Melampodium leucanthum Blackfoot Daisy
up to 1 ft. high x 1-2 ft. wide
USDA zones 4-10
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.
Myoporum parvifolium Myoporum
up to 6 in. high x 6 ft. or more wide
Part to full sun
USDA zones 9-11
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
up to 2 ft. tall x 1-2 ft. wide
USDA zones 5-10
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.
Penstemon parryi Parry's Penstemon
3-4 ft. high x 2-3 ft. wide
USDA zones 8-11
These strongly vertical pink flowered perennial accent plants can create a stunning visual display. These floriferous low desert spring ephemerals are extremely reliable, with a persistent reseeding habit. Narrow succulent-like gray-green leaves form in a basal mound, then starting in late winter to early spring, vertical bloom stalks shoot straight up that are covered with bright, bubble gum pink tubular blooms that hummingbirds adore. They occur naturally in Arizona to New Mexico in elevations around 1500 ft. to 4000 ft. After blooming, flower stalks can be removed before seed capsules ripen or allow them to brown and dry to cast copious amounts of seed for new plants to sprout the following year.
Salvia coccinea Cherry Sage 'Red'
up to 2 ft. high x 1-3 ft. wide
Part to full sun
USDA zones 9-11
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.
Zephyranthes candida White Rain Lily
up to 12 in. high x 1-2 ft. wide
Part to full sun
USDA zones 5-11
Dainty white crocus-like blooms above grassy foliage. These persistent perennial plants from bulbs form well-behaved clumps of short, green grass-like leaves that look similar to chives. In the Amaryllidaceae family, they can flower from fall to spring with evergreen foliage all season, but they do have the capacity to go summer dormant if they are off of regular water for a period of time. The six flower petals are bright white, 2-3 inches long and slightly pointed forming an open, cup shape. Rain lilies are good for mass plantings, borders, containers, raised beds or any small spaces or strips that may otherwise go unnoticed. They are not aggressive, and do not appreciate foot traffic, but they are tough, quite adaptable and require little to no maintenance. Their common name refers to their natural habit to go summer dormant, but then pop up to surprise when monsoon rain showers arrive in late summer to autumn.