3 Fabulous Desert Flowers to Fall in Love With This Spring
By John Roark
The months of February and March are a sweet spot for Valley gardens. Winter’s worst is usually behind us, and the inevitable ramp-up to summer has not yet begun. “Spring is heaven in Phoenix,” raves landscape designer Katie Coates. “Colorful new post-winter blossoms are like eye candy for our spirits. One of my favorite things to do is to sit in the sun and watch the bees and hummingbirds visit the many blooms that are welcoming our spring.”
Here, Coates shares her favorite flowering flora that bring vibrant colors and lush appearance to desert landscapes.
CORAL PEA VINE
A vigorous semi-evergreen and early spring-blooming shrubby vine, Hardenbergia violacea, also known as lilac vine, produces gorgeous, long clusters of purple flowers that show off well against long, lance-shaped, dark green leaves. If left without support to climb, this moderate- to fast-growing plant becomes a sprawling shrub. “Although it only blooms for three to four weeks in spring, it’s a stunning showstopper,” Coates says.
SIZE: 15’H by up to 12’W
BLOOMS: Cascading clusters of vibrant, sweet pea-like purple flowers in late winter to early spring
WATER NEEDS: Low once established
ELEVATION: USDA Zones 9-11 (may need protection from freezing)
LIGHT: Full, part or filtered sun; avoid intense reflected heat
MAINTENANCE: Prune in spring after flowering or to shape throughout the year until fall
BUSH MORNING GLORY
“I like to design with plants that have a ‘wow’ factor when they are in bloom,” says Coates. “Our environment is filled with yellows, oranges, pinks, reds and all variations of green. This fast-growing, mounding ground cover is one of the few plants that provides an abundance of white, which brightens a landscape and catches the eye. Its interesting silver-gray color and texture look great in groupings or as an accent plant in rock gardens, xeriscapes and oasis gardens.”
SIZE: 2’H by 3-4’W
BLOOMS: Beautiful and prolific white flowers with yellow centers cover the silvery-gray plant in March
WATER NEEDS: Low
ELEVATION: USDA Zones 9-11
LIGHT: Full and reflected sun
MAINTENANCE: Lightly prune for shape and size in spring after flowering
This small perennial accent shrub’s tubular, bright clusters of orange flowers are a welcome addition to our desert landscapes. The blooms contrast nicely with its light green leaves. “I like to plant this under desert trees (such as Palo Verde, Palo Brea or Mesquite) where they are nicely sheltered and add bright colors,” Coates observes. Mexican honeysuckle also looks great planted en mass for a small hedge aesthetic. It is beautiful when combined with purple trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis ‘Purple’), New Gold lantana (Lantana x ‘New Gold’), Angelita daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis), agave species and around boulders in the landscape.
SIZE: 3′-4′ tall and wide
BLOOMS: Clusters of bright, tubular orange flowers, spring through fall
WATER NEEDS: Drought-tolerant but needs regular, ample water, especially in summer
ELEVATION: USDA Zones 9-11 (more sun protection in lower elevations)
SOIL: Well-drained; more sensitive to high salt levels
LIGHT: Full sun to partial/filtered shade; avoid west summer sun
MAINTENANCE: Prune and fertilize lightly in late winter
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