrub out in your garden.  I absolutely love mine.

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

For those of you who are determined to be trendsetters in your garden, try these beautiful, fuss-free plants in your garden.  

Baja fairy duster

Baja fairy duster (Calliandra californica) is a must-have for the desert garden.  There is so much to love about this shrub.  

My favorite attribute is that it flowers off and on all year.  Its red flowers are shaped like miniature feather dusters.  Also, this plant attracts hummingbirds, is low-maintenance, drought tolerant and great by swimming pools because of its low litter.

Baja fairy duster has a vibrant red flower, which is often a color missing in the desert plant palette.  The majority of flowering occurs spring through fall, but some flowering can occur in areas that experience mild winters.  

It is native to Baja California, Mexico and is also called red fairy duster by some.  It is evergreen to 20 degrees F.  During some unusually cold winters when temperatures dropped into the high teens, I have had some killed to the ground, but they quickly grew back from their roots. 

Baja fairy duster

USES: This shrub grows to approximately 4 – 5 ft. High and wide, depending on how much you prune it, so allow plenty of room for it to develop.  

It makes a lovely screening shrub, either in front of a wall or blocking pool equipment, etc.  It also serves as a colorful background shrub for smaller perennials such as damianita, blackfoot daisy, Parry’s penstemon, gold or purple lantana and desert marigold.  

Baja fairy duster can take full sun and reflected heat but can also grow in light shade.  It is not particular about soil as long as it is well-drained.

Baja fairy duster

  Baja fairy duster in the middle of a desert landscape, flanked by desert spoon to the left and ‘Torch Glow’ bougainvillea to the right.  Red yucca is in the foreground.

MAINTENANCE:  As I mentioned before, this is a very low-maintenance shrub.  Some people shear this shrub, which I DO NOT recommend.  This removes most of the flowers and takes away from the natural shape of this shrub.  However, it’s size can be controlled with proper pruning.  Pruning should be done in late spring and should be performed with hand-pruners, NOT hedge clippers.

Baja fairy duster does require regular irrigation until established but then is relatively drought-tolerant.  However, proper watering is needed for it to look its best and flower regularly, which is what I do.  

Other than adding compost to the planting hole, no other amendments or fertilizer is needed.  Most native desert plants have been adapted to growing in our nutrient deficient soils and do best when left alone in terms of fertilizing.  I tell my clients to fertilize only if the plant shows symptoms of a nutrient deficiency.

So, go to your local plant nursery and get some of these beautiful shrubs for your garden.  Then, while you sit and enjoy its beauty, you can debate what you love most about it….the beautiful year-round flowers, the hummingbirds it attracts, it’s low-maintenance, or come up with your reasons.

drought tolerant

Globe mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) brings a unique “cottage-garden” feel to the desert plant palette along with some surprises. In spring a flush of beautiful flowers are produced that will cause people to stop in their tracks. After that, globe mallow will bloom off and on throughout the summer and fall.  

This shrubby, perennial is native to the Southwestern areas of North America where it is found growing along washes and rocky slopes. They grow quickly and reach approximately 3 ft. X 3 ft. in size. Globe mallow is cold hardy to about 20 degrees F.

drought tolerant

Drought tolerant

Although most globe mallow plants produce orange flowers, they are available in other colors including pink, purple, white, red and shades in between. At the nursery, you will usually see the orange flowered variety available. However, some growers are beginning to stock selections of globe mallow in different colors. But buyer beware; unless specially marked or blooming, you don’t know exactly what color flower you will end up with make sure if you want a certain color to check for mark.  

Often, the surprise occurs after you plant them and wait to see what color the flowers will be. I bought four globe mallow, out of bloom, for my garden and ended up with one red, two pink and one white. For those who do not like surprises in the garden, you can wait and buy them in bloom in the spring.

drought tolerant

USES: Globe mallow attracts hummingbirds as well as butterflies. They serve as a colorful backdrop for small perennials or small cacti. Consider planting with any of the following plants for a colorful desert flower garden – penstemon, desert marigold, ruellia, and blackfoot daisy. This beautiful but tough plant does best in full sun and performs well in areas with hot, reflected heat. Do not plant in shady areas as this will cause them to grow leggy.

Globe mallow do self-seed, and the seedlings can be moved and transplanted in the fall if desired. They are used frequently for re-vegetation purposes because they grow readily from seed.

Globe Mallow

MAINTENANCE: This pretty perennial is very low-maintenance.  No fertilizer or amendments to the soil are required. Prune once a year to approximately 6 inches to 1 ft. after it has finished blooming in late spring/early summer, which will help to prevent them from self-seeding, maximize future blooming and minimize unproductive, woody growth. Globe mallow is not the type of plant to repeatedly shear into a formal shape. When pruning, wear gloves and long sleeves since the tiny hairs on the leaves can be irritating to some as well as an eye irritant.

Once established, globe mallow is quite drought-tolerant, but will require supplemental irrigation for the best appearance and flowering. My globe mallow plants are connected to my drip-irrigation system and do very well when watered three to four times a month, spring through fall.

Globe Mallow

ADDITIONAL FACTS: Historically, globe mallow were used by Native Americans for medicinal purposes such as treating diarrhea, sore throats, eye diseases as well as skin disorders. Their roots were used for upset stomachs and poultices were made for treating swollen joints and broken bones.

*Have you ever grown globe mallow?

Fall is Here! Time to Start Planting!