Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
April, 2011
Regional Report

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White clumps of blackfoot daisy made it through winter, thriving under a palo verde tree.

Transplanting Cold-Hardy Species After a Harsh Winter

I know that it must have been an especially cold winter because various garden groups that offer tours each spring (which I look forward to!) decided to reschedule their tours for fall, or canceled them all together. A few hardy groups forged ahead with their plans, using the opportunity to share what they learned, while offering a group lament for so many lost plants!

Now is a good time to take stock of your winter damage and replant as needed. This time around, try using more cold-tolerant species, especially if you live near a natural cold pocket, such as the base of foothills or mountains, where cold air settles and collects.

I have listed tried-and-true native and desert-adapted plants below that are generally cold hardy to 0 degrees Fahrenheit, unless noted. They offer attractive features, such as blooms or interesting silhouettes, and most make excellent additions to a wildlife habitat. Because many go by various common names, I have included genus and species to help you track down the most cold tolerant options.

Canyon hackberry (Celtis reticulata); desert willow (Chilopsis linearis); velvet mesquite (Prosopis velutina).

Pink fairy duster (Calliandra eriophylla):5 degrees F; Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora):5 degrees F; most Texas sage (Leucophyllum spp.): 10 degrees F.

Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana); creeping germander (Teucrium chamaedrys); trailing desert broom (Baccharis hybrid): 5 degrees F .

Ornamental Grasses
Deer grass (Muhlenbergia rigens); pink muhly (M. capillaris); Mexican thread grass (Stipa tenuissima).

Engelmann's hedgehog (Echinocereus engelmannii), compass barrel (Ferocactus cylindraceus) and beavertail prickly pear (Opuntia basilaris) are all rated to 10 degrees F. When in doubt, natives of the Sonoran, Chihuahuan, and Mojave deserts tend to tolerate winter best.

Beargrass (Nolina microcarpa); desert spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri); banana, soaptree, and paleleaf yucca (Yucca baccata, Y. elata, Y. pallida).

Blackfoot daisy (Melampodium leucanthum); firecracker and canyon penstemon (Penstemon eatonii, P. pseudospectabilis).

Lady Banks' rose (Rosa banksiae): 10 degrees F; cat claw vine (Macfadyena unguis-cati): 15 degrees F.

Many vines we use in Southwestern landscapes are tropical in origin and susceptible to cold weather. I have seen lots of blackened bougainvilleas and crispy trumpet vines on walls around my neighborhood. I'd like to hear if anyone had good luck with any evergreen vines this winter.

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