Like many people who savor gardening as a hobby, we fancy the bright colors and upbeat feeling a sunflower brings! So, how many varieties of sunflowers are there?
First, SUNFLOWERS belong to the genus Helianthus, which contains over 70 species. Most varieties are annuals; but, Helianthus incorporates 38 species that are perennial (grow back every year on their own). With so many cultivars out there one can get overwhelmed quickly! We’ve identified several Sunflower favorites to make it easier.
The variety called “Holiday Sunflower” has uneven heights and multiple blooms.
Sunflowers track the sun throughout the day, but when they are fully grown the mature flower-heads face towards the east and no longer move. To grow the best sunflowers they will need full sun!
The variety called Ring of Fire is another dwarf sunflower species that is very uniform and under 3 feet in height.
Dwarf sunflowers are a perfect choice if you want to grow sunflowers in a pot or window container. After choosing the size of the container, add a layer of small rocks to help the soil drain. To grow sunflowers you will need fertile moist soil with heavy mulch.
The variety called Big Smile Sunflower is under 2 feet in height, has multiple blooms and is a Dwarf Sunflower Plant.
The sunflower stem is rough and hairy with a circular head of flowers. The head has hundreds of individual flowers which mature into seeds.
The sunflower species called Autumn Beauty branches out with a variety of yellow, red and orange colors.
In the 16th century, sunflower seeds from the Americas were brought to Europe along with sunflower oil and they became a popular cooking ingredient.
Tohokujhae Sunflowers are bright yellow with multiple blooms. This variety has big double flowers 6-7 inches across. The height of Tohokujhae sunflowers is 3-6 feet.
The leaves of the sunflower can be used as cattle feed and the fiber in the stems can be used in the production of paper.
Some say Sonja Sunflowers are a weaker variety. The height is uneven and ranges from 3-5 feet. This sunflower has a dark center with big yellow petals.
Define drought tolerant. What is a drought resistant plant? Here is the difference between drought tolerant (true desert plant) and drought resistant (originated in semi-arid places).
A flower or plant that has naturally evolved to survive periods of drought with little water and has the ability to tolerate substantial dehydration of their tissues and organs is drought tolerant. Xerophytes are the BEST drought tolerant plants, shrubs, trees, and cacti.
Cacti and many plants survive on little water and make Xeriscape not only essential but pleasing to the eye. Derived from the Greek word “xeros”, meaning “dry” and combined with landscape, xeriscape means gardening with less than average water.
Many xerophyte plants have specialized tissues for storing water, as in the stems of cacti and the leaves of succulents. Others have thin, narrow leaves, or even spines, for minimizing water loss. Xerophyte leaves often have abundant stomata to maximize gas exchange during periods in which water is available, and the stomata are recessed in depressions, which are covered with fine hairs to help trap moisture in the air.
Drought tolerant plants have adapted by making use of either C4 Carbon Fixation or CAM (crassulacean acid metabolism) a carbon fixation pathway that evolved in some plants as an adaptation to arid conditions.
In a plant using full CAM, the stomata, in the leaves, remain shut during the day to reduce the loss of water as vapor, but open at night to collect carbon dioxide (CO2). The CO2 is stored and then used during photosynthesis, which is the process of capturing the suns energy.
CAM is particularly good for arid conditions because CO2 can be absorbed at night, allowing the pores on the leaves to stay closed during the day and thus reducing water loss. A easy way to explain it is drought tolerant plants can slow down metabolism.
High elasticity of the cytoplasm and the capacity to withstand compression of the cells during dehydration are characteristic of drought-tolerant plants. What is cytoplasm? An easy definition of cytoplasm is a gel-like casing, covering – containing all the contents of the cell’s organisms, except the nucleus. Most metabolic (chemical reactions) pathways occur in the cytoplasm.
Not to be confused with drought-tolerant plants, Drought Resistant plants are not true desert plants. Many have originated in semi-arid regions, the area around the Mediterranean, Latin America and sub-Sahara.
Here are pictures of drought resistant plants that are not native desert plants.
Lantana, in the verbena family, is a highly attractive drought resistant flowering plant that originated in tropical regions of Africa and the Americas.
This plant has it all: Drought resistant, it looks great, it smells wonderful, and it’s as tough as nails (as long as it’s not too wet). Lavender is in the mint family and originated in the Old World around the Canary Islands, Africa, India, and Asia.
