Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

If you can’t stand heat, admire plants that do

Planting your future

It’s time for spring to be leaving us. As we settle into the monotony of the summer weather report – hot and sunny – our plants settle into their summer routine as well. In the nursery industry, the plants (and the people) not really desert adaptable, quietly retreat and admit that they don’t love the heat as much as they thought they did.

But the plants that love it, really love it! We could never have walls covered in clouds of bougainvillea blossoms without heat. Our Red Birds and Mexican Birds (Caesalpinia spp.) would never crown their leafy bodies with spires of brilliant color. Cactus would never burst out in ring upon ring of buds.

So now is the time for plants that not only can handle the heat, but truly thrive and bloom.

With so many choices, how do we pick the right plants for our landscape? The amount of sun is probably the biggest factor. How big or what form the plant takes is certainly to be considered. But once you have those distinctions set aside, what really helps us make our choices?

I truly believe it is color.

For those who crave cool colors, there are deep purple bougainvilleas and Texas Rangers with flowers from lavender to lilac. They pair fantastically with fuchsia Salvia greggii and the tall velvet purple spires of Salvia leucantha. The bright white of hundreds of Cordia parviflora flowers repeated in an edging of Evening Primrose (Oenothera caespitosa) makes a charming palette for those who covet cool color.

For the warm shade lovers the desert plants can make an awesome sunset all day long. Tall and graceful, dangling hot orange bells from every tip, Tecoma Orange Jubilee provides a summerlong background that doesn’t stop. Tucson’s favorite, Red Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherimma) is a sunset in itself, glowing gold, orange and fiery scarlet at the tips. A border of Little John Bottlebrush (Callistemon) can add the final sweep of deep red to complete the picture.

Plant what makes you joyous and every time you drive up says “welcome home.”

Cathy Bishop, co-owner of Mesquite Valley Growers Nursery, has more than 30 years of gardening experience. E-mail her at weekendplus@tucsoncitizen.com.

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