Plant of the Month

Beavertail is a maintenance-free cactus native to California and the west that adds spectacular color to southwest gardens with its hot-pink flowers in spring.

Beavertail Cactus
Opuntia basilaris

  • Plant Form: Cactus
  • Water Use: Extremely Low
  • Mature Size: 1-2 ft. tall x 3-6 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring (Mar-May), Summer (June)
  • Native to: California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Mexico (below 7000 feet)
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 10°F

Beavertail Cactus has flattened pads that truly resemble their namesake. This slow-growing California native from both the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts is dotted with clusters of tiny spines called glochids, which are set into dimples across the pads (making the pads look like a beaver’s tail). A single plant may have hundreds of blue-gray, succulent, flattened pads, which can become wrinkled in summer, but plump after rains. Hot-pink flowers in spring are stunning–and are irresistible to beetles and other pollinators. Individual pads may be transplanted to extend plantings. While being extremely low-maintenance and easy to grow, it dislikes clay soils, acid soils, shade, and too much watering. Water rarely if at all. Always wear gloves when working with or around this beauty, and keep it away from pathways. Desert rodents and birds eat the tiny black seeds. This low-growing groundcover compliments and accents rock and succulent gardens, wildlife gardens, and dry washes.

Check out our  “Garden Tasks” for March


This California native plant offers a long season of bright, daisy-like, yellow flowers, while tolerating heat, drought, poor soils, and even reflected heat. At the same time, it resists rabbits, but attracts butterflies, songbirds, and beneficial pollinators.

Bahiopsis parishii (Viguiera deltoidea parishii)

  • Plant Form: Semi-deciduous Shrub
  • Water Use: Very Low
  • Mature Size: 2-3 ft. tall and wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring (Feb-May), Summer (June), Fall (Sept-Oct)
  • Native to: Southwestern California, southern Nevada, Arizona, northern Mexico (below 5000 feet)
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 15°F

Goldeneye is blanketed with bright, golden flowers on long stalks, contrasting nicely with its dark-green leaves — which feel like a cat’s tongue due to their stiff hairs. A moderately fast-growing, winter-deciduous shrub that attracts butterflies, songbirds, and beneficial pollinators, but resists rabbits. This perennial sunflower will crown sprout back from its roots after winter dormancy, so don’t fret if it freezes to the ground – it is root hardy. Goldeneye will repeat bloom with some summer water. Trim back after bloom cycle for more flowers and denser, neater growth. Performs well in both high-desert and low-desert gardens, naturally growing from sea level to 5000 feet in elevation. Goldeneye is extremely heat tolerant, and doesn’t mind reflected heat or poor soils. Nice mass of color to border a fence, for a background in the garden, in dry washes and rock gardens, or to fill in a naturalized area.

Check out our  “Garden Tasks” for February


Besides being drought-resistant, fire-resistant, and resisting browsing by rabbits, this tidy, evergreen, California native is versatile as either a hedge, screen, border, ground cover, or bank stabilizer — and works in large containers.

Frangula californica

  • Plant Form: Evergreen Shrub
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 5-12 ft. tall and wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun, Part Sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring – Summer (May-July)
  • Native to: California, southwest Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, northern Baja (below 7000 feet)
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 10°F

Coffeeberry is touted as looking “trimmed without trimming”, although this tidy evergreen does take pruning well. This long-lived California native, also known as California Buckthorn, grows naturally in a wide range of habitats, with many available varieties, so check with your local nursery to find the one that best fits your climate. While commonly growing in chaparral and woodland habitats just above our deserts, it performs well in high deserts if given filtered or afternoon shade, and water once a week for its first year. Coffeeberry’s fruits contain seeds that resemble coffee beans. Its light-green, 2 to 4-inch-long leaves mature to a leathery dark green. Inconspicuous greenish-yellow flowers in spring produce showy berries that are green, then red, and finally ripen to black, when they are relished by birds. Coffeeberry is fire resistant, resists browsing by rabbits and deer, and makes a great hedge, screen, border, ground cover, or bank stabilizer, and performs well in large containers.