Not only does yarrow tolerate heat and drought like a champion, but this easy-growing perennial is also a great cut flower. Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, originated in regions of Asia and Europe.
There is a difference between drought resistant and drought tolerant plants. Knowing the difference can save you considerable heartache.
The MANDEVILLA vine is growing well. This Mandevilla plant is native to Central and South America – named after Henry Mandeville (1773-1861), a British diplomat and gardener.
Mandevilla, also known as Brazilian jasmine, Dipladenia, is a flowering tropical plant that originated in the hills above Rio de Janeiro.
Mandevillas develop spectacular flowers in warm climates. They are perfect here in the hot desert Arizona garden. One of our secrets for cultivating this luscious pink variety (they come in white, red and yellow) is the part shade design.
**We purchased the 4 trellises from Home Depot, bent them slightly to fit the arch and then screwed them together.
An important part of Mandevilla care is the light it receives. The Mandevilla vines need some shade. We used 4 large plastic garden trellises by the front door as you can see in the photo. Mandevilla plants love bright indirect or filtered sunlight, but will get burned in full sun especially this Arizona sun.
Mandevillas are a vine and will need some type of support, we used garden ties and tape to help train it along the trellis.
Some say the Mandevilla Vine is not a Perennialplant because it will NOT survive if temperatures reach below 50 degrees. BUT this past winter Southern Arizona reached down to the 30’s and as you can see this beautiful plant is thriving and full of pink flowers. Mandevillas have brought tropical flair to our Arizona front yard and desert garden.
Mandevilla plants are critter proof – squirrels and packrats leave this plant alone!
There are over 100 species of Mandevilla plants. The blooms start out as a lighter color and get darker as they age.
There are over 1,300 species of cacti with many forms and textures. Today I am highlighting one of my favorites called The Old Man Cactus, Cephalocereus senilis. This hairy column cactus gets its name from the white strands that grow long side the yellowish spikes.
With all this white hair The Old Man Cactus is fittingly named. There is a purpose to the hair on this popular cactus. First of all it conceals the sharp thorns and second it gives shade from the Arizona desert sun.
This old man is sitting comfortably in the xeriscape area of our AZ yard. Cacti are the best drought & heat tolerant plants. Caring for this white haired cactus is easy as long as it receives plenty of sun and is not over watered. I placed the Old Man Cactus in soil that is well drained.
If your Old Man Cactus is not growing hair it may need more sun. The sunlight stimulates the hair growth on these desert plants.
Keep an eye out for mealy bugs. If your cactus is infested you will see a white cottony area. There is a species of mealy bug that attacks the roots of cacti. If your cactus is sick and not growing take it out of its container and check the roots. Insecticides work fine to eliminate the mealy bugs and white patches they create.
Another hairy cactus species we have is the Old Man of the Andes, Cleistocactus trollii above. The Old Man of the Andes or Old Man of the Mountain is doing nicely in a pot with direct sunlight.
The above photo is The Old Lady Cactus, Mammillaria haniana, that is gracing the area by our mailbox.
The Old Man Cactus is native to central Mexico and is a columnar species of the family Cactaceae.
It may take 10-18 years for the Old Man Cactus to bloom with white, red, or yellow flowers. This white haired cactus has personality and is a very popular potted plant. If you have your old man cactus indoors place it in a area of good sunlight.
Adding splendid color and shapes to your low maintenance garden – Lets start with white and purple flowering shrubs. TEXAS SAGES, Leucophyllums, are among the most reliable and fool-proof of the low water use plants available in Arizona!
Texas sage bushes have silvery gray leaves and purple or white flowers that bloom from summer through autumn. These sage plants are relatively carefree after they are planted, but good sunlight and proper drainage are essential to the Texas Sages success.
The purple and white flowers look amazing next to a prickley pear cactus. In areas with poor drainage or with high average rainfalls, plant Texas sage brushes in raised beds.
The picture above has some of the best ideas for choosing plants with colors and different shapes that can be used in xeriscape or any low care, heat resistant yard. Prickley Pear cactus are unique in gardens and add an architectural flare.
In the photo background is a Red Oleander, Nerium oleander, bush. Oleanders make a popular divider or hedge, and can even be trained into a tree.
