Desert Four-O’Clock

Every afternoon, this Four-O'Clock opens a flush of delicate flowers to entice hawk moths, hummingbirds, and butterflies to sip its nectar, and bees to collect its pollen.

Every afternoon, this Four-O’Clock opens a flush of delicate flowers to entice hawk moths, hummingbirds, and butterflies to sip its nectar, and bees to collect its pollen.

Mirabilis laevis

 

  • Plant Form: Evergreen Perennial Sub-Shrub
  • Water Use: Very Low
  • Mature Size: 2′ – 3’ tall & wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun, Part Shade
  • Bloom Time: Spring (peak bloom), Summer, Fall (March – November)
  • Native to: California, Arizona, Nevada & Utah (below 7,000 feet)
  •  Hardiness: Cold Hardy to 25°F

 

 

Desert Four-O’Clock is a fast-growing, mounded, evergreen sub-shrub or herb. Dark green leaves and branches have soft, glandular hair, and the whole plant feels succulent, almost wet to the touch. The stems branch to form “wishbones”, giving it one of its names, Wishbone Bush. Its dainty white or pale pink flowers open in late afternoon and close early the next morning (unless the sky is overcast). Hummingbirds, hawk moths, butterflies, and other beneficial insects and pollinators sip the flower nectar, and birds feed on the seeds. Stimulate new growth by pruning hard every 2-3 years after flowering. Desert Four-O’Clock, with its mounding, spilling habit, can be used in a dry border, dry wash, on slopes, in a decorative pot, or in rock or xeriscape gardens.

Sugar Bush

Rhus ovata

A versatile evergreen shrub or tree whose "berries" have been used for traditionally and still today to make a wild lemonade.

A versatile evergreen shrub or tree whose “berries” have been used traditionally and today to make a wild lemonade.

 

  • Plant Form: Evergreen Shrub
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 8-15’ tall & wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun, Part Shade
  • Bloom Time: Spring (March – May); fruit Summer (June – August)
  • Native to: California, Arizona, & Mexico (at elevations 3,000 – 5,000 feet)
  •  Hardiness: Cold Hardy to 0°F

 

 

Sugar Bush is a very long-lived, evergreen, aromatic shrub with lush, deep green, leathery leaves that are slightly folded like a taco shell. Maroon twigs and leaf stems, as well as reddish bracts that enclose the flower buds, strike a nice contrast with the deep green foliage. Pinkish flower clusters in late winter or spring produce red berry-like fruits (drupes) in summer that are coated with long strands of sugar, giving the bush its name. Traditionally, and even today, people harvest and soak these “berries” in water to make a refreshing drink like lemonade. This multi-branched sumac can be pruned into an attractive, single- or multiple-trunk shade tree. A workhorse of many southwest gardens, Sugar Bush is ideal for screens, hedges, windbreaks, for erosion control on slopes, or as a specimen on its own. Although slow-growing, it is worth the wait.

Cleveland Sage

Salvia clevelandii

A favorite southwest garden pick, both for its captivating fragrance and its stunning flower display.

A favorite southwest garden pick, both for its captivating fragrance and its stunning flower display.

 

  • Plant Form: Semi-evergreen Shrub
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 4’ tall x 4-5’ wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun, Part Shade
  • Bloom Time: Spring – Summer (March – June)
  • Native to: Southern California south to Baja California (below 3,000 feet)
  •  Hardiness: Cold Hardy to 15°F

 

 

Cleveland Sage wins the prize for the best fragrance of all sages in most gardeners’ judgment. Its gray-green leaves have an intense but clean fragrance, and have culinary use. Deep violet-blue flowers appear in whorls skewered like balls of color on stems. The plant almost glows with color when in bloom, and attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. This fast-growing semi-evergreen shrub requires very well-drained soil, and takes minimal summer water. Cut back every other year, and remove spent flowers for a tidier look. Cleveland Sage can be used as a focal point in a dry border or decorative pot, as a low hedge, or in herb gardens.

