Mar
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Plant of the Month

The large, delicate, white flowers of Little-leaf Cordia might fool you into thinking this is not an especially hardy plant. This plant actually exceeds expectations, being the perfect combination of heat-tolerance, cold-tolerance, drought-tolerance, long blooming season, low-litter, and low maintenance. Sit back and enjoy this plant.

Little Leaf Cordia
Cordia parvifolia

  • Plant Form: Evergreen or semi-evergreen shrub
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 4-8 ft. tall x 6-10 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring (Mar-May), Summer (June-Aug), Fall (Sept-Nov)
  • Native to: Mexico, Baja California
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 15°F 

Little-leaf Cordia blooms so profusely with showy clusters of white, crepe paper-like flowers, it is hard to believe it is such a low-water-use, low-maintenance plant. Arching branches can be slightly open to dense, covered with small, leathery, deeply veined leaves. The dark foliage creates the perfect backdrop for the 1 – 1 ½-inch flowers that appear in spring and fall, but may also appear in summer with monsoonal rains, since heat and humidity trigger blooming. This easy-care shrub is evergreen except when exposed to severe drought or extreme cold, when it may drop its leaves. Resistant to nibbling by rabbits and deer, this Mexico native is useful as an informal hedge, screen, flowering accent, foundation plant, or background planting, especially with low-growing plants in the foreground. The only maintenance it may ever need is pruning in early spring for shape. Its low maintenance and low water-use have made this a favorite in medians and parking strips.

Check out our  “Garden Tasks” for March

While some gardeners may avoid Rosemary because it so commonly used, there is a reason it is chosen so often to solve hot, dry, poor soil situations: it works! Rosemary has so many gifts to give to your garden, including aromatic joy as you pass it, pest resistance, rabbit resistance, drought tolerance, culinary use in so many recipes, tolerance to both heat and cold, and screening of unsightly utility or irrigation systems…why wouldn’t you want at least one rosemary plant in your yard?

Rosemary
Rosmarinus officinalis

  • Plant Form: Evergreen Shrub
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 2-5 ft. tall x 2-6 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun
  • Bloom Time: Winter (Dec-Feb), Spring (Mar-May)
  • Native to: Mediterranean Region
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 15°F 

Rosemary has been prized for centuries for a multitude of reasons, including its aromatic properties, flavorful herbal use, picturesque form, and rugged landscaping uses.  This drought-tolerant native of Mediterranean climates endures hot sun, reflected heat, and poor soils, and all it asks in return is good drainage. A mint-family evergreen shrub that has wonderfully aromatic, needle-like green leaves, this fragrant plant resists browsing by rabbits and deer, while producing tiny, two-lipped blue to white flowers that attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. In winter-hardy regions like ours, it grows 4-5 feet tall, and blooms from winter through spring. Rosemary’s leaves are harvested for culinary use, toiletries, and sachets. In the garden, Rosemary adds value to borders, low hedges, herb gardens, foundations that need to be hidden, slopes that need to be stabilized, and pots to accent any patio. This versatile plant is pet friendly, pool friendly, and easy care. Low-growing varieties are used to trail over walls and banks.

Check out our  “Garden Tasks” for February

This west coast native is a perfect choice for a drought-tolerant, shade tolerant evergreen shrub for southwest gardens. Blue, grape-like berries in summer attract songbirds, and make tasty jams and jellies for humans when cooked.

Oregon Grape, Holly-leaved Barberry
Mahonia aquifolium

  • Plant Form: Evergreen Shrub
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 3-6 ft. tall x 3-7 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Part Sun, Filtered Sun, Full Shade
  • Bloom Time: Spring (Mar-May)
  • Native to: California, Oregon, Washington, Canada
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to -10°F 

Oregon Grape offers a brilliant solution to a landscape dilemma: finding a drought-tolerant plant that can live in full shade in southwest deserts. This easy-care, evergreen shrub is excellent in dry shade or part shade as a single, colorful accent, or in mass plantings as a hedge or screen. Also called Holly-leaved Barberry, this native of Canada and the Northwest U.S. has bright, fragrant, yellow flowers in spring, followed by lovely blue, grape-like berries in summer. The spiny foliage yields extra drama as new leaves emerge with bronze-red colors, turning purplish-red in winter. In our region, can be used hedge-style against shaded walls and fences, or freestanding as a hedge or screen if sheltered from harsh sun and drying winds. Both rabbit- and deer-resistant, Oregon Grape is useful for borders, containers, hiding water valves, and in fire-wise and wildlife gardens. Birds and wildlife love the berries; to humans, the berries are not tasty when fresh, but are great in jams and jellies.