Of course we must mention the ever so popular Purple Texas Sage, also called Texas Ranger Plant. The White flowering species of Texas Sage is called White Cloud and is a heavenly white bush that blooms commonly throughout Arizona and adds dazzling color to any garden.
In the above photo you will see an Ocotillo Cactus standing tall behind the white flowering bush. This White Cloud Texas Sage shrub could be trimmed; therefore creating a contrast between the magnificent Ocotillo cactus and the white blooms.
Texas New Gold Lantana and Purple Texas Sage are considered two of the bestdrought tolerant, easy care, heat resistant, flowering desert plants in Arizona, California, etc… The yellow lantana mound looks dazzling next to a well pruned purple sage shrub.
Pictured above is part of the xeriscape area of our yard. Cacti come in a variety of shapes and colors. Some species of cactus have glorious flowers that bloom in the summer. Grow a flowering desert plant, bush next to a cactus to create a beautiful desert garden. The Bougainvillea shrub looks amazing next to a barrel cactus in the picture below.
… If desertscape makes you think of sparse, ugly gardens and cacti, think again! Desertgardens can be gorgeous and cascading with color; all one needs is a little imagination…
Red Bird of Paradise plant is the best choice for orange, red and yellow flowering bushes. Add a Saguaro cactus next to your desert shrub to create an unique design.
Pictured below is a common Arizona Wildflower called White Stem Paper Flower. During Arizona Monsoon, (rainy season) the wild flowers paint the desert and many desert gardens.
This weeks rain invoked shrubs with purple flowers everywhere. Arizona’s most popular perennial, drought resistant, desert shrub is the Purple Texas Sage or sometimes call Texas Ranger Plant.
Texas designated Texas purple sage (Leucophyllum frutescens) as the official state native shrub in 2005. The Texas Sage desert shrub is sometimes referred to in Phoenix, Arizona as Purple sage.
While driving through the city of Tucson, Arizona I came across a field of purple, red, orange, and yellow blooming bushes. The picture above is a Texas Ranger Plant, purple texas sage, next to a Red Bird of Paradise desert plant. What a perfect combination of two of the best flowering drought tolerant bushes available.
This gray leafed desert shrub adds interest to your garden even when it is not in bloom because of the color of the evergreen leaves. Purple Texas Sage is deer resistant, heat resistant,drought tolerant and a good choice for xeriscape gardens. Watch for purple blooms from May through October. Your Purple Texas Ranger Plant does best with full sun. This Purple flowering bush is a very hardy desert plant with low maintenance and is easy to find.
Those beautiful dazzling purple flowers, pictured above, will come out after rain or when it is humid. You can also encourage flowering by giving them extra water. Let the ground dry out between waterings so you do not cause the roots to rot.
The main challenge for your Purple flowering desert bush is the fact you will want to prune them to keep your Purple Sage plant looking neat. So if you want to trim your purple sage shrub into a hedge just remember – the best time to prune your purple Texas Sage is when it is NOT flowering. It is best NOT to trim it when the purple flowers are in bloom.
Lantana is the best drought resistant, heat resistant, desert flowering perennial. Lets just say Lantana is perfect. With a genus of 150 species and numerous colors, this perennial flowering plant in the verbena family, Verbenaceae, will certainly help create a perfect Arizona, Texas, Georgia, California garden that will attract butterflies! Lantanta is one of the best choices for xeriscape yards.
This desert flowering perennial is native to tropical regions of Africa and here in the Americas. It comes in plants and shrubs commonly called Lantana and shrub verbenas. Some types of Lantana are considered invasive, the trailing plant spreads easily because the leaves are somewhat poisonous to most animals and critters leave Lantana alone.
This is precisely why Lantana is a large part of my Sonoran desert garden. Not only is Lantana resistant to the extreme hot temperatures in Phoenix, Tucson, and Southern Arizona, but also drought tolerant and the small animals leave this verbena shrub alone! Our dogs are not interested in the Lantana Plant, flowers or the Lantana poisonous leaves.
This photo above is a flowering Lantana ocean! Periodically I shop in this strip mall only to find an enormous Lantana, field of Red, Yellow, White, Trailing Purple, Texas New Gold, Confetti, Camara, Texas New Flame and more. Honestly I drive out of my way so I can enjoy this colorful display. This Lantana mound is truly a butterfly magnet.
