Woolly Butterfly Bush

Buddleja marrubiifolia

Woolly Butterfly Bush offers double interest in your yard: curious ball-shaped orange flower clusters most of the year that attract butterflies, and striking, silver-green woolly foliage.

  • Plant Form: Semi-evergreen shrub
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 5 ft. tall & wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun, Part Shade
  • Bloom Time: Year-round; Heaviest in Spring & Summer (May – Oct)
  • Native to: SW Texas to New Mexico
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 10°F

 

 

Woolly Butterfly Bush may look odd enough to have some wondering if it had been designed by Dr. Seuss, but its velvety, silver-green foliage is prized by gardeners everywhere. Flowers are ½-inch, ball-shaped clusters of tiny red-orange flowers that attract butterflies and other pollinators. The marble-sized flowers may appear year-round, but are heaviest in spring and summer. Its densely woolly leaves set off the eye-catching flowers, and contrast well with any deep green plants paired with it. The only care it needs may be a light pruning in winter or early spring to maintain shape and promote blooming. Tolerates heat and drought, but over-watering may cause root rot. Unamended soil and good drainage are essential. Makes an excellent accent plant, and a great addition to butterfly gardens.

 

Whirling Butterflies, Gaura

Gaura lindheimeri ‘Whirling butterflies’

You will imagine butterflies fluttering over this plant when breezes blow through its delicate white to pink flowers on flexible stems.

  • Plant Form: Perennial Herb
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 2-3 ft. tall & wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun, Part Shade
  • Bloom Time: Late Spring – Fall (May – Oct)
  • Native to: Central & Western US, Mexico
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 10°F

 

Whirling Butterflies is a Gaura cultivar whose slender, arching stems rise from a basal mound of deep green foliage. Graceful, wand-like flower spikes grow above the foliage and move constantly in the breeze. Pink to red flower buds open to delicate white flowers that fade to pink, appearing to dance in the wind like butterflies. This semi-evergreen perennial has a lovely, airy habit. If its bloom power starts fading in spring or summer, sheer overall for a new flush of flowers. Resists browsing by rabbits and deer, and tolerates heat, drought, and poor soils, but good drainage is essential. This long-lived, low-maintenance perennial likes full sun, but appreciates afternoon shade in low desert areas. A hard prune in early spring before new growth begins keeps it tidy and bushy. Works well in containers, borders, raised beds, wildflower gardens, along the top of a wall, or massed in the garden—and in bouquets!

 

Hummingbird Mint

Agastache ‘Vivid’

Orange and pink-flowered Agastaches attract hummingbirds, while blue-flowered ones are favorites of butterflies and bees. Gardeners love them all.

  • Plant Form: Perennial Herb
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 3 ft. tall x 2 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun
  • Bloom Time: Summer – Fall (July – Oct)
  • Native to: Hybrid of parents from Southwest US and northern Mexico
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 0-10°F

 

 

Hummingbird Mint could just as well be called “Hummingbird Magnet”, as its spikes of vivid rose-purple flowers are irresistible to these flying nectar-sippers. This group of fragrant, perennial herbs includes various species found mostly across North America and northern Mexico, and horticulturists have been busy crossing them to achieve an astounding variety of hybrids. Flower colors range from blues and purples to pink, rose, and orange. The orange and pink-flowered Agastaches are favorites of hummingbirds, while the blue-flowered ones attract butterflies and bees. All need well-drained, nutrient-poor soil, and like deep, infrequent watering after their second growing season. Remove spent flower spikes to encourage more blooming. Leave stems intact over winter to improve cold-hardiness; trim old stems off just above new foliage in mid-spring, 4-5 inches above ground level. Agastaches work well in borders and beds, butterfly gardens, rock gardens, in pots, or massed in the garden.

 

Jul
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Plant of the Month – July

Moonshine Yarrow

Achillea taygetea ‘Moonshine’

Moonshine Yarrow attracts butterflies but doesn't interest rabbits. The bright flowers of this drought-tolerant perennial make great, long-lasting dried bouquets.

