Steven Gunther

Best natives for Southwest gardens

Dick Bushnell,  – August 7, 2004


Native plants are wise additions to Southwest gardens. The nine species pictured on these pages are naturally suited to the desert climate, where heat and aridity prevail. Most bear showy blooms. And when water is scarce, all are appropriate (and thrifty) choices, since they survive on nothing more than rainfall. Just give them what they need― sun and well-drained soil― and they’ll thrive. If you start with nursery-raised plants, remember that even drought-tolerant natives need to be watered during the dry season for a year or two until they’re established.

Angelita daisy
(Tetraneuris acaulis) 8 inches tall, 1 foot wide. Yellow flowers during warm months. Sun; little to moderate water. Climate zones 1-3, 10-13.

Blackfoot daisy
(Melampodium leucanthum) 1 foot tall and wide. Fragrant white daisies during winter in mild climates, spring and summer in cold areas. Sun; little water. Zones 2, 3, 10-13.

(Encelia farinosa) Deciduous shrub; 3 feet tall, 4 feet wide. Has silvery, woolly leaves; yellow daisies with brown centers in spring. Sun; little or no water. Zones 10-13.

Desert marigold
(Baileya multiradiata) 1 1/2 feet tall, 2 feet wide. Bright yellow flowers appear spring through fall or longer. Annual or perennial. Sun; moderate water. Zones 1-3, 10-13.

Mexican hat
(Ratibida columnifera) 2 1/2 feet tall, 1 foot wide. Flowers resemble sombreros with drooping yellow rays around conical centers all summer. Sun; little to moderate water. All zones.

Verbena gooddingii
1 1/2 to 2 feet tall, 3 to 4 feet wide. Pinkish lavender flowers in summer. Sun; little water. Zones 10-13.

Woolly butterfly bush
(Buddleja marrubiifolia) Evergreen shrub; 5 feet tall and wide. Has soft, silvery foliage; orange flower clusters appear in spring and summer. Sun; little water. Zones 10-13.

Yellow bells
(Tecoma stans angustata) 4 to 10 feet tall, 3 to 8 feet wide. Deciduous shrub has bright green, finely divided leaves; trumpet-shaped, yellow flowers from midspring to late fall. Sun; little to moderate water. Zones 12, 13.