Plant of the Month – May

Blue Emu Bush, Blue Bells
Eremophila hygrophana ‘BlueBells’

  • Plant Form: Evergreen shrub
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 1-2 ft. tall x 3-6 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring (Mar-May), Late Summer (Aug), Fall (Sept-Nov), Winter (Dec-Feb)
  • Native to: Australia
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 25°F

Blue Emu Bush has been described as the perfect shrub: one that blooms throughout the year, thrives in hot temperatures but handles frost, needs no pruning, and even tolerates drought. Its only potential weakness is overwatering; let it dry out between watering, giving it deep, infrequent watering once a week in summer, twice a month in spring and fall, and once a month in winter. Avoid planting in shade. Hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies love the nearly continual blue-violet flowers (year-round where no frost occurs), and the fuzzy foliage reflects heat to retain moisture. This plant is often mistaken for other silver-leaved “sages” like Texas Rangers that hail from the southwest U.S., but Emu Bushes are from Australia and are not related. Blue Emu Bush provides vivid color and silvery foliage to contrast with dark green plants along walkways and patios, in rock gardens, cactus gardens, in containers, and most anywhere you want lasting color.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for May 

Orange Form Ice Plant
Lampranthus aureus ‘Orange Form’

  • Plant Form: Succulent ground cover
  • Water Use: Low, medium
  • Mature Size: 1-2 ft. tall x 3-6 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring (Mar-May), Winter (Dec-Jan)
  • Native to: South America
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 25°F

Orange Form Ice Plant will knock your socks off when it is smothered with neon orange flowers in early spring. The 1 ½-inch shiny flowers open at 9 am and close at 5 pm…their work done for the day. This easy-to-grow succulent forms a rounded, compact shrub 2 feet tall and wide, with dark green, fleshy, cylindrical leaves that can root when branches touch the soil. It tolerates poor soils, heat, and infrequent irrigation, but can’t abide excessive moisture or a hard frost. Gardeners in cold winter climates treat ice plants as annuals. It is resistant to rabbits and deer, but attracts butterflies, birds, and pollinators. You can grow this ice plant by division, cuttings, or seeds. Orange Form Ice Plant can be used to bring brilliant color to rock gardens, cactus gardens, steep slopes or embankments, raised planters, stone walls, hanging baskets, and containers.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for April 

Lantana camara

  • Plant Form: Shrub
  • Water Use: Low, moderate
  • Mature Size: 2-6 ft. tall x 4-6 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring (Mar-May), Summer (June-August), Fall (Sept-Nov)
  • Native to: Central and South America
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 10°F

These heat-tolerant shrubs attract hummingbirds and butterflies to their clusters of bright flowers from spring through fall. Many forms of this species or hybrids are available with endless color combinations from white and yellow to orange, red, and purple.

Lantanas are prized not only for their performance during long hot summers, but also for their extremely long bloom season. Tiny 5-lobed flowers in dense hemispherical clusters from spring to fall attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and pollinators. Most Lantanas are either forms of this species, or hybrids between this species and L. montevidensis, with a kaleidoscope of flower colors and combinations. Varieties range from low groundcovers to upright shrubs that are evergreen in mild winter regions, with flower colors including white, yellow, orange, red, and purple, often mixed in the same cluster. Prune hard in spring to remove dead wood and renew vigor. All tolerate extreme heat, including reflected heat from walls, driveways, and streets. Lantana leaves and unripe berries are toxic to cats and dogs, and can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Most dogs familiar with the plants avoid them due to their pungent smell, but a new pup might experiment with eating it. If children eat the leaves or berries, they may experience stomach upset. While the green berries are poisonous, ripe berries are readily eaten by many birds and wildlife. Great for covering sunny banks and slopes. Perfect in flower and shrub beds, raised planters, and parkways, and to soften fences and foundations. Lovely in rock gardens and borders, and in pots for vibrant color on decks and patios.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for February

California Pepper Tree
Schinus molle

  • Plant Form: Evergreen tree
  • Water Use: Very low
  • Mature Size: 25-40 ft. tall and wide
  • Exposure: Full sun
  • Bloom Time: Summer (June-August)
  • Native to: Peru, South America
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 15°F

Early missionaries knew the value of this low-water use, evergreen shade tree from South America, and planted it so often at California missions that it has become known as California Pepper Tree despite its origin.

