Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
May, 2009
Regional Report

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Bright yellow desert marigold flowers contrast with the gray foliage

Easy-Care Flowers

I admit it. When the temperatures start broiling, I turn into a lazy gardener. I compensate by planting easy-to-care-for flowers with long bloom periods that don't require much intervention on my part.

There are many native and desert-adapted wildflowers that fit the bill. They are well-suited to our intense sun, alkaline soil and limited rainfall. Another plus is that insect or disease problems are rare.

Desert Marigold
Desert marigold (Baileya multiradiata) has delightful yellow, daisy-like blooms. It is native throughout the desert Southwest, growing in small rounded clumps with grayish-silver foliage. It flowers spring and fall (and sometimes summer), self-sowing prodigiously if conditions are to its liking. Be aware that if you don't like "volunteer" plants, you will need to weed out the excess seedlings if rains are plentiful. Sow seeds or transplant from one-gallon pots.

Angelita Daisy
Angelita daisy (Hymenoxys acaulis) is another yellow, daisy-like flower. It also grows in small rounded clumps, but its foliage is greener and has a more lush appearance than the desert marigold. Angelita daisy blooms almost year around, taking a break in late summer. It is usually transplanted from one-gallon pots.

Mexican Hat
Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera) blooms profusely all summer into the fall, providing an intense spark of color. Petals can be yellow or a deep maroonish-red and drape downwards from a prominent cone, supposedly resembling its namesake. Mexican hat is native across the Southwest and is easily grown from seed.

Spreading Fleabane
Spreading fleabane (Erigeron divergens) is a low-growing plant with charming white to pale lavender flowers, about a half-inch in diameter. The light-colored flowers lend a cool splash to the garden and contrast nicely with brighter colors. Fleabane is usually grown from seed.

Verbena is a low-growing groundcover that can bloom spring through fall in varying shades of purple. Transplant it from 4-inch pots (if you can find them) or one-gallon containers.

These are just a few of the many desert-adapted flowers that will flourish with minimal care. Experiment and find a few favorites of your own!

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