Rush Milkweed, Ajamete
Asclepius subulata


  • Plant Form: Perennial sub-shrub
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 3-5 ft. tall and wide
  • Exposure: Full sun, reflected sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring (April-May), Summer (June-Aug), Fall (Sept-Nov), Winter (Dec)
  • Native to: California, Arizona, Nevada, Baja California, northwest Mexico
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 20°F

This southwest native plant not only adds sculptural interest in the garden with its rush-like, erect green stems, it also provides food for Monarch butterflies and other pollinators.


Rush Milkweed is an erect, perennial herb named for its dozens to hundreds of rush-like, leafless, green stems. Small, narrow leaves appear after rain and on new growth, but fall off quickly. Rush Milkweed blooms periodically throughout year, and is an important food source for Monarch Butterflies, so conservation-minded groups encourage its planting. Fascinating pollen packages are specialized to clip onto legs of insect visitors, and unclip when inserted into another flower.  Pairs of distinctive, horn-shaped, 3-inch-long seed pods follow the flowers, filled with many flat seeds that are covered with long, silky plumes. This milkweed oozes a rubber-containing latex when cut or wounded, which can irritate skin. While moderately easy to grow, this desert native is susceptible to aphids and death by root rot if overwatered. Its strong vertical lines make it eye-catching in desert landscapes, in borders, flowerbeds, and butterfly and rock gardens.


Check out our “Garden Tasks” for January

Cape Honeysuckle
Tecomaria capensis

  • Plant Form: Semi-evergreen vine, shrub
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 5-6 (to 15) ft. tall x 3-4 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full sun, part shade
  • Bloom Time: Fall (Sept-Nov), Winter (Dec)
  • Native to: South Africa
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 23°F

Just when you wished you had some color in your fall-winter garden, Cape Honeysuckle explodes into flower with bright red-orange, trumpet-shaped blossoms. This shrub is happy to be trained into either a vine, espalier, hedge, screen, border plant, shrub, or ground cover — your choice!


Cape Honeysuckle explodes into bloom late in the season with a welcomed burst of color. Clusters of red-orange trumpet-shaped flowers attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds, just in time for migration. This beautiful shrub has glossy leaves divided into leaflets, and sprawling, vine-like stems that can be trained against a wall or trellis as an espalier, or sheared into a hedge, screen, or accent shrub. Even with its rambling spirit, it is easy to care for, tolerating heat, drought, and poor soils, all while resisting browsing by deer and rabbits. Blooms best in full sun. In colder areas, it may drop its leaves, while in warmer zones, it is evergreen and may bloom nearly all year. Prune back unruly branches, and cut off old or damaged branches at their base to maintain shape. This versatile plant will let you decide whether it will be a climbing vine, hedge, border plant, screen, shrub, or ground cover. It will even be happy in a container on your porch or patio.


Check out our “Garden Tasks” for December

Great Basin Sage
Big Sagebrush
Artemisia tridentata

  • Plant Form: Evergreen shrub
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 3-6 ft. tall x 3-10 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full sun
  • Bloom Time: Summer (July-Aug), Fall (Sept)
  • Native to: Western North America, Canada, Baja California
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to -20°F

This high-desert native offers a silvery contrast to dark green landscaping as well as providing aromatic foliage. While Great Basin Sage is an extremely low-water-use shrub, normally growing 3-6 feet tall, along rivers or other wet places it can reach 10 feet tall.

Great Basin Sage is a study in silver and gray. This shrub forms the primary vegetation across vast stretches of the Great Basin desert. A member of the sunflower family, it develops a woody trunk that twists in age and becomes picturesque, reminiscent of a bonsai specimen. Spikes of tiny, pale yellow flowers are inconspicuous. Silvery, felt-like hairs cover the wedge-shaped leaves that have 3 to 5 teeth at their tip. The foliage is extremely aromatic, and is used to make smudge bundles for cleansing and purifying. In fact, this sagebrush’s pungent fragrance, especially after a desert rainstorm, is one of the high desert’s signature aromas. Prune out old stems periodically to encourage attractive new growth. Its silver foliage adds texture and light to the landscape, and sets off nearby dark green plants. This plant is valuable to wildlife and butterflies, and is useful on banks and slopes, or as an informal hedge, groundcover, or screen.


