June is officially “National Perennial Garden Month,” and the third week of June (18-24, 2018) is “National Pollinator Week,” so I decided to combine both topics and introduce you to some of the many lovely low-water Southwest native perennials for Southwest native pollinators.
There are five great reasons why perennials have a place in every landscape. First, perennials are shorter than trees and shrubs, thus they add a lower layer of interest to your landscape. Next, most perennials bloom with colorful flowers, and often they bloom for months, thus they add long-term color to the landscape. Third, perennials placed under trees and shrubs help shade the soil and reduce evaporation because their shallow roots only use water from the top foot or so of the soil, encouraging tree and shrub roots to grow deeply for water, as they should to best anchor big heavy plants better. Fourth, perennials are non-woody, thus they require little – if any – pruning. Fifth, most perennials provide long-lasting cut flowers for enjoyment indoors.
Which perennials should you plant? It depends on which colors you enjoy and which pollinators you wish to attract. Plant what you like; there are so many low-water natives to choose from! But plan for sweeps of color, not little exclamation points here and there. It makes it easier for pollinators with their tiny bird or butterfly brains to find the plants.
I have compiled a list of 30 low-water low-fuss perennials you can plant now through July for extra interest in your landscape, and if you were at one of my lectures we would go through them all – or stay tuned to this site for a future webinar! Until then, I’ve picked a handful of color options to get you started.
Golden ray flowers surround the chocolate colored center of the fragrant chocolate flower (Berlandiera lyrata), a plant that does best with afternoon shade. Its cousin, the low-growing and golden Angelita daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis), likes well-drained soils and full sun.
With bluish-pink flowers, the shining Arizona blue curls (Trichostema arizonicum), is best in part shade in the low desert but can take full sun in cooler regions.
Hummingbirds flock to the red chuperosa (Justicia californica), but if you have hard freezes you should select the Texas betony (Stachys coccinea) instead.
Short and sweet is the charming white-flowered desert zinnia (Zinnia acerosa). It will flower for nine months with extra water, or survive at the unwatered base of a stately saguaro.
The gorgeous globe mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua), featuring orange, pink or white flowers, was discussed in a post earlier this year; read it here.
For lemony yellow, the Saltillo primrose (Oenothera stubbei) offers good color with bright green foliage, as does its cousin the sundrops (Calyophus hartweggi).
Purple is popular with butterflies, and is a color commonly found in the Verbena family, including threadleaf verbena (Verbena tenuisecta), a winter flowering groundcover.
I hope I have given you a few ideas for some pleasing perennials to plant for pollinators to help celebrate Pollinator Week and Perennial Plant month.
If you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my free lectures. Check our events page for locations and times. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including “Month-by-Month Guide to Gardening in Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada” (Cool Springs Press, $26).
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