Plant of the Month

Apache Plume
Fallugia paradoxa

  • Plant Form:Semi-evergreen shrub
  • Water Use: Very low
  • Mature Size: 4-6 ft. tall x 5 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring (Apr – June)
  • Native to: So. Calif, SW U.S.
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to -10°F

Apache Plume provides months of interest in your garden with its long-lasting, feather-like seed heads. This extremely drought-tolerant California native plant needs only occasional watering after established, and quickly expands to about 5 feet wide.

Apache Plume is one of our showiest native desert shrubs. Rose-like, white flowers in spring produce eye-catching, silky pink seed plumes that cling to the stems into winter, adding months of interest. These feather-like seed heads are said to resemble an Apache headdress.  This fast-growing, semi-deciduous shrub with small dark green leaves is extremely tolerant of heat and drought, and is an important erosion control plant. Apache Plume likes full sun but accepts part shade, and needs only occasional if any irrigation after it becomes established. Cut the oldest woody stems to the ground to revitalize the plant. Beautiful on banks, in rock gardens and raised planters, as a background or accent plant, or in open spaces. Give this plant ample room—it doesn’t stay small for long.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for January

Firecracker Plant
Coral Fountain
Russelia equisetiformis

  • Plant Form:Perennial shrub
  • Water Use: Low, moderate
  • Mature Size: 3-4 ft. tall x 4-6 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full sun, part sun, filtered sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring (Mar – May), Summer (June – Aug), Fall (Sept – Oct)
  • Native to: Mexico
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 25-30°F

The brilliant red flowers cascading along abundant arching stems of Firecracker Plant make this perennial shrub a true show stopper. It will impress you as it spills over containers, window boxes, raised beds, walls, a trellis, or across the ground as a ground cover.

Firecracker Plant turns heads with its showy, 1-inch-long red flowers on arching stems throughout all warmer months of the year.  Hummingbirds and butterflies can’t resist it. Also known as Coral Fountain, its fine-textured, nearly leafless stems appear to flow like a fountain carrying flowers from a central point to the tips of its weeping branches. This long-lived, dramatic plant has excellent heat and sun tolerance, as well as moderate drought-resistance once well-established. Dead-heading spent flower stems helps with continuous blooming. Although they thrive in full sun, they do best with morning sun and afternoon shade in our hottest months, and prefer protection from drying winds. A fast-growing, easy-care shrub, Firecracker Plant has only one drawback: it can freeze in our Zone 8b Cold Hardiness Zone if not protected during hard frosts. Place this frost-sensitive plant in warm, sheltered areas, or containers that can be moved. Looks great spilling from containers, window boxes, raised beds, over walls, on a trellis, or as an informal groundcover.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for December

Spanish Dagger
Yucca gloriosa ‘Variegata’

  • Plant Form: Succulent shrub
  • Water Use: Low, moderate
  • Mature Size: 2-4 (-8) ft. tall x 2-4 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full sun, part sun
  • Bloom Time: Summer (July – Aug), Fall (Sept – Oct)
  • Native to: Southeast U.S.
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 15°F

This award-winning evergreen shrub brightens up gardens year-round, but is especially attractive when it produces its dramatic flower stalk with hundreds of creamy white, bell-shaped, nodding flowers. Spanish Dagger performs great in beds and borders, rock gardens, city gardens, coastal gardens, cottage gardens, or Mediterranean gardens.

Spanish Dagger is a beautifully symmetrical shrub native to coastal plains, dunes, and sandy woods from North Carolina to Florida. Sword-shaped, spine-tipped leaves radiate from its center. The variegated form has blue-green leaves with creamy-yellow edges. Bell-shaped,  creamy-white flowers bloom along a tall central spike from summer into fall, attracting butterflies and pollinators. In age, the basal rosette can form a trunk and grow to 8 feet tall. This ornamental succulent is easily grown in well-drained soils, in full sun or light shade in the hottest inland deserts. Tolerates poor, sandy soils, and resists rabbits and deer. While drought-tolerant, it does need regular water to look its best. This easy-care, exotic accent plant is beautiful in borders and beds, along foundations, on dry slopes, and in dry garden areas. Use as an individual specimen plant, or in mass groupings, on slopes to stabilize soil and prevent erosion, or as a border plant to mark property lines.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for November

Palmer’s Indian Mallow
Abutilon palmeri

  • Plant Form: Shrub, perennial herb
  • Water Use: Extremely low
  • Mature Size: 4-6 ft. tall and 3-5 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring (Mar – May), Summer (June – Aug), Year-round
  • Native to: Southern California, SW U.S., Northern Mexico
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 20°F

This Southern California native plant grows so fast and lush, it’s hard to believe it hails from America’s dry southwest deserts and requires so little water. Its velvety leaves are so soft (think horses’ noses), you’ll want to pet them! Use its interesting, silky-haired fruits in dry flower arrangements, and enjoy its orange flowers most of the year.

