This under-appreciated southwest native plant is one of the most hardy, drought-tolerant, heat-tolerant, frost-tolerant, pest-free plants available for southwest gardens. Useful as an evergreen hedge, as a backdrop in naturalistic gardens, in mixed plantings, or as a specimen…you are sure to be pleased with this unfussy native plant.

Jojoba, Goatnut
Simmondsia chinensis

  • Plant Form: Evergreen shrub
  • Water Use: Extremely Low
  • Mature Size: 6-8 ft. tall x 8-10 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun
  • Bloom Time: Winter (Feb), Spring (Mar-May), Summer (June)
  • Native to: California, Arizona, Mexico (between 0 – 4,900 feet)
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 15°F

Jojoba is a long-lived, slow-growing dense evergreen shrub that is one of our most drought-tolerant, heat-tolerant native plants. Thick, leathery leaves grow upward so that only their edges face the sun during the hottest part of the day, reducing heat gain and moisture loss from leaf surfaces. Non-showy flowers on female plants produce acorn-like fruits containing a liquid wax prized as a stable lubricant for industrial applications, and for cosmetic and scalp preparations. Male and female flowers grow on separate plants, so fruits only develop on female plants with male plants nearby. Although wind-pollinated, bees collect pollen from male plants. This undemanding shrub has no pests, needs no maintenance, and requires no added water after it is established. Young plants may be cold sensitive, but mature plants are cold hardy. Jojoba’s dense foliage is perfect for screening or informal hedges. Great in naturalistic landscapes, in mixed plantings, or as a specimen.

Check out our  “Garden Tasks” for August


Plant of the Month – July

Honey Mesquite should be called the “giving tree” for its abundant gifts to wildlife, humans, the soil, and the environment. Its nutritious seed pods have fed wildlife and people for millennia, its bacterial root partners add essential nitrogen to the soil, its branches provide habitat to countless animals, and its pollen is made into delicious honey by bees.

Honey Mesquite
Prosopis glandulosa var. torreyana

  • Plant Form: Deciduous tree, shrub
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 15-25 ft. tall & wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring (Mar-May), Summer (June-Aug)
  • Native to: California, SW United States, Mexico (between 0 – 5,600 feet)
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 0°F

Honey Mesquite is a graceful, winter-deciduous tree/shrub with multiple trunks and feathery leaves that provide cool, filtered shade from spring to fall. Yellow catkin-like flowers in spring produce nutritious, tan, pea-like seed pods in late summer that have been made into sweet flour and cakes for millennia. Bees make delicious honey from the flowers, and bacterial root partners fix nitrogen, enriching the surrounding soil. Stems develop long, paired thorns, especially on young branches. Water deeply and widely under the outermost branch tips to encourage a deep, extensive root system that can secure trees in strong winds. With its broad, rounded, weeping habit, this architectural tree is worthy as a focal point in both high and low desert gardens. Use in natural groupings to shade and cool patios and porches, or as a specimen tree.

Check out our  “Garden Tasks” for July


Plant of the Month – June

This low, rounded shrub with gray-green, spoon-shaped leaves has a double treat from its blue flowers that emerge from whorls of magenta flower bracts.

Mojave Desert Sage, Desert Purple Sage


Salvia dorrii


  • Plant Form: Evergreen Sub-Shrub
  • Water Use: Very Low
  • Mature Size: 1-2 ft. tall x 2-3 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun, Part Shade
  • Bloom Time: Spring (May), Summer (June-July)
  • Native to: California, Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington (between 2,500 – 8,500 feet)
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 10°F

Mojave Desert Sage is an aromatic, native “shrublet” with striking blue-violet flowers that emerge from purplish, ball-shaped flower heads along the stems. This compact, herbaceous perennial is impervious to rabbits and deer, while enticing all types of bees, pollinators, butterflies, and hummingbirds. A compact, moderately fast-growing sub-shrub, this gem of a plant has a wonderful minty aroma, released when the silver-gray, spoon-shaped leaves are rubbed. This evergreen plant usually spreads wider than high. Mojave Desert Sage is a heavy bloomer that loves the hottest, most challenging sites in your yard. Trim off seed heads and lightly prune to shape after flowering. While more water results in more flowers, be careful not to water in summer. This mint-family treasure can be used for borders, accents, bank stabilization, and in gardens designed for butterflies, hummingbirds, bees, and birds.

Check out our  “Garden Tasks” for June


Plant of the Month – May

It’s hard to believe that this lush plant hails from our dry deserts. In days past, Basketbush Sumac was prized for its long, straight, flexible branches for basketmaking. Today it is treasured for its dense, dark green foliage for hedges, background plantings, or screens in water-wise southwest gardens. Birds also love the ripe berries produced on female plants.

Basketbush Sumac, Fragrant Sumac

Rhus aromatica


  • Plant Form: Deciduous Shrub
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 5-6 ft. tall x 6-8 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun, Part Shade
  • Bloom Time: Spring (Mar-May)
  • Native to: California, western U.S., Canada to Mexico (below 7,500 feet)
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to -15°F

Basketbush Sumac is a surprisingly lush plant to be found in dry desert habitats. It is a tidy shrub with arching stems and dense leaves, spreading by rhizomes to form a thicket. This extremely cold-tolerant plant is a non-irritating, non-poisonous relative of poison oak, which it somewhat resembles. Known as Basketbush Sumac for its traditional use in basketry, it is also called Fragrant Sumac due to the scent of its crushed leaves, and Three-leaf Sumac from its leaf shape. This moderately fast-growing California native has tiny, yellowish flowers in spring, producing clusters of red fruits on female plants, while retaining its deep green foliage all summer. Leaves often turn orange or red in autumn before falling for winter dormancy. The tart, edible red berries (actually hard drupes) are eaten by birds. Use this tough, lovely plant for borders, screens, windbreaks, hedges, mass plantings, on slopes, or in any areas with poor, dry soils.

Check out our  “Garden Tasks” for May


Plant of the Month-April

This beautiful evergreen perennial is very drought-tolerant and surprisingly rabbit-resistant. It blooms profusely with stunning purplish-blue flowers that are great in cut bouquets. You can’t have too many of these plants in your rock garden, borders, slopes, or containers.

Foothill Penstemon, Bunchleaf Penstemon

Penstemon heterophyllus


  • Plant Form: Evergreen herbaceous perennial
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 1-3 ft. tall x 1-2 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun, Part Sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring (Apr-May), Summer (June-July)
  • Native to: California (below 5,500 feet)
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 10°F

Foothill Penstemon makes you smile just to look at it. Every one of its abundant blossoms appears to be stretching up to greet you personally. From its yellow flower buds, you would never guess the flower colors unveiled upon their opening – an intriguing blend of blues, purples, and pinks from spring to early summer. Needs only occasional watering after it’s established, and is remarkably rabbit-resistant. This small, shrub-like perennial forms a tufted mound of stems with linear leaves that turn from green to maroon in late summer and fall. One of the most reliable of several selections available is “Margarita BOP”, prized for its disease resistance, garden tolerance, and long, profuse bloom season. Foothill Penstemon is perfect for rock gardens, the sunny foreground of mixed borders, dry slopes, and containers. Besides its stunning garden display, its cut flowers hold up nicely in arrangements.

Check out our  “Garden Tasks” for April

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