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Earlier this week, I mentioned I was being interviewed about drought tolerant gardening for several radio stations throughout the country.  
 
This morning, I am doing a live interview for the public radio station, KERA in Dallas, Texas.  I will be taking viewer questions throughout the program.  
*You can listen to it here, if you like. 
 
I must admit to being a little nervous, but am mostly excited to talk about a subject that I am passionate about and have a lot of experience with having lived in California and now Arizona.
 
 
 In my last post I talked to you about 10 steps toward a drought tolerant garden.
 
As I promised, it is time to decide what to plant in your water wise garden.
 
Today, let’s talk about one of my favorite group of plants – perennials. 
 
The perennials I am sharing with you can grow in a variety of climates throughout the United States and I will note their USDA planting zones.
 
*For best results, the following guidelines should be followed when planting these or any drought tolerant plants:
 
– Plant in well-drained soil.
-Amend the existing soil with compost at a ration of 1:1.
– The planting hole should be 3X as wide as the root ball to allow the roots to grow outward more easily and the plant to establish more quickly.
 
White Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri)
 
White gaura has a central place in my drought tolerant landscape.  I have three growing underneath my front window where I can enjoy their delicate, butterfly-shaped flowers that appear in spring and fall where I live in the low desert.
 
In cooler locations, it blooms spring through summer. This white-flowering native grows approximately 2 ft. tall and wide.
 
Hardy to zone 7 – 10, plant gaura in well-drained soil.
 
Penstemon species
The arrival of spring is heralded by the flowering spikes of penstemon.  There are many different species of native penstemon and all have a place in a drought tolerant garden. 
 
Hummingbirds will flock to your garden to enjoy the nectar from its blooms.  The base rosette of penstemons are approximately 1 foot high and 1 – 2 feet wide when not in flower.
 
The species you choose depends on your region and their cold hardiness ranges from zone 4 – 10.  Plant in full sun to filtered shade in well drained soil.
 
Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum)
 
If you like white daisies, than this is a drought tolerant perennial that deserves a place in your garden.
 
Blackfoot daisies are a native, mounding plant that grow 12 inches tall and 18 inches wide.  Don’t let their straggly appearance fool you when you see them at the nursery – once they are planted and have a chance to grow roots, they will fill in and look great.
 
I like to plant blackfoot daisies next to boulders where their soft texture provides beautiful contrast.
 
Plant in full sun, well-drained soil.  Hardy to zone 5 – 10.
 
Angelita Daisy / Perky Sue (Tetraneuris acaulis – formerly Hymenoxys)
 
Here is one of my all time favorite perennials.  I use it often in my designs and landscapes that I have managed in the past.
 
Angelita daisies are native to the United States, which add a welcome spot of color to the garden.  Don’t let their delicate appearance fool you – they are very tough.
 
Plant them in groups of 3 or 5 for best effect in areas with full, (even reflected) sun to filtered shade.  Gardeners in zones 5 – 10, can grow this pretty little perennial that reaches 1 foot high and tall.
 
In zone 8 gardens, it is evergreen and will flower throughout the year.  For those who live in zones 5 – 7, it can die back to the ground, but will quickly grow back in spring and provide yellow blooms throughout the summer into early fall.
 
In zones 4 and below, angelita daisy is often grown as an annual.
 
Tufted Evening Primrose (Oenothera caespitosa)
 
The flowers of tufted evening primrose open at night where their white blooms illuminate the garden.  As flowers fade, they turn pink.
 
Plant this native alongside boulders or at the base of spiky plants such as sotol (desert spoon) where you can show off the contrast in textures.
 
Plant in full sun to filtered shade in well-drained soil for best results.  Hardy to zones 8 – 10.
 
Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana)
 
It’s hard to find a native plant that can compete with the golden yellow blooms of damianita.  
 
This shrubby perennial grows 1 foot high and 2 feet wide.  Masses of yellow flowers appear in spring and fall covering the bright green needle-like foliage.
 
Hardy to zones 7 – 10, damianita needs full sun and well-drained soil.  Prune back to 6 inches in spring after flowering has finished to keep it compact and reduce woody growth.
 
Trailing Lantana (Lantana montevidensis)
 
While not a native, trailing lantana is a plant that is well adapted to arid climates and is a popular choice for drought tolerant gardens.  It also is a butterfly magnet.
*Lantana can be invasive in warm, humid climates but in arid regions, this is not a problem.
 
Trailing lantana grows up to 1 foot high and 3 feet wide.  Plant in full sun or filtered shade.  
 
Although lantana is not cold hardy (it grows in zones 8 – 10), it is often grown as an annual in colder climates.  Flowers appear quickly after the danger of frost has passed that last until the first frost in fall / winter.  Shear back to 6 inches in spring once the freezing temperatures have ended.
 
Any of these beautiful perennials will add beauty to your drought tolerant garden.  

One of the many blessings of living in the desert is that you can garden all year.  That means that you can have beautiful color all year, even in the winter (above).

Drive down the street during the summer, and you will see flowering plants in the common areas and gracing the front yards of everywhere you look.  Texas Sage, Bougainvillea, Lantana, and Tecoma species dot the landscape.