Palmer’s Indian Mallow has lush subtropical foliage and fast growth that belies its extreme tolerance for heat, drought, and poor soil. This mallow is a relatively rare native of the American southwest, but its qualities are so prized, it is grown by dozens of nurseries across the West. Soft, velvety, heart-shaped leaves cover this herbaceous plant, forming a silvery backdrop to its golden flowers which are most prolific in spring and summer, but can appear almost year-round. Its multi-parted, silky-haired fruits are used in dry flower arrangements. Although happiest in rocky or sandy well-draining soil with only occasional irrigation under full or reflected sun, it does appreciate light shade in the hottest inland deserts. Cage young plants against rabbit nibbling. After flowering, cut flower stems back to the first set of full leaves for a tidier shape. Protect from hard frosts, and trim back any frost-damaged tips. Place near seating areas or pathways to fully enjoy its soft, touchable texture.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for October

Autumn Daffodil
Sternbergia lutea

  • Plant Form: Perennial bulb
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 0.25 – 0.5 ft. tall and wide
  • Exposure: Full sun
  • Bloom Time: Fall (Sept – Oct)
  • Native to: Southern Europe, Asia
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 28°F

This cheery surprise arrives to brighten your garden in the fall, seeming to appear out of nowhere. Autumn Daffodil bulbs sleep underground all summer, then burst up with bunches of yellow, waxy flowers in September and October, closely followed by clusters of strap-shaped leaves all winter. This plant’s charm and easy maintenance has garnered it awards — once you plant your own, you’ll know why.

Autumn Daffodil pops up through bare ground when you least expect it, just as autumn arrives. Its crocus-like, goblet-shaped, waxy yellow flowers each appear singly on 5 to 6-inch-tall stems. Soon after, deep green, strap-shaped leaves emerge that persist through winter, feeding the bulbs so they survive through their summer dormancy. Eventually these leaves disappear in spring until the next fall bloom. This heirloom bulb is so ridiculously easy to grow, and looks so charming, it has earned the prestigious “Award of Garden Merit” from the Royal Horticultural Society for its outstanding qualities. Happily, rabbits and deer rarely bother this plant. Plant bulbs 5-6 inches deep and 4-6 inches apart in late summer. Accepts most soil types, but they must be well-drained. Prefers full sun, and hot and dry summer months, so don’t give it too much summer water. Brightens up border fronts, rock gardens, cottage gardens, Mediterranean gardens, foundations, containers (with evergreen companion plants), pathways, and sidewalks.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for September

Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass
Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’

  • Plant Form: Perennial grass
  • Water Use: Very low
  • Mature Size: 2-3 ft. tall and wide
  • Exposure: Full sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring (Mar – May), Summer (June – Aug)
  • Native to: Southern California, Canada, North America, Mexico
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to -30°F

There are so many desirable aspects of this interesting bunchgrass that Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass is bound to find at least one way into every gardener’s heart. It is long lived, deep rooted, drought tolerant, very low water-use, extremely cold tolerant, heat tolerant, deer resistant, can tolerate foot traffic and mowing, provides winter interest with distinctive seed heads, attracts songbirds, is comfy in containers, and even makes interesting dried flower arrangements. Can you resist it?

Blue Grama Grass is a long-lived bunchgrass with distinctive seed heads that look like curved combs or blonde sets of eyelashes. Its unique seed heads hover horizontally above green foliage from summer into fall, starting out chartreuse, then turning brown, and finally blonde (hinting at this selection’s name). In winter, its leaves also dry to a tan color, so this warm-season bunchgrass looks best when cut back in early spring to 2-3 inches above the ground to remove last winter’s dry leaves and flower spikes. Don’t prune too soon, though–the dried, tan seed heads are interesting all winter, and wintering songbirds love the seeds. This drought-tolerant, extremely cold-hardy grass fits into any garden style, including rock gardens, Mediterranean gardens, meadow gardens and naturalized areas. Lovely as a specimen plant, or along sunny paths, in borders and beds, in containers, or massed as a groundcover. Tolerates foot traffic and mowing, so it makes a great choice for drought-tolerant lawns. Its interesting flowers work wonders in dried arrangements.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for August