Good flowers for Tucson??

cactus_dude(Tucson)April 9, 2007

Hi all-

Can anyone suggest good flowering plants for Tucson? We just moved here and I would like to plant something that will produce beautiful flowers for my wife. She's tolerated my cactus obsession for a long time now, and I thought it would be great to have some plants that are a little more to her liking!

I was thinking cosmos might work, but I just don't know much about flowers. I would prefer something that is xeric/native to the Sonoran Desert. Any and all suggestions are much appreciated. Thanks!


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saguaro(USDA 9 AZ)

Penstemons, and salvia are native. Cosmos do well.A good and beautiful flowering shrub that is very xeric and flowers all summer is the native red bird of paradise not to be confused with the Hawaiian Bird of Paradise. You should check Tucson Botanical Gardens, 2150 N. Alvernon Way, or Dessert Survivors,1020 W. Starr Pass, and Tohono Chul Park at 7366 Paseo Del Norte for lots of other suggestions and to see how these plants look. There are admission fees for the first and third of these places.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2007 at 12:11AM
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Salvias are all over my yard. They are the workshorses of flowering plants. I love the smell of the leaves when I gently rub them. Roses do well. Penstemons are lovely now. The little angelita daisy grows out with the cactus, and reseeds like a wildflower would. In the winter pansies thrive.The staff at Rillito Nursery across from NW Hospital is very helpful. You tell them your conditions and what you are looking for, and they will recommend several options. Actually, this time of year, most flowers will grow as long as they have water. Have fun with your gardening.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2007 at 10:58AM
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Thanks for the suggestions saguaro and hoku1. It will be a lot of fun to experiment with some of those plants.


    Bookmark   April 10, 2007 at 2:57PM
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adp_abq(7b NM)

Hey Cactus Dude:

How are liking Tucson?

    Bookmark   April 13, 2007 at 8:22AM
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Hi CD,

I'm glad to be able to mention a couple of the plants flowering in our yard, especially since you helped me so much with my cactus when they were frozen. They are doing really well now, by the way.

I've just posted a few photos of a variety of Salvia - I'm not sure if they are "Salvia - Mystic Blue Spires" or "Salvia - Indigo Spires", but I'm leaning toward the later name, though the memory is rusty. They are a very vibrant violet-blue color. They've been doing really well here since right before the freeze.

There's also a little somewhat junky photo of a violet-blue Verbena. I don't know what it is called, but it's been doing really well, even though they're still in the nursery pot. I'd thought about putting them in planters, but am going to try them as ground covers.

What type of colors does your wife like? We have some "Red Flax" (tall spikey leaves) going in behind the salvia which shows off the violet-blue amazingly well. These violet-blue verbena and salvia go great with bright oranges and yellows, as well as other "hot" colors - pastels wouldn't look so great with them unless there was an even mix of hot and pastels.

A book I *highly* recommend for anyone learning about what different plants to grow in this environment - "Arizona Gardener's Guide" by Mary Irish. (It's out on our table right now because I've been thumbing through it, yet again.) It gives info on water, sun, native, smell, etc., and give photos of everything.

Here's some of what it has info on:
Annuals, Perennials, Bulbs, Ground Covers, Roses, Vines, Grasses - The book mentions Buffalo and Bermuda grasses, but both are considered incredible "Invaders" and they are killing native plants out in the desert. Fountain Grass, Buffelgrass and Natalgrass are also on that list - So if your wife is considering any ornamental grasses, check out these sites first --

Invasive grass called threat to desert's plants, animals

Grow Native! Don't Plant a Pest

Here's an amazing place that you can actually go visit in Tucson.

Here's a little blurb from their site.
NS/S was founded in 1983 as a result of requests from Native Americans on the Tohono O'odham reservation near Tucson who wished to grow traditional crops but could not locate seeds. Since then, we have become a major regional seed bank and a leader in the heirloom seed movement. Our seed bank is a unique resource for both traditional and modern agriculture. It includes 1800 collections, many of them rare or endangered; more than 90% of these crop varieties are not being systematically preserved elsewhere. Beside the expected drought tolerance of desert plants, many of these crops are resistant to rusts, insects, chemicals, and other stresses. They provide an irreplaceable "genetic library" to draw upon to ensure sustainable, environmentally safe agriculture in the future.