Check out our “Garden Tasks” for November

Lion’s Tail
Leonotis leonurus

  • Plant Form: Semi-evergreen shrub
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 3 – 6 ft. tall x 2-3 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full sun
  • Bloom Time: Summer (Aug), Fall (Sept-Nov)
  • Native to: South Africa
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 20°F

This is a fun plant all around, showing off its curious rounded flower buds that look like miniature orange pumpkins nestled inside green cups — right in time for Halloween. The fur-like covering and edges of Lion’s Tail flowers do look reminiscent of lions’ tails or lions’ ears. While the prolific flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies, they do not attract browsing deer or rabbits.

Lion’s Tail is prized for its dazzling, tubular flowers covered with a fur-like coat of fine hairs, said to resemble either lions’ tails or lions’ ears. Tiered whorls of orange blossoms encircle the square stems, which are covered with dark green, lance-shaped leaves. The abundant flowers are a magnet for hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees, but seem to resist browsing by deer and rabbits. Cut flowers are good in arrangements. Plants are not fussy about soil type as long as it is well drained. This easy-care plant is virtually pest-free and disease-free. Prune yearly after flowering, and mulch well over winter to protect the wood crown from cold. If this more tender plant freezes back in winter, new growth often resprouts from hardened wood. Use this striking plant in borders and beds, containers, cottage and Mediterranean gardens, and even for screening.


Check out our “Garden Tasks” for October

Yellow Bells, Esperanza
Tecoma stans ‘Gold Star’

  • Plant Form: Semi-deciduous shrub
  • Water Use: Low, moderate
  • Mature Size: 4 – 6 ft. tall and wide
  • Exposure: Full sun, part sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring – Fall (Apr-Nov)
  • Native to: Florida, Texas, W. Indies, Mexico, Central & South America
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 15-20°F

This eye-catching shrub is a true show-stopper…not only for human admirers, but also for hummingbirds and butterflies. Its golden yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers appear in flushes from late spring to fall. Pinching off old flowers and seedpods encourages repeat blooming.

Yellow Bells, or Esperanza, impresses everyone with its large clusters of golden yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers, bending the branch tips into arches with their weight. The profuse, 1 to 2-inch-long blossoms attract hummingbirds and butterflies with their fragrance and nectar. This heat-tolerant, drought-tolerant shrub is related to our Desert Willow, while its lush deep green leaves resemble those of elderberry. Blooming occurs in flushes from late spring into fall, producing 8-inch-long string bean-like pods. Prune or pinch off old flowers and seedpods for repeat blooming and to maintain a bushy plant. Several cultivars are available with various flower colors and plant sizes from 3 to 25 feet tall. While all Yellow Bells love heat, most have frost-sensitive leaves, but their roots survive much colder temperatures. Cut back annually when new growth starts in spring to remove frost damaged foliage; plants will recover quickly. Beautiful as an accent, container plant around patios, or planted in masses in beds and borders.


Check out our “Garden Tasks” for September

Thorncrest Agave
Agave univittata (A. heteracantha, A. lophantha)

  • Plant Form: Succulent
  • Water Use: Very low, low
  • Mature Size: 1.5 ft. tall x 2 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full sun, part sun
  • Bloom Time: Summer (Aug), Fall (Sept-Oct)
  • Native to: Southern Texas, Mexico
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 0-10°F

When you find a plant that can take intense heat, extreme cold, full sun, very little water, and no maintenance, you have a winner. Thorncrest Agave is one of those plants. It looks great almost anywhere it is tucked into the landscape, either as an accent or focal point, in rock or cactus gardens or even in containers.

Thorncrest Agave is an attractive, small, rosette-forming succulent. Its dark green leaves have a pale green mid-stripe, and their edges are lined with sharp teeth. Several cultivars are available with various shades of color-stripe patterns of white and light or dark green. Green to yellow flowers are born on the 12-foot stalk of mature plants. Known also as Thorncrest Century Plant, this slow-growing plant takes many years to bloom, but like most agaves, each plant only flowers once, and dies soon afterwards. Numerous “pups” are produced around the base, and each of those continues to grow. Propagation is easy from these offsets. Plant in full sun to moderate shade in well-drained soil, and irrigate only occasionally. This handsome species is great as an accent, focal point, container plant, or barrier plant in sunny or partially shaded sites in rock gardens, cactus gardens, and native plant gardens.


Check out our “Garden Tasks” for August