 

Why then do people not include plants that will provide color in the winter?  You can take the same drive as you did in the summer and see nothing but green blobs and nothing else (below).  The landscape below is an unfortunate victim of ‘poodle’ pruning.  We are so fortunate to live in an area with relatively mild winters, so why not take advantage of that fact in your garden?

 

I mean, who thinks that this looks nice?  Countless times, when I am meeting with clients, they ask, “My landscape is so boring.  What can I do to make it look better?”  The majority of the time, I hear this from winter residents.  Their landscape is a riot of color in the summer when they are gone.  But, in the winter when they are there, they have green blobs and little else.

The landscape (above) has potential.  The solution to a somewhat boring landscape is easy.  Add winter-flowering plants to the landscape.

 
When I create a landscape design for a brand new landscape, I make sure to include a variety of plants that flower at a different time of the year.  This ensures year-round color.  If you have an established landscape, add a few winter-flowering plants.  That is all it takes.
 
For beautiful winter color,  I recommend trying the following:
 
Valentine (Eremophila ‘Valentine)
Valentine flowers beginning in December, around Christmas 
 
 
Purple Lilac Vine (Hardenbergia violaceae)
Flowers in February, absolutely stunning flowers 
Angelita Daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis)
Formerly Hymenoxys acaulis 
Flowers all year 
 
Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua)
Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum)
 
Parry’s Penstemon (Penstemon parryi)
Desert Senna (Senna artemisiodes ssp. sturtii)
Formerly (Cassia sturtii)
  
Baja Fairy Duster (Calliandra californica)
Flowers all year
Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana)
 
Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatonii)
Mine is beginning to bloom now
 
Pink Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii)

 As you can tell, there are countless plants that you can use for winter color.  If you are only a winter-resident, then you may choose only to have plants that flower in winter.  As for me, I love lots of color year-round.  My favorites are Purple Lilac Vine, Firecracker Penstemon, Valentine, and Angelita Daisy.

 
Whether you live in the Tropics or Canada, this same principle is true for any climate you live in – make sure your garden provides color for you when you are there.

Do you ever wonder what plants look good together?  Below are pictures of some of my favorite plant combinations along with some general guidelines that I follow when designing a garden.

Sometimes red and pink colors always compliment each other.  Introducing yellow flowering plants provide a high color contrast that brings out the red and pink colors.  Above is a golf course landscape that I planted with Valentine shrub (Eremophila ‘Valentine’), Parry’s penstemon (Penstemon parryi) and desert marigold (Baileya multiradiata) against the backdrop of foothill palo verde trees.

 

Parry’s agave (Agave parryi) with purple trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis)

Also, succulents paired with perennials almost always compliment each other with their contrasting shades of green and textures.  Other recommended succulent and perennial pairings include desert spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri) alongside black dalea (Dalea frutescens), prickly pear species with penstemon or try octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana) with purple or white trailing lantana.

Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii ‘Red’)
   
Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum)

I use plants with white flowers as a backdrop for plants with red, pink and purple flowers; I like the way the white flowers emphasize the other colors.

‘Rio Bravo’ Sage (Leucophyllum langmaniae) & Red Bird-of-Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima)

Most of the time the pairing of purple flowering plants with those that have orange flowers always looks great.  When deciding what colors look good when paired together, it helps to look at a color wheel.  In general, the colors that are opposite each other look great when paired together because their colors contrast so well.  Other orange, purple plant combinations to try are cape honeysuckle (Tecomaria capensis) with (Leucophyllum species), or  Mexican honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera) with purple lantana. 

Angelita daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis) and parry’s penstemon (Penstemon parryi)
 

Also, I believe that any garden looks better with some yellow flowering plants.  As I mentioned earlier, the color yellow makes the other plants look better, (think of the color wheel).   I have had clients that have said they do not like yellow until I show them how much better their other plants look when we introduce just a few yellow flowering plants to their landscape and they quickly change their mind.

 
Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans stans)
Bougainvillea ‘Barbara Karst’
 

I often recommend the following for those who are looking for large shrub combinations.  Okay, I realize that many people either love or hate bougainvillea. Personally, I love them.  I have two bougainvilleas and since I don’t have a swimming pool, so I am not bothered by their litter. Their beautiful and vibrant colors are amazing.

I pair my bougainvillea with yellow bell shrubs.  Their colors contrast nicely, and they screen out the back wall of my garden.  I give them plenty of room to grow, and they produce beautiful flowers spring through fall.  If you do have a swimming pool and don’t like bougainvillea, how about trying orange jubilee (Tecoma hybrid ‘Orange Jubilee’) and Texas Sage (Leucophyllum frutescens) together?
 
Weber’s agave (Agave weberi) and purple trailing lantana
 
I have just one more tip –  if you want to pair flowering plants together to enjoy the contrasting colors, make sure that they bloom at the same time of year.  It is so easy to visit the plant nursery and see the pretty photos of flowers on the different plants and pick what ones you think will look great together only to discover later that one flower in the fall while the other blooms in spring and so you never see their flowers at the same time.
 
So, visit your local nursery and try some of the suggested plant combinations or see what beautiful plant pairings you come up with for your garden.