California Pepper Tree is an evergreen tree with a weeping form that creates expansive shade when given room to spread. This fast-growing tree needs only occasional watering when established, and develops a fantastically gnarled trunk with interesting peeling bark. Its bright green leaves are divided into many narrow leaflets. Pendulous creamy white flowers in summer develop into small red berries on female trees from fall into winter. California Pepper Tree was named due to its wide use in California since early missionaries planted it at their missions, but this plant is actually native to the Peruvian Andes. This tree produces heavy litter from foliage and falling fruit, deterring understory growth, and its invasive roots can crack and heave nearby pavement, foundations, and pipes. Properly used, this tree is outstanding. Avoid planting between sidewalks and curbs, near house foundations, patio cement, sewers or septic tanks, or in lawns. Plant along roads or driveways without curbs, in play areas, lounging areas, or to frame a large gateway. Can also be used as a hedge when planted 2 feet apart and sheared into a billowy hedge.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for January

Chinese Pistache
Pistacia chinensis

  • Plant Form: Deciduous tree
  • Water Use: Low, Moderate
  • Mature Size: 25-40 (to 60) ft. tall x 25-35 (to 50) ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full sun, part shade
  • Bloom Time: Spring (Mar-May)
  • Native to: China, Phillipines, Taiwan
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 10°F

Chinese Pistache gives the double treat of extreme drought tolerance with striking fall color. Although this tree goes dormant in winter, dropping its leaves in late fall, this versatile tree will shade any space it is planted, from streets and driveways to lawns and patios.

Chinese Pistache delivers what few other trees do: vibrant fall colors in warmer climates. Besides transforming its foliage to crimson in autumn, it adds to its year-round interest with attractive bark and bright red fruit that turns dark blue on female trees. This desirable, deciduous, ornamental tree is so drought resistant, it needs only occasional watering once established. Young trees may look gawky, but grow moderately fast to develop an attractive, umbrella-like crown with age. Stake young trees and prune the first few years to lift the crown above head level if you plan on recreating under its shade. Some litter is created from fall leaf drop and fruit twigs. Landscape uses for this dependable tree are numerous, including use as a shade tree, street tree, specimen tree, patio tree, accent, corner planting, or even in lawns. Pistache is ideal to flank driveways, or used as a pair to meet overhead on a drive or street.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for December

Shiny Xylosma
Xylosma congestum

  • Plant Form: Evergreen shrub, tree
  • Water Use: Low, Moderate
  • Mature Size: 8-15 ft. tall x 10-12 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full sun, part shade
  • Bloom Time: Fall (September – November)
  • Native to: China, Japan
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 10°F

Shiny Xylosma is a loose, spreading, graceful, evergreen shrub or small tree with arching branches that is used as a versatile hedge or privacy screen. Its shiny, clean, yellowish green leaves are its most attractive feature; new growth emerges an attractive bronze-red. The small, yellowish flowers are insignificant except to pollinators, who take advantage of its very short bloom season. Xylosma can be trained into a small tree, but accepts shearing to keep it to a smaller size. In age, its angular main stem assumes an artistic zigzag shape, with side branches arching gracefully, sometimes to the ground. Xylosma thrives in desert heat, and is evergreen to 25°F, but root hardy to 10-15°F. This easy-care plant is pool friendly, child friendly, water-wise, and perfect for patios and outdoor living spaces. Often used to break up long fence lines or soften tall walls, in containers, as espaliers, windbreaks, large hedges, foundation plantings, screens, and as background for beds and borders.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for November