Southwest: Fairy dusters sweep the air

A good choice for low-water landscapes
Dick Bushnell

Showy flowers, long bloom season, ferny foliage, airy form, low maintenance, little to moderate water ― all these pluses make fairy dusters (Calliandra species) some of the most desirable shrubs for Southwest landscapes.

Two species are commonly available in nurseries. Both bear powder-puff flowers with impressively long stamens from spring to fall. The blooms attract hummingbirds.

Red-flowered Baja fairy duster (C. californica) reaches 5 feet tall and wide. Its foliage remains evergreen in mild climates.

Pink fairy duster (C. eriophylla; shown) grows 3 feet tall and 4 to 5 feet wide. Its foliage is semievergreen, sometimes dropping in summer.

Fairy dusters can be grown in Sunset climate zones 10-13, but the pink type is hardier (to about 5°) and can get by with no irrigation. Both colors do best in full or reflected sun.