3 Beguiling Desert Plants That Bloom in the Winter
“December and January are a great time in our gardens,” says Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award-winning landscape architect Chad Robert. “Phoenix is one of the few places in the country where you can be outdoors this time of year. While many plants are dormant during this season, some are starting to change colors with the cooler temperatures. Winter seasonal flowers are always the most brilliant, just in time for the holidays.” Here, Robert shares three of his favorite plants that will bring a varied palette to your garden while much of the country is blanketed in snow.
MINI RITA PRICKLY PEAR
(Opuntia ‘Baby Rita’)
While other varieties of prickly pear can become large and potentially dangerous, the Mini Rita stays very compact. “This is one of those plants that people always stop and comment on,” Robert says. While the drought-tolerant dwarf succulent produces pink flowers in spring through summer, it also puts on a show during the holidays. “The pads get more interesting in color as the weather cools, bringing a unique combination of silver and intense purple to your garden.”
SIZE: 18″-24″H by 24″W
BLOOMS: Bright pink blossoms, spring through summer
WATER NEEDS: Low
ELEVATION: USDA Zones 6-11
ATTRACTS: Birds; hummingbirds
LIGHT: Full sun to light shade
MAINTENANCE: To maintain size, prune as needed at junctions where pads connect.
BLUE ELF ALOE
(Aloe ‘Blue Elf’)
“This is one of the plants that starts to bloom in the winter,” Robert raves. “I like the change in color of the foliage during the cold months. This tight-clumping dwarf aloe is compact in size and a perfect scale for residential landscapes. Small-scale accents will eventually mass and create a dramatic display when they are all in bloom.”
SIZE: 18″H by 2’W
BLOOMS: Spikes of tubular orange-red flowers, January-March
WATER NEEDS: Regular irrigation during summer
ELEVATION: USDA Zones 9-11
LIGHT: Full sun to partial shade
MAINTENANCE: Remove spent flowers
(Caesalpinia cacalaco ‘Smoothie’)
“Cascalote is one of the few trees that produces a big flower display in the winter months,” Robert observes, noting that it is one of his favorite go-to background plants. In addition to large candelabra of brilliant yellow blooms, this variety of the midsize evergreen tree is also thornless.
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SIZE: 15′-18’H by 15′-18’W
BLOOMS: Yellow spikes at branch ends, late fall through early winter
WATER NEEDS: Occasional deep supplemental water, especially during summer
ELEVATION: USDA Zones 9-11
ATTRACTS: Bees; butterflies
LIGHT: Full sun
MAINTENANCE: Prune as needed to thin and maintain shape