Today: Feb 25 , 2020

Desert Plants for Mountain Landscapes

Beautiful plants that thrive in our low-water environment.

As we head into June your plants appreciate a little more water, especially those that are new to the yard this spring. The arid climate mixed with afternoon winds cause plants to use more moisture than other months. Until our summer rains arrive in July plants would appreciate an extra irrigation cycle. This is a good time to re-familiarize yourself with the irrigation clock and run each station an extra cycle per week. As the monsoon season approaches this practice can be stopped.

New trees and shrubs in the yard like drip irrigation, but appreciate a supplemental hand watering once per week as well. Try to saturate the soil surrounding the new root ball. Again, this is a good practice until the extra humidity our summer monsoon brings in July.

Finally, the gardeners are up to their mountain summer homes. It has been so nice in the deserts they stayed an extras few weeks to enjoy spring at the lower elevations. This is a touchy subject because so many of the local summer dwellers expect to keep their cactus based landscape plants as the dominant theme. This is difficult at the higher elevations of Arizona, but there are some even better alternatives that thrive. Here are some fun mountain plants to expand your mountain palette.

It's fun to watch customers react to the fragrance of Spanish broom. This plant is in bloom now and fills the landscape with a fragrance so sweet it is enjoyed even more than the scent of lilacs. Clumps of quill like erect green stems form this interesting, practically leafless shrub. The showy pea-shaped flowers remain solar yellow long into summer. Spanish broom is an excellent choice for dry location, hillsides and in full sun where an interesting specimen is needed.

Used frequently in low water landscapes, this bloomer does well on a drip system. Russian sage, salvia, barberry, ground cover juniper and yuccas are good companion plants with Spanish broom. Each is unique in its foliage and texture, and their varying bloom cycles bring season long color to the landscape.

Prescott purple locust offers flowers, shade and low care all in one tree! Famously blooms in May through the first of June this stunning tree infuses cooling shade into your landscape, topped with fragrant purple flowers that cluster together like wisteria blossoms. It's like have a purple wisteria tree instead of a vine. Wonderful when snipped off and used as indoor bouquets! Loves sub-zero winters and blistering hot summers. It's the perfect mountain plant for profuse shade on a back patio, west facing courtyard and walls and still showing summer colors. Fast growing so you can buy the smaller size and wait for it to grow, but you will find instant shade sizes locally as well . . . have the larger sizes planted for you.

Manzanita is the classiest of the low water use natives. The dark glossy leaves contrast against the bright red stems with dainty white flowers make for year round interest. The only way to kill this bush is to over water it, or place it in a clay soil that does not drain fast enough.

Hummingbirds dream at night of the sweet nectar from the rich red flowers that form on Autumn Sage. Every landscape should have at least one of these mountain beauties. Flowers bloom from May through November; amazing for such a tough little plant that grows only knee high. The red from this salvia is perfect when contrasted with the violet flowers of the Russian sage with its gray leaves and upright stems.

Apache plume and the Brake Light Yucca are two companion plants that work and look well together. Apache plumes have tiny white flowers on the branches all season with an interest tassel that also ordains this true native. This drought hardy plant has class especially when the white flowers are planted against the deep red flowers from a yucca as it sends up its stalk. Flowers hover at the three foot level and dance with the coming of every monsoon storm to come. Blooms through autumn until the flower stalks fade and you are left with the interesting evergreen leaves protruding to the sky for all to see. Only low water, low care mountain gardeners could produce such an interesting contrast in plants.

Ask for my Yavapai Friendly plant list for more mountain ideas. Most varieties can be touched, viewed and smelled in my new Native and Drought Hardy displays along with all the hardy cactus right for the higher altitudes of Arizona.

Until next week, I'll see you in the Garden Center.



Ken Lain, the Mountain Gardener

Ken Lain is attracted to sunshine, beauty, happiness, success and health through gardening, and wishes to point the way to others. Throughout the week Ken can be found at Watters Garden Center located at 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd, Prescott, or contacted through his web site at