Sep
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Plant of the Month

Evergreen Sumac
Rhus virens

If you need a tall evergreen shrub or small tree that is incredibly tolerant of drought, wind, heat, sun, and cold, and is also resistant to insect pests, disease, and rabbits, look no farther. This sturdy plant is also tolerant of problem soils like clay and caliche soils.

  • Plant Form: Evergreen Shrub, Small Tree
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 8-12 ft. tall x 10-15 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun, Part Sun
  • Bloom Time: Summer (June-Aug), Fall (Sept-Nov)
  • Native to: Arizona, New Mexico, Texas
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 5°F 

Evergreen Sumac is a very adaptable, large, evergreen shrub that tolerates every stressful desert situation thrown at it: burning heat, freezing cold, extended drought, nutrient-poor soils, and even difficult clay and caliche soils. Given all these challenges, this sumac still grows into a beautiful, rounded specimen plant with lush, glossy, green leaves that can turn maroon after frost. Some leaves may drop after winter, but they are quickly replaced within a week with a new crop. Birds, butterflies, and bees all enjoy its late-summer, tiny white flowers and red fruits (fruit is only produced on female plants). The fuzzy, red fruits were historically soaked in water to make a refreshing lemonade-like drink high in vitamin C. This sturdy plant generally repels insect damage, disease, and rabbits. Left in its natural form, Evergreen Sumac makes a thick hedge, screen, barrier, or background plant, but it can be pruned to grow tree-like with a single, straight trunk.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for September

Golden Dogbane
Thymophylla pentachaeta

This dainty, long-blooming perennial brings color to southwest gardens from spring to fall. It is admired for attracting butterflies but repelling rabbits, and reseeds where it is happy.

  • Plant Form: Perennial
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 6-10 in. tall x 1-2 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring (March-May), Summer (June-Aug), Fall (Sept-Nov)
  • Native to: California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Northern Mexico
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 0°F 

Golden Dogbane is a dainty, colorful plant that brings happiness to both gardeners and butterflies. Because it provides both nectar and food for butterflies and their larvae, it is perfect for butterfly gardens. Gardeners can plant just a few of these short-lived perennials, and sit back as they multiply and migrate around the garden. While they reseed readily, they are easily controlled – but we bet you will want them to continue popping up in most places they sprout. Masses of tiny, golden-yellow, daisy-like flowers cover the foliage in spring and fall, flowering through summer in higher elevations, and even into winter where temperatures are mild. The finely textured foliage is strongly scented, yielding it rabbit-resistant. Lightly prune in early spring to rejuvenate or after freezing temperatures to remove any dead stems. This desert-friendly perennial works well in rock gardens and low planters, around pools and on patios, and mixed with groundcovers and wildflowers.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for August 

Jul
1
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Plant of the Month – July

Peruvian Verbena dresses up rock gardens and low planters, spreading to form a mat, and also looks great cascading from pots.

Peruvian Verbena
Glandularia (Verbena) peruviana purple

  • Plant Form: Perennial groundcover
  • Water Use: Low, Moderate
  • Mature Size: 6-12 in. tall x 2-3 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring (March-May), Summer (June-Aug), Fall (Sept-Nov)
  • Native to: South America
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 0°F 

Peruvian Verbena is a fairly fast-growing groundcover that trails and spreads with new herbaceous roots to form a dense mat. This desert-friendly, rabbit-resistant perennial produces clusters of colorful flowers at the end of each stem, with colors ranging from purple to pink, red, or white, depending upon which of the many available varieties are chosen.While this verbena is great in low-water-use landscapes, it produces its best flowering with moderate water. Flowers are most prolific in spring, with a slight tapering off in summer, but fall spurs another big bloom, which attracts butterflies and bees.Deadhead spent flowers to encourage continued blooming, and prune back in late winter to stimulate new flowering stems before spring. Although not a long-lived plant, Peruvian Verbena is popular in rock gardens and low planters, cascading from pots, and mixed with wildflowers and other groundcovers.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for July 

