The Q&A Archives: Plants suited for my zone - 8a

Question: I can't seem to find anything on zone 8a (which is what came up when I typed in my zip). I live in what is called the high desert, you have a store here. We get an occasional snow here but the real problem is finding something that will live through very hot and dry summers. Can you recommend what might survive the desert summers for me? Please don't give me the name of a book to look for, just a few suggestions would be helpful. Thank you

Answer: I recommend you use native or desert-adapted perennials because that's a tough spot with so much relentless sun. Here's some I've had good luck with: Salvia leucantha (Mexican bush sage) has gorgeous purple blooms stocks in late summer that are almost velvety or "furry" in appearance. It prefers full sun, average soil, and doesn't need much water once established. Angelita daisy has yellow, daisy-like flowers and it thrives in the harsh sun. It has a small clump of green foliage, somewhat similar in appearance to the desert marigold, but it is greener, whereas desert marigold (another good choice) is more greyish. Mt. Lemmon marigold has clusters of one-inch daisy-like flowers in a goldish shade. The foliage has a feathery appearance. The plant usually reaches 2-3 feet wide and tall. The foliage has a very strong scent. I like it, but some people find it overpowering, so pinch a leaf in the nursery to see what you think. Desert milkweed (Asclepias subulata) is an interesting plant with tall, thin greyish stalks that have a few feathery type leaves. It blooms with a creamy cluster of flowers. It's not a typical "leafy" plant, but it adds structural interest to the garden. It takes full sun and well-drained soil. It also is a butterfly attractant. Any of the desert mallows (Abutilon sp.) do extremely well, and they are available in numerous colors, blooming in spring. Globe mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) has soft grey foliage that feels like lamb's ears and an orangey-gold flower. Chocolate flower (Berlandiera lyrata) has a white daisy flower that smells like chocolate early in the morning. Penstemon bloom beautifully in the spring in a variety of pinks/reds, and the foliage forms a nice mounding clump that lasts year around. P. parryi does extremely well, and all attract hummingbirds. I hope this gives you some ideas! You can plant now, but provide some temporary shade for newly introduced plants until they become established.

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