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


Plant of the Month

Lynn’s Legacy Sage

Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Lynn’s Legacy’

  • Plant Form: Evergreen shrub
  • Water Use: Very low
  • Mature Size: 4-5 ft. tall and wide
  • Exposure: Full sun
  • Bloom Time: Summer (June – August), Fall (September – November)
  • Native to: Mexico
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 10°F

Lynn’s Legacy Sage was selected by legendary “plantsman” Lynn Lowery for its long season of profuse flowers, more than any other selection of Texas Ranger. Native to Mexico, this slow-to-moderately growing, dense, evergreen shrub explodes in lavender flowers from summer through fall. Extremely drought-tolerant, heat-loving and water-wise, this compact sage needs only occasional, deep watering once established, or none at all. Hummingbirds are attracted to its flowers. Needs well-draining sandy, rocky, or gravelly soil.  Be careful not to overwater, and avoid heavy trimming or sheering of branches. Use  this easy-care shrub in borders, hedges, mass plantings, next to patios, on slopes and banks, or in corners for spot color.


Check out our “Garden Tasks” for October

Blanket Flower
Gaillardia x grandiflora

  • Plant Form: Perennial, ground cover
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 1-2 ft. tall and wide
  • Exposure: Full sun, part sun
  • Bloom Time: Summer (June – August), Fall (September – November)
  • Native to: Canada, Central U.S.
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to -30°F

Blanket Flower is a low, mounding, perennial prized for its long bloom season, brilliant flowers, and compact form. Native across much of the United States, its daisy-like flowers vary from yellow to gold, red, orange, or bronze depending on the variety, but variations abound from single-color to multi-color petals. Songbirds feed on the flower seeds, helping spread them to new garden sites, but plants can also spread by underground rhizomes. Butterflies and pollinators are attracted to its nectar. Flower production is best if plants are periodically deadheaded, but this reduces reseeding. Cut flowers are beautiful in indoor arrangements. Even after the petals drop off, the cone-like centers are nice in crafting fresh herb wreaths, and are used dried for other crafts. Recovers quickly in spring after winter frost. Besides being patio friendly, heat-loving, drought-tolerant, water-wise, and fire wise, Blanket Flower resists browsing by rabbits and deer, and tolerates most soils. Invite this cheery plant into your borders, beds, raised planters, containers, mass plantings, cutting gardens, wildlife gardens, and butterfly gardens.


Check out our “Garden Tasks” for September