The Q&A Archives: Desert Northern Exposure

Question: I have an area that is on the north side of our house that gets shade most of the year but gets direct sun from noon on during the summer. I need an idea for a year round good looking plant to go there. Something along the line of Texas Ranger or Hopseed which we have used in other areas.

Answer: That's a difficult spot, as you know doubt realize, as most desert plants thrive in full sun, so they don't like the shady time, and anything that takes that much shade objects to full summer sun! I've had good luck with aloes in my northern exposure. They bloom later than normal, and can look a little stressed in summer, but they don't die, and continue to pup and fill in on their own. I intermix them with penstemon, and they also spread. They tend to be a little bit lankier than penstemon in full sun. Superstition mallow (Abutilon palmeri) takes full sun to partial shade. It has a velvety soft leaf. Mine takes considerable stress as I don't have a dripper going to it, and it goes without water for extended periods. White plumbago (Plumbago scandens) takes partial shade to full shade, although the full sun might be too much. Pomegranate takes full sun to partial shade. It's a good plant for birds as hummers like the flowers and if you leave the fruits on, the birds will eat them. Weeping dalea is native to the Sonoran desert and it takes full sun and partial shade. It has a mounding, spreading shape and purple flowers. You may have to experiment a little and see what works. I'd recommend starting with just 1-gallon pots as there is less of a transplant shock and they can "grow" into the spot. Good luck!

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