Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
August, 2003
Regional Report

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Easter Egg Eremophila. (Photo courtesy of Mountain States Wholesale Nursery.)

Emu Bush Provides A Rainbow of Colors

I'm getting the itch to plant something, although it's too hot for digging holes for another month or so. Instead, I peruse plant books and Web sites, looking for a fun new plant to try when the fall planting season rolls around. Eremophila jumps to the head of my list. Shrubs show off an intriguing range of flower colors, with one species or another in bloom almost year-round. Commonly called emu bush, this genus originates in Australia, so it's drought tolerant and well adapted to Southwestern conditions.

Eremophila maculata 'Valentine'
I saw this plant "introduced" at a garden conference a couple of years ago and attendees oooed and ahhhed over the vivid red flowers. The lucky gardener who won it in a raffle could have sold it many times over. I'm not sure if it's named for its Valentine heart color or because the plants are in peak bloom on Valentine's day, but the red tubular flowers create a traffic jam of hummingbirds. The shrub grows 4 feet tall and 5 feet wide.

Eremophila racemosa
Easter Egg bush is the common name, and this emu provides a basketful of colors on one bush. Flower buds start yellow, deepen to orange, and eventually mature to pink and purple. The shrub grows 4 to 6 feet tall and requires good soil drainage.

Eremophila laanii 'Pink Beauty'
'Pink Beauty' starts flowering in April and continues through the warm season. Its height and width (6 feet tall and wide) make it a good screening or hedge plant.

Eremophila x 'Summer Time Blue'
There aren't many blue flowers in the desert's summer palette, so this shrub provides a welcome cool color for the landscape. Its lilac-blue flowers bloom through the entire warm season. This emu reaches 6 feet tall and tolerates clay soil.

Eremophila maculata aurea 'Winter Gold'
Cooler weather brings on the yellowish blooms. It grows 4 to 5 feet tall and tolerates clay soil. This emu takes repeated pruning, so if you have landscapers who can't keep their tools at bay, this emu would work for you.

Eremophila may not be readily available at all nurseries, but their tolerance of desert conditions and colorful variety make them worth seeking out.

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