Check out our  “Garden Tasks” for January

Holly-leaf Redberry maintains a tidy, compact shape in full sun, but becomes more open and tree-like in shade. Either way, it grows happily with very little added water, maintaining lush, dark green leaves all year. Female plants produce red berries that birds can’t resist.

Holly-leaf Redberry
Rhamnus ilicifolia

  • Plant Form: Evergreen Shrub
  • Water Use: Very Low
  • Mature Size: 3-9 ft. tall and wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun, Part Sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring (Mar-May), Summer (June)
  • Native to: California, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Baja California (500 – 6,600 feet elevation)
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 0°F 

Holly-leaf Redberry is a handsome, mounding, evergreen shrub with dark-green, glossy, holly-like leaves. Tiny yellowish flowers are inconspicuous, but female flowers produce bright red berries relished by birds and small mammals. Male and female flowers grow on separate plants, so male plants will not produce berries. Redberry loves dry, rocky slopes, but prefers part shade in the drier parts of its range. Plants growing in full sun maintain a dense form, while plants in shade are usually more open and tree-like. This tidy, moderately slow-growing plant needs very little water or care. It can tolerate some summer water up to once a month, but usually prefers no supplemental irrigation after becoming established. Its small red berries are colorful in summer, and its shiny foliage is attractive all year. Holly-leaf Redberry performs well as an ornamental plant on dry banks, as an informal screen or low hedge in hot, sunny areas, or as an accent anywhere.

Check out our  “Garden Tasks” for December

The smooth, white bark of this drought-tolerant, long-lived plant is a beautiful benefit of this cold-hardy, heat-tolerant, tree-sized shrub. Mountain Mahogany is useful for erosion control on slopes, as a screen or border, or as a specimen plant.

Mountain Mahogany
Cercocarpus betuloides

  • Plant Form: Evergreen Shrub
  • Water Use: Very Low
  • Mature Size: 8-15 ft. tall x 10-12 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun, Part Sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring (Mar-May)
  • Native to: California, Oregon, Baja California (below 6,000 feet)
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to -30°F 

Mountain Mahogany is a large, upright, evergreen shrub or small tree with beautiful, smooth, light gray bark. Small, wedge-shaped leaves with toothed edges resemble birch leaves, giving this plant its other name, Birch-leaf Mountain Mahogany. Its small, cream-colored, rose-like flowers are inconspicuous, but its seeds create a spectacular display in late summer and fall. Each seed has a feather-like tail that curls up like a corkscrew as it ripens; when backlit, the abundant seeds create an ethereal glow to the whole plant. Its roots are nitrogen-fixing, making the plant good for revegetation. Mountain Mahogany tolerates drought, poor soils, extreme cold and heat, and is free from pests. It does appreciate some supplemental water, especially during the summer. Useful alone as a specimen plant or massed along parkways.This long-lived plant can be pruned into a compact shrub, hedge, or tree form. Great on slopes for erosion control, as a screen or border, or as an accent.

Check out our  “Garden Tasks” for November

This tough and tidy perennial sub-shrub brings long-lasting color to borders, rock gardens, and even containers and flower boxes. Since the flowers turn a rusty color in age, you get a variety of hues with each plant.

Sulfur Buckwheat
Eriogonum umbellatum

  • Plant Form: Evergreen Sub-shrub
  • Water Use: Very Low
  • Mature Size: 1-2 ft. tall x 1-3 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun, Part Sun
  • Bloom Time: Summer (June-Aug), Fall (Sept-Oct)
  • Native to: California, Western North America, Central Canada (4,000 feet – 10,000 feet)
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 15°F

Sulfur Buckwheat creates a big garden impact despite being such a diminutive plant. This exceedingly variable species can vary from a small perennial herb only 3 inches tall to a sprawling shrub over 3 feet across, with flowers white, cream, or sulfur-yellow depending on the variety. All have loose mats of mounding grey foliage, with blankets of umbrella-like flowers on short stalks. Blossoms mature to orange or rusty red in fall and persist on the plant, giving the illusion of an extremely long bloom season of variable color. These low, mat-forming perennials from dry mountain slopes are extremely tolerant of both heat and cold, and thrive in dry, hot, exposed sites, needing good drainage and very little water after becoming established. Check with your nursery for the best variety for your particular garden. Sulfur Buckwheat shines in rock gardens with other compact, evergreen shrubs, and in the front of dry, sunny, mixed borders, as well as in containers.

Check out our  “Garden Tasks” for October