Check out our  “Garden Tasks” for January


Little John Dwarf Bottlebrush
Callistemon citrinus ‘Little John’


What a perfect solution to hot, dry garden sites, as well as offering the added benefits of attracting hummingbirds while repelling rabbits and deer. Besides these practical uses, this compact bottlebrush gives months of showy, red flowers for your enjoyment.

  • Plant Form: Evergreen Shrub
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 3 ft. tall x 5 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring – Fall (March – November)
  • Native to: Australia
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 20°F

Little John Dwarf Bottlebrush is a hummingbird’s delight that is compact enough to fit into any garden. This slow-growing evergreen shrub holds up in hot, dry landscapes, and resists the browsing of rabbits and deer while attracting butterflies, birds, and pollinators. Flowers are heaviest in spring and summer, but can appear throughout the entire growing season. Prune only after the heaviest bloom is over so you won’t lose the majority of flower buds for the season. This dwarf bottlebrush can be lined up for a short hedge, massed like a groundcover, or used as a middle-border accent plant. Its small size makes it great in containers, which can be moved into protected areas during hard frosts. If winter temperatures dip below 20°F in your area, you might try Little John’s more cold-hardy cousin, Rigid Bottlebrush Tree (Callistemon rigidus), and keep this 6 to 8-foot-tall shrub pruned if you want a smaller plant.

Check out our  “Garden Tasks” for December


Smoke Bush ‘Young Lady’
Cotinus coggygria ‘Young Lady’

Masses of pinkish, billowy hairs on spent flower clusters are what create the illusion of smoke from summer to fall on this intriguing shrub or small tree. Smoke bush has the added surprise of fall leaf colors from yellow, orange, and red to purplish-red foliage.

  • Plant Form: Deciduous Shrub or Tree
  • Water Use: Low, Moderate
  • Mature Size: 4-6 ft. tall & wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun
  • Bloom Time: Summer – Fall (June – October)
  • Native to: Southern Europe to Central China
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 0°F

Smoke Bush ‘Young Lady’ will treat you with billows of “smokey” flower clusters from summer through fall. Smoke Bush gets its common name not from the tiny, yellowish flowers in spring, but from billowy hairs on the stalks of spent flower clusters, covering the plant with fluffy, hazy, smoke-like puffs from summer into fall. This new variety is noted for blooming early as a young shrub, with feathery blooms covering the plant’s blue-green foliage. Other varieties, such as Royal Purple Smoke Tree (12 – 15 feet tall), produce pinkish-purple, smoke-like airy seed clusters backed by reddish-purple foliage. Fall leaf colors vary from yellow, orange, and red to purplish-red. For the best bloom, prune very lightly in early spring. Hard pruning to the framework induces new growth with larger leaves, but compromises flowers. Useful as a single specimen, grouped or massed in shrub borders, or as an informal hedge or screen (a smoke screen!).

Check out our  “Garden Tasks” for November


Sparklette Trumpet Bush
Tecoma ‘Sparklette’

You will be amazed that this tropical-looking shrub actually thrives in our deserts. The showy trumpet-shaped flower clusters attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees…and admiring humans!

  • Plant Form: Evergreen or Semi-deciduous Shrub
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 3-5 ft. tall x 2-3 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun, Part Shade
  • Bloom Time: Spring – Fall (March – October)
  • Native to: Texas, Florida, W. Indes, Mexico, Central and South America
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 20°F

Sparklette Trumpet Bush is a drought-tolerant, heat-loving perennial that appears much too lush and tropical to survive in the southwest, but it performs beautifully here. All Trumpet Bush species love heat, but most have frost-sensitive leaves. Their roots, however, survive much colder temperatures, and plants recover very quickly if trimmed back to 12 inches when new growth starts in the spring. Related to our Desert Willow (notice the flower similarity), its lush, green leaves resemble those of elderberry. While other Trumpet Bushes grow to 12 feet high or more, this compact hybrid reaches just 3 to 5 feet tall. Showy clusters of trumpet-shaped flowers with yellow petals and maroon throats attract hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies from spring through fall. Trumpet Bushes are massed in gardens and shrub borders, planted as informal hedges or screens, and used as specimen plants — just remember they will need to be pruned back after frost.

Check out our  “Garden Tasks” for October