Bring in the Color!
Posted on Mar 18th, 2020

Winter has passed and we can now look forward to a more colorful spring and summer in the Mohave desert.  There are not too many flowering plants that like to show off in the cooler winter temperatures, but when it warms up, they start bursting with a vibrancy unique to desert landscapes. 
Some of the low growing desert color like the Gopher Plant, Penstemon, Angelita Daisy, Chrysactinia, Lantana and Bush Morning Glory are starting to show their colors already.  Other, larger growing shrubs like Eremophila ‘Valentine Bush’, Baja Fairy Duster, Russian Sage, Texas Sage and Autumn Sage will be showing off their colors as it heats up.   The Tecoma varieties, or “Bells”, as they are called, are some of the most colorful plants that love our hot weather.  They tolerate dry windy air and they even put up with our alkaline water and soil. There are ‘Yellow Bells’, ‘Orange Jubilee Bells’, ‘Crimson Flare’, ‘Solar Flare’, ‘Sundance’, ‘Sunrise’, ‘Bells of Fire’, ‘Sierra Apricot’ and the closely related ‘Cape Honeysuckle’. These wonderful plants will normally freeze back and go dormant in our cold winters but will survive temperatures down to 15 degrees and come roaring back each spring.  A mid-winter prune-back to the green or viable growth is all that’s needed in order to have a nice-looking spring shrub. They grow very fast and routine pruning improves their looks and helps to produce more flowers.
The desert ‘Birds-of-Paradise’ are another of the warm season bloomers that brighten up our desert landscapes.  The ‘Red Birds’ (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) are usually the showiest, with their large clusters of orange and yellow flowers and grey-green lacy foliage.  Equally attractive are the ‘Desert Birds’ (Caesalpinia gilliesii), with an all-yellow flower and long red stamens, and the ‘Yellow Birds’ (Caesalpinia mexicana), with smaller pure yellow flowers and rounder, darker green leaves. With a combination of Red Birds and trailing Lavender Lantana in your yard, you are assured of having a colorful landscape throughout the entire warm season!
The last group of warm weather flowering shrubs that we recommend are the Crape Myrtle varieties. These are not as drought tolerant, or as long blooming as most of the plants we’ve talked about so far, but they come in such a variety of growing sizes and flower colors that it makes them one of the most versatile shrubs or small trees that you can use in your yard.  These are naturally deciduous plants that lose all their leaves in the winter.  What makes them different from most other deciduous flowering trees and shrubs is that they bloom on what’s called “new wood” or “new growth”, rather than the growth they made the previous year.  Therefore, anything that you can do to make the Crape Myrtle grow once it leafs-out in the spring will result in more flowers this coming year.  Crape Myrtles thrive on deep, infrequent watering and feedings.  Fertilize them once every week or two with Rose & Flower Food in the growing season, you will have more flowers for a longer time. Use a soil acidifier on them at least twice a year to help prevent alkali burning on the edges of the leaves. 
The desert is truly alive with color--subtle hues of lavender, pink and yellow along with spectacular shades of orange, deep reds and rich purples.   Visit your local Star Nursery Garden Center to see a full variety of colorful, drought-tolerant plant selections today.