Blue Chalk Sticks
Senecio mandraliscae

  • Plant Form: Succulent groundcover
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 1-1.5 ft. tall x 2-3 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full sun, part sun
  • Bloom Time: Summer (June – August)
  • Native to: South Africa
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 15°F

Invite this succulent ground cover into your yard for year-round interest from its chalky blue color and sculptural leaves. Blue Chalk Sticks is especially attractive when nestled next to red-tinged foliage, orange flowers, or dark purple flowers or leaves.

Blue Chalk Sticks meets two prized landscape design features: color and texture. Creating a dense, sprawling mat of bluish foliage, its four-inch-long, fleshy curved spikes that angle upward look like they could be from the ocean floor. Prized for its chalky blue color, not its insignificant flowers, this succulent is striking alongside greens and dark purples, and really pops next to orange flowers and red-tinged foliage. Thriving in well-drained soils, this groundcover looks great in gravel beds, rock gardens, and containers. Tolerant of dry soils and any amount of heat, this beauty is also easy to re-root from stem cuttings. You can invite it indoors in a pot if you have hard frosts; all it asks for is bright sunlight, great drainage, and infrequent water to prevent root rot.  Perfect in borders, containers, rock gardens, as groundcovers, and in mass plantings.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for February

Olive Tree
Olea europaea

  • Plant Form: Evergreen tree
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 20-30 ft. tall x 15-25 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full sun, part sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring (March – May)
  • Native to: Mediterranean Region
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 15°F
There are so many reasons to love olive trees, including their ability to withstand heat, poor soils, drought, and very little water. Put this tree in a special spot as a specimen, featured in a large pot, or in mass plantings such as a privacy screen.

Olive trees have been cherished since the time of the Roman Empire for their picturesque gnarled trunks and branches. Over the millennia, people have enjoyed the tree’s edible olives (which must be cured in brine before eating), and the valuable olive oil pressed from their fruit. Gardeners today appreciate the tree’s tolerance of heat, poor soils, drought, very low water, and ease of care, as well as the soft gray foliage that complements most other colors. Some people, however, are allergic to the tree’s pollen, and some disdain the olives dropping on their patios, causing stains. Hybrid varieties are available that produce little or no pollen and no fruit (like ‘Swan Hill,’ ‘Majestic Beauty,’ and ‘Wilsonii’). Fruiting varieties can be sprayed with a fruit-control hormone during flowering, but this is a yearly program. On patios, decks, or around pools, fruitless varieties are recommended. Olive trees are magnificent as specimen trees, planted in mass, or in large containers. Dwarf varieties are available.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for January


Plant of the Month

Heavenly Bamboo, Sacred Bamboo
Nandina domestica

  • Plant Form: Evergreen shrub
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 4-8 ft. tall x 2-4 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Part Sun, full shade
  • Bloom Time: Spring (May), Summer (June – Aug)
  • Native to: China, India, Japan
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 10°F
This lacy member of the barberry family is so reminiscent of bamboo with its cane-like stems and feathery foliage that it has been named after its look-alike.

Heavenly Bamboo provides year-round interest with very little care. Sprays of tiny white flowers in late spring and summer are followed by bright red berries in autumn (plant several for more berry production). Lacy new leaves emerge pink or a pale bronze, turning bright green when mature, and changing to bronze or fiery red in winter, the degree of color depending on cold, frost, and sun. Native to China, India, and Japan, this evergreen shrub grows moderately fast to 4 – 8 feet tall and 2 – 4 feet wide, and is cold hardy to 10°F (it loses leaves at 10°F, but recovers fast). While it appreciates regular watering, it can survive with low water and tolerates drought. Although not a real bamboo, its upright, cane-like stems mimic its namesake, making it effective as a screen or border. Its tall, thin growth habit allows its use in very narrow places, tight gateways, and entries. Versatile in courtyards, entry gardens, hedges, and containers. In mass plantings, it creates a colorful landscape effect as the foliage changes color seasonally. Happiest in our hot deserts with protection from afternoon sun and hot summer winds. This graceful plant excels in creating light, airy, vertical effects, and is dramatic with night lighting. 