White Sage provides striking silver foliage all year, with aromatic leaves and tall spikes of flowers in spring.

White Sage provides striking silver foliage all year, with aromatic leaves and tall spikes of flowers in spring.

White Sage

Salvia apiana

 

  • Plant Form: Evergreen Shrub
  • Water Use: Very Low
  • Mature Size: 2-3’ tall x 3-6’ wide (flower stalks add another 2-6’ in height)
  • Exposure: Full Sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring (April – June)
  • Native to: California to Baja California (below 4,500 feet)
  •  Hardiness: Cold Hardy to 15°F

 

White sage is an aromatic, slow-growing, evergreen shrub prized for a variety of qualities. Gardeners treasure this drought-tolerant native for its beautiful white foliage, almost luminous in the early evening and on moonlight nights. Bees love this prolific bloomer, and make a flavorful honey from its white to lavender-tinged flowers. California Indians revere this shrub as sacred, burning its leaves as incense during purification and other sacred ceremonies. In spring, tall flower stalks grow rapidly. Trim back these stalks when they dry to tan in late summer to keep plants from becoming leggy, and to prevent wind damage. This shrub is virtually pest free. Its hollow stems break easily, so place it where hoses or passers-by won’t hit it. White sage makes a striking focal point in a border, and is valuable massed on slopes to deter erosion.

 

Profuse balls of white to pink flowers fill the spaces in your garden as baby's breath does in a bouquet.

Profuse balls of white to pink flowers fill the spaces in your garden as baby’s breath does in a bouquet.

California Buckwheat

Eriogonum fasciculatum

 

  • Plant Form: Evergreen Shrub
  • Water Use: Very Low
  • Mature Size: 2’ tall x 4-5’ wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring, Summer, Fall (April – November)
  • Native to: Southern California (below 7,000 feet), Arizona, Nevada, Utah
  • Hardiness: Cold Hardy to 15°F

 

 

California Buckwheat is an extremely drought-tolerant, evergreen shrub forming a rounded clump with many stems. White to pink flowers grow in dense clusters on thin stalks above small, dark green leaves. The round, headlike flower clusters become pink with age, and dry to a reddish-brown, often persisting until the next flowering season. A fast-growing plant that needs full sun and well-drained soil. This valuable landscape plant is great for erosion control on slopes, to replant disturbed sites, soften rock gardens, and complement more vertical plants like sages, ephedras, penstemons, and desert marigolds. California Buckwheat fills in garden spaces like baby’s breath fills in a bouquet. A favorite source of nectar for butterflies, bees, and other beneficial insects; bees collect the pink pollen to make delicious buckwheat honey.

 

Bush Monkeyflower

Mimulus aurantiacus (Diplacus longiflorus)

 

  • Plant Form: Evergreen Perennial Sub-Shrub
  • Water Use: Very Low
  • Mature Size: 2-3’ tall x 3’ wide

    Bush Monkeyflower is beautiful in all of its various flower colors, including yellow, orange, coral, and red.

    Bush Monkeyflower is beautiful in all of its various flower colors, including yellow, orange, coral, and red.

  • Exposure: Full Sun, Part Shade
  • Bloom Time: Spring, Summer (Mar – August)
  • Native to: Southern California below 5,000 feet
  • Hardiness: Cold Hardy to 15°F

 

Bush Monkeyflower is a fast-growing, evergreen, woody sub-shrub prized for its variety of showy flowers. Light green leaves, which become sticky on hot days, contrast nicely with trumpet-shaped yellow, orange, or red flowers (sometimes classified as separate varieties according to color). Many hybrids are bred for new flower colors, but they are generally shorter-lived and not as cold-, drought-, or heat-tolerant as the original species. Butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds visit the profuse flowers.  Stimulate dense growth by pinching the plant back in summer, and cut it back by one third in winter, after the plant is well-established. Bush Monkeyflower is beautiful in mixed borders, dry washes, on slopes, as an accent in rock gardens, and especially in decorative pots. In the wild, they are often found in rock outcrops, so rock companions will keep them feeling at home.