Jun
1
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Plant of the Month – June

Artichoke Agave, Parry Agave
Agave parryi

  • Plant Form: Succulent
  • Water Use: Very Low
  • Mature Size: 2-3 ft. tall & wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun
  • Bloom Time: Summer (June-Aug)
  • Native to: Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Mexico
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 15°F 

Artichoke Agave forms a dense, symmetrical rosette that actually resembles a giant artichoke. Wide, foot-long, blue-gray leaves are edged with spiny margins and tipped with a one-inch terminal spine. A rosette slowly matures over time until it produces offset “pups” at its base, eventually forming a colony of rosettes. Each rosette flowers only once, usually after 10-15 years, but sometimes not until 20-30 years. From the center of the rosette, one giant flowering stalk rises up to 20 feet tall, after which the flowering rosette dies, but all the new rosettes formed by suckers around the base of the mother plant survive. The flowering stalk is eye-catching, with clusters of orange-yellow flowers on many side branches.This popular ornamental agave is used as an accent or specimen, in borders, or in mass plantings. It is great in succulent and rock gardens, and in containers.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for June 

Apr
30
0

Plant of the Month – May

You don’t have to wait until spring to enjoy color from this beautiful cactus. Colors of the fleshy pads transform from blue-gray to rich purple depending on seasonal temperatures. Yellow flowers in spring just add to the lively palette.

Santa Rita Prickly Pear,
Purple Prickly Pear
Opuntia violacea var. santa-rita

  • Plant Form: Cactus
  • Water Use: Very Low
  • Mature Size: 2-6 ft. tall x 4-6 ft.wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring (Mar-May), Summer (June-Aug)
  • Native to: Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Mexico
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 0°F 

Santa Rita Prickly Pear defies the convention that plants are only showy when they are in bloom. This cactus is colorful year-round. In winter, the fleshy pads attain a rich purple color, lending its other name, Purple Prickly Pear. Warmer weather coaxes out soft blue-gray pads. Spring entices yellow rose-like flowers along the edges of each pad. Tufts of tiny spines dot each pad, and sparse, long spines line the upper edges of the pads. White cottony patches on the pads may appear if affected by cochineal scale, an insect that sucks juice from the cactus and covers itself with white fluff for protection. Easily removed with a strong spray from a garden hose, these insects were the source of purple fabric dye for royalty in times past, and are used today to color food and cosmetics (check for “carmine” in the ingredients). This beautiful cactus is used in succulent and rock gardens, as a barrier or accent, and in containers. Santa Rita Prickly Pear makes a great gift plant, as pads root easily in loose, well-draining soil.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for May

This striking accent plant has lots going for it: sculptural beauty, interesting movement in response to breezes, low water use, easy care, and tolerance to heat and cold.

Mexican Grass Tree
Dasylirion longissimum

  • Plant Form: Succulent
  • Water Use: Very Low
  • Mature Size: 4-6 ft. tall & wide (to 10 feet tall in age)
  • Exposure: Full Sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring (Mar-May), Summer (June-Aug)
  • Native to: Northern Mexico
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 15°F 

Mexican Grass Tree is neither a grass nor a tree, but that doesn’t detract from its superb qualities for landscaping. Stiff but arching grass-like foliage seems to flow out of the center of this tidy, sculptural succulent related to agaves and nolinas. Besides being prized for its easy care and low water use, Mexican Grass Tree is captivating as a living kinetic “sculpture”, serving as yard art whenever breezes animate its numerous 4-foot-long leaves. Its large woody trunk grows very slowly to 6-10 feet tall, and in late spring to summer, both male and female plants produce a 9-foot-tall spike of small creamy flowers. This spectacular accent plant asks only for good drainage (it hates soggy soil), and some protection from harsh afternoon sun in extremely hot regions. A beautiful accent or specimen plant, but also useful in rock gardens, as a border, or in mass plantings. It is stunning in raised planters or large containers.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for April