Look under "Seed Listings". They have seeds for beautiful varieties of sunflowers, wildflowers, native grasses and tons of butterfly-attracting flowers. You might want to look at that last list on their site for a good variety of flowers -

Something else you might want to consider - Rainwater harvesting! Wish we had thought of it when we first bought our home. You might be amazed (and not in a good way) when your water bill arrives during the summer months. Here's a list (PDF) of some typical plants in Tucson and what their water requirements are -

A lot of info, but maybe some of it will be helpful! :D

    Bookmark   April 23, 2007 at 6:36PM
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Thanks for the last two posts. Sorry I haven't responded, but I've been on a whirlwind tour of southern California (San Diego, Vista, Temecula, Coachella Valley, Joshua Tree Nat'l Monument, Amboy). Needless to say, it's been a tremendous amount of driving, but what an amazing journey. San Diego was just gorgeous, and I was blown away by all the fantastic plants that can be grown there. And the Coachella Valley was equally beautiful with all the old (and new) date palm plantations. And of course, being the desert rat that I am, I got my fill of fantastic desert scenery, but I digress.

Adp abq- We absolutely LOVE living in Tucson. Thanks for asking. We're actually in the good ol' Duke City for a couple of days while my wife is at a retreat in Sante Fe. How are you doing?

Amalgamation- thank you for the great info. My wife is definitely more partial to blue and purple flowers, so the salvia and verbena photos you posted are just what I'm looking for. And I'm definitely interested in native plants, and the non-natives I'm into are mostly cacti and palms, which, to my knowledge, are not invasive. And thanks for the info on Native Seeds. We always made a point of going to there store on Fourth Ave. when we used to visit Tucson. And lastly, that link for water requirements for Tucson plants is awesome! I just printed it. Thanks again. And I'm happy to hear your cacti are recovering.


    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 5:10PM
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CD -

I'm also partial to violets - purples and can post pics of a few Delphiniums we've had in for a month or so now... They are from white to light blue to dark violet. They're in partial sun and are literally leaning more toward the bright-full sun area. I've been watering them a bit every other day and they seem to be doing alright, though they might not be "established" yet and who knows how they'll be doing come June. Besides the salvia, they are the only flowers and "non-natives" so I'm fudging a bit with the water...

If I come across any other flowers that do well in our yard I'll post about them. When first moving here I was super-intimidated by the weather and it took until last year to even consider anything outside of cactus and succulents, but seeing what others were growing here really helped. Maybe your wife is a more adventurous gardener, but I've always found that limp and dying plants can really get a person down.

Wasn't sure about giving the URL to the water listing because it might be seen as a bit, "Don't use a mass of water!!!" which my neighbors thought, although they did give up their lawn this year :) So, very glad you think it's awesome and even printed it out!

Take care :)

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 8:14PM
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I just moved here from Anchorage Alaska. I am wanting to know the names of some annuals for the HOT summer months that will grow in direct sun... I would appreciate any ideas and some names. I undestand Vinca is very good, and I have some of that. Want some other ideas. Thank u very much

    Bookmark   May 26, 2011 at 10:13AM
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I think the Tacoma stans plants are beautiful. We recently planted orange jubilee and gold star and they're doing great. Also a fan of salvia. There are many colors and types! We have butterfly mist, pink rain lilies, coral bells, Mexican petunias and golden columbine all thriving. Snapdragon vine is an awesome crawler and does great griping up on ocotillos to give them some green year round. I am a big fan of Cool Plants for Hot Gardens by Greg Starr, and Scott Calhouns's books. I recommend gping to Tohono Chul Park. You can go on a tour and can ask the docents all kinds of questions. Many are master gardeners too. The Pima Cooperative Extension has great resources as well. I love gardening here. And, a shout out to Vista! That's my home town:) I hope you enjoyed it!

    Bookmark   June 21, 2011 at 10:30AM
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