Southwestern Deserts

April, 2013
Regional Report

Plant for Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds favor narrow or trumpet shaped flowers that fit their long bills, in shades of red, pink, yellow, and orange. Excellent flowering choices include trees such as desert willow; shrubs such as chuparosa, Baja red fairy duster, and orange bells; succulents such as aloe, and red yucca (Hesperaloe); and perennials/wildflowers such as agastache, penstemon, and hummingbird trumpet (Zauschneria californica).

Plant for Butterflies

Transplant nectar plants for adult butterflies. Good choices offer flowers with flat landing pads, such as aster, calendula, gaillardia, lantana, and verbena. Also offer host or larval food plants. Adults lay eggs on host plants so that when the caterpillars (larvae) hatch, they can start eating. Although adults will visit many types of flowers for nectar, most butterfly species have one or just a few host plants that suit their caterpillars. Host plants include: milkweeds (Asclepias sp.) for monarch butterflies; passion vine (Passiflora sp.) for gulf fritillary; carrot family plants (dill, fennel, parsley) for black swallowtail; and citrus trees for giant swallowtail.

Plant Natives for Quail

Gambel's quail forage for seeds from native desert plants, such as the aptly named quailbush (Atriplex lentiformis), four-wing saltbush (Atriplex canescens), catclaw shrub, and hopbush. The first three would work well in a native planting or the outer arid zone of your property. Hopbush is a great screening shrub and substitute for oleander. Ironwood and velvet mesquite are good tree choices for quail. Also add brittlebush, fairy duster, globe mallow, lupine, and tufted evening primrose. You will enjoy their flowers and after they go to seed, the quail will feast.

Create Lizard Habitat

Lizards are helpful creatures in the garden and incredibly interesting to watch. Not only is it fun to see the males perform pushups to impress the females (as we humans suppose), the lizards will also dine on insects. Stop using pesticides and lizards (and birds) will control pests for you. If your landscape has been regularly sprayed for years, it may take a year or so for nature to get back in balance, but it will happen. Provide lizard shelters with out-of-the-way rock piles or build a rock garden with lots of nooks and crannies. Broken pots can be embedded upside down in the soil to create a refuge. Add a few large flat boulders for basking in the sun.

Add a Water Feature

Along with food, shelter, and nesting sites, water is the fourth essential component of a wildlife habitat. Running water in a pond, stream, or fountain stays fresh longer than still water and helps keep mosquitoes from breeding. Clean birdbaths frequently to reduce the threat of disease. Scrub with a 10 percent bleach solution and air dry in the sun before refilling.

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