Baileya multiradiata Desert Marigold
1 to 2 ft. high & wide
Reliable reoccurring color. These are true ephemerals living fast and furious to bloom then cast more seed to perpetuate their existence. Compact clumps of gray pubescent foliage sprout stems topped with bright yellow daisy-like blooms from spring into summer. Cut plants back completely as flowers fade. In well-drained soils Desert Marigold are quite persistent plants, although young plants can be tender to transplant, so manage them with care. These naturally occurring, tough low-water use plants are adaptable up to 5000 ft. but if mother plants freeze out, not to worry, spring weather will bring new seedlings. Complimentary flowering perennials for virtually all low desert landscape situations.
Gazania sp. Gazania
Mounding to flat colorfully blooming groundcover perennials. There are many different selections of Gazanias. All are perennials or grown as tough summer annuals in colder zones. Along with flower color, some grow in clumping form up to 1 ft. tall and spread 1-2 ft. across. Others grow in a rhizomatic flat spreading habit, staying about 6 in. high, but can spread to 6 ft. or more. Selected forms can have gray pubescent foliage, while others are green and glossy. All leaf forms tend to be lance shaped but can vary by length. Gazanias are tolerant of low desert heat and bloom from spring to fall. All Gazania sp. require well-drained soils and are sensitive to planting too deep, otherwise they are care and problem free. Available flower colors are Yellow, Orange, and Red.
Hymenoxys acaulis (Syn. Tetraneuris acaulis) Angelita Daisy, Four Nerve Daisy
Cute mounding plant with yellow daisy blooms. Low, mounding and spreading from basal clumps, this high desert native plant is right at home in low desert landscapes. They do require well-draining soil. They also prefer regular supplemental irrigation initially to become established but less water when plants are mature. Too much water encourages rangy, vigorous growth that requires more maintenance. While they are in peak bloom from late winter to early spring, these plants bloom practically all year, which means removing spent flower stems will be the maintenance priority. Leaves are short, soft linear shape with slight pubescence and blooms are 1 in. wide pure bright yellow daisies. Plant in mass for big, showy flower displays, or in mixed perennial beds, containers, borders or singly for tight spaces to accent bold succulents.
Lavendula pinnata Fernleaf Lavender
Sweet herbal scented leaves & purple blooms. Small, rounded evergreen herbaceous to woody perennial shrubs typically grow 2 ft. x 2 ft. They must have well-drained soils and some moderate summer irrigation, but limited moisture during winter like most Mediterranean plants. Ferny, dissected short gray pubescent leaves have a sweet herbal fragrance, especially when crushed to release their oils. Likewise, the flowers that rise well above the foliage looking like lavender flags, are also sweetly fragranced. The stems are square. Deadheading spent flower stems is the only regular required maintenance. Avoid planting too deep as they are susceptible to crown rot and chelated iron or complete fertilizers with micronutrients can help prevent chlorosis symptoms. Use in containers on patios or poolside, for entryways where their fragrance can be appreciated, mixed in perennial beds or kitchen herb gardens.
Melampodium leucanthum Blackfoot Daisy
Bright white cheerful daisy flowers on a durable subshrub. These woody to herbaceous perennials form short ground-hugging mounds of narrow rough olive green foliage and bloom consistently from fall to early summer in low deserts. Flowers are classic white daisy petals around a yellow disc. Plants appreciate regular irrigation for a season until established, but become drought tolerant after. Light trimming or shearing can help to tidy them up post blooming. Little maintenance otherwise. They tolerate high heat, but they will grow as understory groundcovers to desert trees and large shrubs. Too much shade prevents best flowering though. They are most dramatic when planted en masse, but individual plants also pair well with other desert perennials, palms, and bold accent plants like Agaves, cacti, and arborescent yuccas.
Muhlenbergia rigida Purple Muhly Grass
Smaller, soft ornamental grass with feathery plumes. Purple colored feathery seed plumes fall to spring give this plant is common name and character. Lower growing than most muhly grasses, this variety is well suited to using as a mass planted ground cover in open, sunny areas. With more water plants tend to grow larger and can be susceptible to crown rot, which makes excellent drainage critical for long-term success. They can tolerate some shade but have low flat habit. Plants in full sun stay more upright and have the best color. Purple plumes give way to a light blonde color as they persist. The seed stems can be removed when they lose their form and rigidity. This is a “No Shear” plant.
Myoporum parvifolium Myoporum
Bright evergreen utilitarian groundcover. Historically popular, evergreen groundcover, with short bright green leaves, along sprawling herbaceous stems. Plants can spread wide, but stay low, so they work well for slopes, retention areas, golf courses, parks, and other municipal projects with little to no foot traffic. Small, white star-shaped flowers appear along the outer or upper stems in spring. Although the flowers have a light fragrance, they are mostly popular with bees and other pollinators. Myroporum are sensitive to root or stem fungal diseases when grown in poorly drained soils. They can thrive in low desert heat, but too much water or wet soil at the wrong time of year can cause quick decline. Shallow frequent watering in summer works well with evergreen Mediterranean-like groundcovers.
Penstemon eatonii Firecracker Penstemon
Mounding green perennial with tall spikes of red blooms. All penstemons in bloom are magnets for hummingbirds, and these are no exception. Basal clumps of large, oval bright green succulent-looking leaves form rounded mounds close to the ground. In winter to spring, stalks rise about 1 ft. above the foliage with deep red to burnt orange-colored tubular blooms. Rounded seed capsules form from pollinated flowers they will cast thousands of tiny seeds when they mature and crack open. In low desert landscapes this Penstemon is not very prone to reseeding, but if moisture exists, seedlings can pop up as a delightful surprise usually by the next fall. To prevent volunteer seedlings, simply prune off spent flower stalks while seeds are still green. This floriferous native spring blooming perennial occurs from about 2500 ft. up to 7000 ft. in riparian, sandy soils or along rocky slopes or grassy steppe environments. It is quite common to see blooming along roadways in central AZ, as it is used as an adaptable erosion control species. Plant it in any landscape where bright vertical flowers are desired.
Salvia coccinea Cherry Sage 'Red'
Bright red flowers against dark green foliage. Cherry sage are popularly grown as annuals in all zones across the U.S., but they are perennial in frost-free gardens. Bright green aromatic herbal scented foliage can be heart-shaped, rough and lush looking. Typical square salvia stems are highly pubescent. Flower spikes above the foliage hold bright red lipped flowers attractive to hummingbirds. Considered easy-to-grow and adaptable, they can be used as blooming filler in any garden. Under trees, mixed with other perennials or annuals, in pots, on patios in containers they are quite happy and delightful. They tend to be short lived or have an ephemeral quality. Reseeding is possible in optimal conditions but don’t count on it or fear it.