Moonshine Yarrow attracts butterflies but doesn’t interest rabbits. The bright flowers of this drought-tolerant perennial make great, long-lasting dried bouquets.

  • Plant Form: Semi-evergreen Perennial
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 1-2 ft. tall & wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring – Early Fall (May – Oct)
  • Native to: European parents
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to <0°F

 

Moonshine Yarrow combines some of the best hybrid characteristics of the genus, offering felty, blue-gray, fern-like, aromatic foliage with bright yellow flower heads. The flat-topped flower clusters attract butterflies, and make great bouquets of either fresh-cut or dried flowers. Bitter compounds in the foliage have been used historically for medicine, to reduce wound bleeding, and for flavoring alcoholic beverages, but they also prevent browsing by rabbits and deer. This award-winning garden plant is extremely drought-tolerant when established, and prefers well-drained, sunny sites. If plants get crowded, dig up and divide the plant in spring or fall. Deadhead flowers for prolonged flowering, and cut back to basal foliage in fall to keep the plant tidy. This easy-to-grow perennial works well in borders and beds, butterfly gardens, rock gardens, or massed in the garden.

Jun
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Plant of the Month – June

Rose Sage

Salvia pachyphylla

Gardeners love everything about this beautiful, aromatic sage endemic to southern California, from its show-stopping flowers to its aromatic foliage; hummingbirds and butterflies can't resist it either.

Gardeners love everything about this beautiful, aromatic sage native to southern California, from its show-stopping flowers to its aromatic foliage; hummingbirds and butterflies can’t resist it either.

  • Plant Form: Evergreen Shrub
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 2-3 ft. tall x 3-4 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun, Part Shade
  • Bloom Time: Late Spring – Summer (June – September)
  • Native to: Southern California (5,000 – 10,000 feet elevation)
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 0°F

Rose Sage may be one of the most beautiful and fragrant sages in California. Bluish-purple flowers emerge from giant rose-purple bracts (flower-like leaves) on stems rising up to a foot above the foliage from spring through summer. Aromatic, silvery-green, rubbery foliage lends beauty all year. This native of dry foothills and mountains of southern California attracts butterflies and hummingbirds to its showy flowers. Good drainage is essential for this shrub, which prefers full sun and tolerates some summer water. Prune lightly after flowering. While quickly gaining in popularity, it is still hard to find Rose Sage in nurseries unless they carry native plants. Because it is known by several names used for other sages, including Mojave Sage, Mountain Desert Sage, and Blue Sage, make sure you verify the botanical name before buying. Useful in beds and borders, and for erosion control on slopes.

May
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Plant of the Month – May

Blue Fescue

Festuca glauca

Blue Fescue's mounded, bluish clumps work great in containers, rock gardens, massed in borders, or paired with succulents.

Blue Fescue’s mounded, bluish clumps work great in containers, rock gardens, massed in borders, or paired with succulents.


  • Plant Form: Ornamental grass
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 6 – 12″ tall & wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun, Part Shade
  • Bloom Time: Summer (June – July)
  • Native to: Europe
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to < 0°F

 

Blue Fescue forms a mounded clump of needle-like, bluish foliage year-round in warm climates. Insignificant pale green flowers rise above the foliage in summer, which some people enjoy, but others remove to retain its “tufted” look. Unlike some of its turfgrass cousins, it tolerates drought, heat, sun, and poor soils. One cultivar that performs especially well in our desert is “Elijah Blue”, which forms a neat, 8-inch mound of silvery-blue foliage. While classified as short-lived, you can rejuvenate Blue Fescue every few years by dividing it in spring. It works great in containers, rock gardens, massed in a foreground border or in the front rows of flower beds, paired with succulents, or tucked into a stacked stone wall. Blue Fescue’s bluish-gray color beautifully complements plants with silvery foliage, and its fine texture contrasts nicely with plants with course textures.