In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
October, 2011
Regional Report

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Purple cranesbill and 'Orange Flame' agastache offer blasts of color in a perennial bed.

Perennial Palette

Perennials are plants that grow foliage the first year after planting and usually bloom the second, although some may bloom the first year. Perennials live for several or many years, and as they develop into large clumps, you can divide them to produce more plants.

Fall planting is perfect for perennials at mid and low desert elevations. Get your favorite flowers into the ground, allowing them many months to establish strong roots before spring's desiccating winds and summer's intense heat. Also, as perennials slow down growth for winter dormancy, they use less water, which helps conserve resources, while at the same time, their establishing root systems may be able to produce a flower show by next spring.

After planting, water thoroughly to a depth of 1 foot so that the entire root zone is moistened. Keep soil moist for two or three weeks, and then taper off the frequency of irrigation. Always water deeply with each irrigation to leach salts below the root zone. How often to water depends on many factors, such as temperature and soil type, but as a guideline, at mid elevations, water new transplants every three to four weeks in winter if ground is not frozen and/or precipitation is sparse. Low elevation gardeners will need to water perhaps every 10 to 14 days or more frequently if temperatures are warm and rain is scarce.

Listed below are perennials for mid and low elevations. Many of these flowers will thrive in a broad range of conditions, so feel free to experiment with the other side of the list if something intrigues you. All of these flowers attract lovely butterflies or hummingbirds to the garden.

Mid Elevation Perennials
Angelita daisy, bee balm, bleeding heart, butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), cardinal flower, catmint, chocolate flower, columbine, coneflower, coral bells, coreopsis, cranesbill, English lavender, four o'clock, gaillardia, hummingbird mint (Agastache), penstemon, perennial foxglove (Digitalis ambigua), phlox, pincushion flower, purple coneflower, red hot poker, salvia, Shasta daisy, spiked gayfeather, veronica.

Low Elevation Perennials
Angelita daisy, blackfoot daisy, chocolate flower, desert marigold, desert zinnia, gaillardia, globe mallow, guara, hummingbird trumpet (Zauschneria californica), mealy cup sage, Mexican bush sage, Mt. Lemmon marigold, paperflower, penstemon and prairie zinnia.


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