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Solanum hindsianum

Our native plants, like all the Mediterranean-climate-zone plants, tend to grow during the Winter rainy season, flower in the Spring, and then go into “conservation mode” through the Summer and into early Fall. In nature they thrive in perfect sync with the native pollinators, the browsers, the nest builders, and the fruit and seedeaters. They form the basis for our native ecosystem. If yours is a purely native garden, you too are in sync with these seasons.

Solanum, Dudleya and Viguiera

Many local native plant enthusiasts however, are now successfully including in their gardens a few plants here and there, whose origin is just outside the boundaries of our region. The plants are from the heart of the Sonoran Desert. They can be incorporated into the California Garden on patios, in pots, in planter beds, plazas, and around pools, courtyards, and fountains. They will adorn these areas with many flowers in the hot months of Summer.

Plants from the low elevation deserts of Baja California, Arizona, and northern Mexico are truly adapted to extreme heat. They thrive in those regions because of an interesting climatic phenomenon known as “bimodal rainy season.” Unlike our plants on the cool continental coast, Sonoran plants get their rain in both Winter and Summer. And they bloom accordingly. The gentle winter rains cross over from the Pacific; we know all about those. But those unique Summer rains march in from the direction of the tropics, often in the form of violent thunderstorms. The vegetation responds in kind with an intense show. The desert blooms.

This bit of plant ecology works in the favor of the California gardeners who don’t mind providing a little summer irrigation to their southwestern gardens. The plants reply with colorful blooms during the hot months, thus providing an extended welcome to butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators. When used in and among California natives, southwest plants will brighten any garden with beautiful color Spring through Summer and well into Fall.

Desert Garden SJC
Desert Garden SJC

At Casa ‘La Paz’ we have expanded our Southwestern House to include a large area in the full sun. These sturdy plants are just beginning to show their colors around May at Tree of Life. Visit us soon for a closer look at some wonderful desert varieties. You can use them dramatically with large stones, Agaves and other succulents, or more subtly with native grasses, perennials and shrubs. They are quite striking in pots or raised planters and will create a bright, carefree, south-of-the-border feeling in even the hottest part of you garden.

For a plant list indicating true California natives with Summer Blooms see the Calendar of Color and our Summer Flowers Sage Advice.

It’s Flower Power that helps you and your garden beat the heat.

Photos courtesy of Laura Camp

40 Southwestern Plants you can find in production at Tree of Life Nursery

Acacia farnesiana Huisache
Agave century plant (we have several types, a dozen or so Sonoran species)
Anisacanthus quadrifidus desert honeysuckle
Antigonon leptopus San Miguel coral vine
Asclepias curassavica Tropical milkweed
Brahea armata Blue Hesper palm
Caesalpinia californica Vara prieta
Calliandra californica Baja fairy duster
Calylophus hartwegii Sundrops
Chrysactinia mexicana Damianita daisy
Cupressus Montana San Pedro Martir cypress
Dudleya brittonii Baja chalk dudleya
Euphorbia xantii Baja confetti flower
Galvezia juncea ‘Punta Banda’ Baja bush snapdragon
Galvezia juncea ‘Gran Cañon’ Baja bush snapdragon
Hesperaloe parviflora Red yucca
Hunnemannia fumariifolia Mexican tulip poppy
Hymenoxys acaulis Angelita daisy
Justicia purpusii Chaparosa del Cabo
Lobelia laxiflora Mexican lobelia bush
Lysiloma candida Palo Blanco
Lysiloma thornberi Fern-of-the-desert
Oenothera speciosa Pink evening primrose
Oe. Stubbei Saltillo evening primrose
Perityle incana Guadalupe Island rock daisy
Philadelphus microphyllus Little leaf mock orange
Rhamnus crocea ssp. Insula Santo Thomas redberry
Rhus lentii Pink-flowering sumac
Rhus microphylla Lima de la sierra
Russelia equisetiformis Coral fountain
Salvia Sage (we have several types, a half dozen or so Sonoran species)
Senna lindheimeriana Showy cassia
Solanum hindsianum Mariola
Sphaeralcea ‘La Luna’ La Luna desert mallow
Tagetes lemmonii Mountain marigold
Tecoma stans Yellow Bells
Tecoma ‘Orange Jubilee’ Jubilee Tecoma
Vaquelinia californica Arizona rosewood
Verbena lilacina Lilac Verbena
Yucca elata Soaptree yucca