You Can Grow That: Chuparosa

The red blooms of Chuparosa

People often react with surprise when they learn there are many colorful desert natives. Chuparosa (Justicia californica) is native to the Sonoran Desert and provides a welcome splash of color to desert landscapes and is easy to grow.

One of the benefits of using native plants in challenging climates is that they thrive with little fuss and is a great way to have an attractive landscape that is low-maintenance.

So, let’s talk about why you should add this desert beauty to your garden…

Chuparosa (Justicia californica) in spring


First of all, this desert beauty is a hummingbird magnet. These tiny birds will flock to the tubular red flowers, which are just the right size for their long beaks. Chuparosa blooms in mid-winter into spring with a heavy flush of flowers, making it a great choice for winter residents. Occasionally, blooms will appear in the summer and early fall.

The foliage consists of heart-shaped medium-green leaves arranged along green stems. In times of drought or cold, the stems may be leafless, which is a normal occurrence.

Chuparosa in a natural desert landscape

Size, Hardiness, and Maintenance

Chuparosa grows to approximately 5 feet tall and wide and is hardy to 20 degrees F. It thrives in USDA zone 9, making it suitable for cities with similar climates such as Palm Springs, Phoenix, and Tucson.

Freezing temperatures can cause the foliage to drop result but regrowth is quick in spring for plants that receive supplemental irrigation. When it becomes overly large or there is a build-up of old woody growth, prune back in late spring, once most of the flowers have faded. Allow enough room to grow to its natural size and pruning won’t be needed every year. Resist the temptation to prune Chuparosa into a formal shape as it has a lovely natural growth habit.

Spring blooms

Planting Notes and How to Use It

Plant in well-drained soil – if your soil is heavy clay, amend it with compost to help improve drainage. Select a location in full sun, which will promote maximum flowering. This Sonoran native can grow in filtered sunlight but flowering will be reduced. Chuparosa does require supplemental irrigation to look its best.

Due to its attractive natural shape, Chuparosa looks great when used in areas with a natural theme. Intersperse them through the outer areas of the landscape or near your patio where you can enjoy seeing hummingbirds feeding from its flowers. Great plant pairings include Murphy Agave (Agave murpheyi), Baja Ruellia (Ruellia peninsularis), Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum), Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa), and Desert Milkweed (Asclepias subulata).

Yellow Chuparosa
Yellow Chuparosa

While red is the common color of Chuparosa, it also comes in a yellow-flowering variety, which shares the same characteristics and growing conditions.

So, if you are a desert-dweller looking for color, low-maintenance, and want to attract hummingbirds, Chuparosa may be just right for you!

Noelle-Johnson-AZ-Plant-LadyNoelle Johnson is a horticulturist, landscape consultant, and certified arborist. Known as ‘AZ Plant Lady’, she’s the author of the popular garden blog, Ramblings From a Desert Garden . Originally from California, Noelle makes her home in the Phoenix area where she helps clients create attractive landscapes that thrive in arid climates. She teaches a number of online classes, including her popular Desert Gardening 101 course. A noted speaker, Noelle teaches at the Desert Botanical Garden and appears on local television programs focusing on a variety of gardening subjects. As a garden writer, she has contributed to Birds & Blooms, Houzz, and Water Use It Wisely. 

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