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for December

El Toro Muhly Grass
Muhlenbergia emersleyi ‘El Toro’

  • Plant Form: Ornamental Grass
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 1-3 ft. tall and wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun, Part Sun
  • Bloom Time: Summer (July – Aug), Fall (Sept – Nov
  • Native to: Arizona, New Mexico, Texas
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to -10°F
If you are looking for a dramatic grass, El Toro Muhly Grass fulfills that role with lots of other benefits, including being fast-growing, tolerant of drought, heat, and cold, while also being deer and rabbit resistant.

El Toro Muhly Grass offers up masses of airy, rosy-purple flower spikes in summer to mid-fall, which dry to a tan color in winter. Plant on the east or west side of your yard to collaborate with the morning or evening sun to help provide the dramatic backlighting that accentuates this plant’s seasonal color. This fast-growing, heat-tolerant, cold-tolerant, drought-tolerant ornamental grass is an easy-care, low-water-use plant that is also rabbit and deer-resistant (what more could you want?). El Toro Muhly can also tolerate full sun, reflected heat, and part shade, as well as almost any soils, including clay. Use this well-behaved, clumping native grass instead of the invasive Fountain Grass.  Prune vigorously in spring to remove spent flower spikes and dormant foliage, but avoid cutting back during the hot summer months. Use this southwestern native as an accent or border, in mass plantings for drama, or on slopes for erosion control or bank stabilization.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for November

Punica granatum

  • Plant Form: Deciduous Shrub, Tree
  • Water Use: Low, Moderate
  • Mature Size: 12-15 ft. tall and wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun, Part Sun
  • Bloom Time: Late Spring (April-May), Early Summer (June-July)
  • Native to: Himalayas, India, Iran
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 10°F
Pomegranate serves as a durable “edible landscape” plant, producing juicy seeds that can be eaten right off the tree, or juiced, made into jelly or jam, or added to recipes. Pomegranate can be grown as a tree, shrub, or espalier, and tolerates alkaline soils that would kill most plants.

Pomegranate gives back so much and asks for so little in return. Even in very hot gardens with difficult soils, this fast-growing, deciduous shrub or tree produces beautiful fruits filled with juicy, sweet seeds to eat right from the plant or to make into juice, jellies, or wine. Its sharp-tipped, slender, upright branches will gracefully bend downward if left un-pruned. Showy flowers with ruffled red petals bloom at the branch tips, so severe shearing may result in fewer flowers and less fruit. Prune in late winter both for shape and to thin out interior twiggy growth. Pomegranate is drought-tolerant after established, but increased water during flowering and fruit development yields higher quality fruit. Overwatering as fruit matures increases its tendency to split open (which birds love). Use as a hedge, screen, attractive shrub or small tree, or as an accent. A dwarf variety (3 feet tall) is available which is great in pots and planters.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for October

Evergreen Sumac
Rhus virens

If you need a tall evergreen shrub or small tree that is incredibly tolerant of drought, wind, heat, sun, and cold, and is also resistant to insect pests, disease, and rabbits, look no farther. This sturdy plant is also tolerant of problem soils like clay and caliche soils.

  • Plant Form: Evergreen Shrub, Small Tree
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 8-12 ft. tall x 10-15 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun, Part Sun
  • Bloom Time: Summer (June-Aug), Fall (Sept-Nov)
  • Native to: Arizona, New Mexico, Texas
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 5°F 

Evergreen Sumac is a very adaptable, large, evergreen shrub that tolerates every stressful desert situation thrown at it: burning heat, freezing cold, extended drought, nutrient-poor soils, and even difficult clay and caliche soils. Given all these challenges, this sumac still grows into a beautiful, rounded specimen plant with lush, glossy, green leaves that can turn maroon after frost. Some leaves may drop after winter, but they are quickly replaced within a week with a new crop. Birds, butterflies, and bees all enjoy its late-summer, tiny white flowers and red fruits (fruit is only produced on female plants). The fuzzy, red fruits were historically soaked in water to make a refreshing lemonade-like drink high in vitamin C. This sturdy plant generally repels insect damage, disease, and rabbits. Left in its natural form, Evergreen Sumac makes a thick hedge, screen, barrier, or background plant, but it can be pruned to grow tree-like with a single, straight trunk.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for September