Chocolate flower (Berlanderia lyrata) is a Southwest native packed with flowering power and a bonus—the chocolate aroma of the flowers. Be sure to plant it where you can get a whiff of the scent while walking down a path or sitting on your deck or patio. You can grow this easy-care native.
Native to Dry Areas
No wonder chocolate flower is easy to grow in the Southwest; it is native to dry plains and hills of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Texas and Kansas. It grows best in elevations of 4,000 to 7,000 feet, so Berlanderia thrives in high deserts and intermountain areas, but you certainly can try it in a hotter climate where it gets afternoon shade or as an annual in a container during spring or fall.
Because it’s native, and probably because it looks and smells so great, chocolate flower attracts butterflies, bees and birds. And deer leave it alone! Need more reasons to grow Berlanderia? It reseeds naturally, but not aggressively, so one plant can turn into a few or more, depending on lots of conditions and where you plant the first one. Another great feature of this native is that it will reseed more naturally if planted near rocks or gravel mulch. The rocks “trap” the seeds when they blow in the wind.
Caring for Chocolate Flower
You can plant chocolate flower in nearly any type of soil, but it probably will do best if the soil drains well. In cooler Southwest zones, be sure to place it where it will receive plenty of sun – up to all day – and where its mature height (about a foot to 15 inches tall, and up to two feet wide) will work without overcrowding. Give it a little more water the first year, and then chocolate flower should grow and bloom with mostly rain only. Each spring, trim off dead flower stalks and some of the foliage if necessary to keep the plant base about three inches high.
Chocolate flower is a perennial in zones 4 through 11, although ask for the variety best for your area. For example, High Country Gardens has introduced a new Mora County mix of B. lyrata that is particularly cold hardy for Southwest mountain areas. Deadheading, or removing spent blooms, keeps Berlanderia blooming.
Enjoy Growing Chocolate Flower
Chocolate flower is in the daisy family, a relative of the sunflower and others, and some people call it Chocolate Daisy. It makes a nice cutting flower as part of an arrangement, but just know that its stalks can get a little lanky and thin. Still, cut enough to enjoy that soft chocolate scent inside! The foliage and flower buds also have a muted silvery-green quality – they look like a sage green paper flower. Its growth habit is bright and colorful but just wild enough to fit in a natural looking, xeric landscape.
Leave some of the drying flower heads on your Berlanderia at the end of the season if you want it to reseed in your garden (and for birds). Then watch in spring. If conditions are right, you might see a few new crowns of chocolate flower with the distinctive leaf pattern.
It’s a good thing chocolate flower can spread, because you can’t move it. The plant has a tap root (which helps its drought tolerance) that doesn’t survive division or transplanting. Otherwise, chocolate flower is a perfect, sunny perennial for a xeric garden.
You can grow chocolate flower!