Deer Grass
Muhlenbergia rigens

  • Plant Form: Ornamental Grass
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 2-6 ft. tall and wide
  • Exposure: Full sun, part sun
  • Bloom Time: Fall (September – November)
  • Native to: California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, northern Mexico
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to -10°F

This fast-growing, low-maintenance, California native bunchgrass fits beautifully into so many landscapes, from walkways, road edges and medians to rock gardens and wall toppers, where it gracefully droops over ledges.

Deer Grass is an adaptable, large bunch grass with blue-green foliage that softens desert landscapes wherever it is planted. Fast-growing, it typically reaches mature size in one or two years, with leaves reaching lengths of three feet, and flowering stalks reaching up to five feet. It is one of the most beautiful and easiest to grow of all the native California bunchgrasses. Once mature, it needs no supplemental water, but providing summer water will keep its foliage lush. Cut back in late winter for vigorous spring growth, or leave natural for wildlife cover. Deer Grass gets its common name not from deer preferring its foliage as a browse plant, but because deer like to lay on mounds of the grass. Native Americans prized this plant for the long stems of its inflorescence, which they used in their basketry. Deer Grass is versatile as an accent, grouped as a groundcover, in rock gardens, along walkways and roads, or to droop over walls.


Check out our “Garden Tasks” for September

Desert Senna
Senna armata

  • Plant Form: Shrub
  • Water Use: Very low
  • Mature Size: 2-3 ft. tall x 2-4 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring (April-May), Summer (June – July)
  • Native to: California, Arizona, Nevada, Baja California
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 15°F

Desert Senna grows shyly as a tight mass of green stems in your garden until spring and early summer, when it bursts out with masses of yellow flowers that will knock your socks off, attracting pollinators from all around the landscape.

Desert Senna is one of those surprising plants that almost disappears into the landscape until it bursts into bloom with an explosion of flowers that can cover almost every inch of the plant. Most of the year, Desert Senna is a tight collection of erect green and gray stems that add vertical texture to the landscape but fool many people into thinking it is dead. Its small leaflets in two to four pairs drop off soon after emerging, leaving its spine-tipped branches naked most of the year. Occasional water will tease out leaves again, but make sure not to overwater, and plant only in soil with excellent drainage. The bright yellow, fragrant blossoms from late spring to early summer attract butterflies, moths, other pollinators, and photographers.  Desert Senna adds spring color in a native or xeric garden, dry washes, butterfly and wildlife gardens, and rock gardens.


Check out our “Garden Tasks” for August


Plant of the Month – July

Pencil Cholla
Cylindropuntia ramosissima

  • Plant Form: Cactus, succulent
  • Water Use: Extremely low, very low
  • Mature Size: 5-6 ft. tall and wide
  • Exposure: Full sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring (March-May)
  • Native to: California, Baja California, northwestern Mexico
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 10°F

Pencil Cholla provides a nearly maintenance-free, sculptural addition to your southwest garden while satisfying your native pollinators with its springtime flowers.

Pencil Cholla can be either erect and treelike, or trailing on the ground with rising branch tips. It also expresses its individuality in the number of spines it produces, with some plants having no spines, others sporting sparse spines, while still others are completely covered in long, thin spines. No matter their appearance, all Pencil Chollas have these things in common: they need very little or no added water or maintenance, they resist deer and rabbits, and the surface of their branches appears divided into flat, squarish or diamond-shaped tubercles – hence its other common name, Diamond Cholla. Its pink, orange, or brownish flowers attract butterflies and other beneficial pollinators. This fairly tidy cactus drops far fewer joints or dried fruit segments than other chollas, but it is still best when planted away from foot traffic. Use this cactus to add sculptural interest to rock gardens, bird and butterfly gardens, succulent gardens, and any southwest design landscape.


Check out our “Garden Tasks” for July


Plant of the Month – June

Golden Yarrow
Eriophyllum confertiflorum

  • Plant Form: Perennial sub-shrub
  • Water Use: Very low
  • Mature Size: 1-2 ft. tall and wide
  • Exposure: Full sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring (March-May), Summer (June-August)
  • Native to: California, Baja California
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 5°F

Welcome this easy-to-grow California native plant into your flower beds, borders, or rock gardens for months of bright color. Golden Yarrow attracts butterflies and other pollinators, but resists browsing by rabbits and deer, and thrives happily in arid soils.


Golden Yarrow is especially welcome in the garden because of its long blooming season. This compact perennial or small shrub is a highly variable plant, with northern California forms looking much different than central or southern California plants. The slender, numerous stems support woolly, deeply-lobed leaves, and are topped with slightly rounded flower clusters each holding up to 30 flower heads. The golden-yellow flowers provide months of bright color, attracting bees and butterflies. Golden Yarrow is easy to grow, has no serious pests or disease issues, tolerates clay soil, and happily resists browsing by rabbits and deer. It needs very little water once established, and benefits from being cut back to 3-4 inches after flowering to maintain a compact form. This drought-tolerant beauty brightens up flower beds and borders, rock gardens, Mediterranean gardens, and butterfly gardens, especially when planted in groups or massed.


Check out our “Garden Tasks” for June


Plant of the Month – May

Mojave Aster
Xylorhiza tortifolia 

  • Plant Form: Perennial sub-shrub
  • Water Use: Very low
  • Mature Size: 1-2 ft. tall and wide
  • Exposure: Full sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring (March-May), Fall (October)
  • Native to: California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 10°F

Whenever anyone comes across this beauty in a hot, dry, rocky landscape, it almost takes your breath away. Invite it into your garden, and make everyone happy…including the butterflies and other pollinators.


Mojave Aster adds unexpected color to the normally harsh habitat where it grows naturally. In your garden, the long-stalked flower heads on this perennial sub-shrub hold two-inch-wide, yellow-centered, lavender-petalled flowers that are beautifully iridescent. After plants are established with regular water, they like a summer drought, but expect them to drop some leaves (they won’t like summer water after established). Mojave Aster needs very good drainage of sandy, rocky, gravelly, dry soils. Either late summer rainfall or pruning can stimulate a second flowering in fall. Butterflies and other pollinators can’t resist the flowers, but luckily this California native resists browsing by rabbits. Mojave Aster is lovely in borders, wildflower gardens, rock gardens, bee and butterfly gardens, dry washes, and as a companion plant to cacti and other xeric plants.


Check out our “Garden Tasks” for May


Plant of the Month

Blue Palo Verde
Parkinsonia florida 

  • Plant Form: Tree
  • Water Use: Very low
  • Mature Size: 20-30 ft. tall and wide
  • Exposure: Full sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring (March-May)
  • Native to: California, Arizona, Mexico
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 12°F

The beautiful green trunk of Blue Palo Verde is not only a striking sculptural addition to your landscape, but its green bark allows this drought-tolerant tree to keep manufacturing sugars for growth even if its leaves have dropped from lack of water in summer.


Blue Palo Verde is prized as much for its unique green branches and trunk as it is for the masses of lemon-yellow flowers that cover this fast-growing tree in spring. Its green limbs allow this graceful but thorny tree to continue to carry on some photosynthesis when its small leaves drop due to drought or cold. A popular hybrid of this species known as ‘Desert Museum’ has no spines. Palo Verde is so drought tolerant, it needs very little or no irrigation after becoming established. Prune to showcase its beautiful branching, but avoid pruning heavily at any one time to maintain its growth structure. Desert birds including hummingbirds and verdin love to nest and raise their young in Palo Verde trees. This extremely popular tree provides filtered shade all year, and can be used as a sculptural focal point or shade tree in many garden styles.


Check out our “Garden Tasks” for April