Lantana Camara, in the verbena family, has sometimes been called red, yellow, or wild sage, even though it is in a completely different family than sage. Camara colonizes new areas when its seeds are transported by birds. Once it reaches an area, L. camara spreads quickly. Camara grows so well, that efforts to eradicate it have completely failed. Lantana Camara is fire resistant, and quickly grows in burnt areas.
Camara has become naturalized in tropical and warm regions worldwide. Livestock foraging on the plant has led to widespread losses in the United States, South Africa, India, Mexico, and Australia.
In the photo above is my lantana camara that I’ve grown in a large pot – container. The planter is a ceramic type which I do not recommend as it gets very hot in 100 – 110 degree weather. Most of my lantanas are growing in pots or containers.
The bright yellow Lantana pictured above is the Texas New Gold I have growing in a pot. The Lantana container sits nicely on the side of the pond and at night the solar lights give an amazing atmosphere! A separate article is coming with my personal verbena plants, shrubs.
TIDBITS: Lantana plants are a perennial flowering plant with hollow stems. Pruning tip for Lantana – careful NOT to over prune your Lantana because water can drip down into the hollow stems and rot the crown.
What is that blooming sage shrub or plant that is overflowing with purple flowers in the AZ desert? Humidity from Monsoon season brings a purple explosion for the Arizona Desert. The Texas Sage, Texas Ranger Plants are in full bloom! Take a look at the gorgeous purple sage pictures.
One of the best drought tolerant, heat resistant desert plants is the Purple TexasSage bush / shrub (Texas Ranger Plant). Texas Sage is mostly evergreen (meaning it keeps its leaves), drought resistant, perennial, cold resistant, hard to kill and fits well in a low maintenance xeriscape garden. These blooming desert plants thrive in the hot, humid monsoon season of Arizona.
Because the showy purple flower display coincides with high humidity, Texas Purple Sage is sometimes nicknamed a barometer plant.
Mostly you will hear this Arizona desert plant referred to as Texas Sage. Actually it is not a true sage. Texas Ranger Shrubs are related to penstemons and snap dragons. This desert bush is native to Mexico and Texas.
The picture above is a variety of desert Sage bushes, called Chihuahuan Sage, Leucophyllum laevigatum. All of our sage bushes are blooming with brilliant purpleflowers and lots of bees. These desert bushes are perfect for bees.
I could even say that the Texas Ranger Shrub is the best plant to attract bees! We have so many bees in our purple shrubs that you can hear the buzzing from across the yard. Texas Ranger plants and all the different varieties of sage would be a great benefit to bee hives.
Our Chihuahuan Sage, more commonly called Texas Purple Sage, is along the back of our yard where it receives full sun. The hotter it gets the more this drought tolerant flowering shrub loves it!
The Chihuahuan variety of sage has an informal, relaxed growth habit. You can see in the pictures that I missed this seasons pruning. The best time to prune your Sage bush is in the spring because the summer desert heat brings a flush of new growth.
Follow a regular watering schedule during the first growing season. Once your Arizona Desert bush establishes a deep root system you can reduce the water. Feed your Texas Sage with a general purpose fertilizer before the new growth in spring.
It is amazing to wake up and see your desert yard explode with purple flowers and the loud symphony of buzzing bees. One of the best parts of Monsoon season is the blooming desert plants with our Chihuahuan Sage, Texas Purple Sage, Texas Ranger Plant, whatever you choose to call it, being at the top of our favorites list.
To grow your sage bush – plant them in full sun with lots of room to grow. If you prune your Purple Sage, do it in the spring. They prefer well-drained soils and will rot if given too much water. There are many different varieties of Texas Ranger Plants (Leucophyllum frutescens), Texas Sage, Sage bushes. Your desert landscaping will look beautiful with these fragrant lavender flowers.
In the photo below I included a picture of our Red Fairy Duster plant. Fairy Duster, Calliandra, is an evergreen, desert shrub that I recommend for people who want plants that are perennial (you need to plant them only once), low maintenance, hardy, drought tolerant, and provides lovely color next to your sage bush.
Once these desert plants bloom, get your camera and take pictures. The sage flowers do not last long especially if an AZ monsoon rain comes.
Why doesn’t my bougainvillea bloom? Bougainvilleas like their roots to be crowded in a pot. If planted in the ground, the Bougainvillea may not bloom as much. If you want more color in your garden, grow your Bougainvillea in containers! Its vivid color is formed in the three bracts that surround the little white flower.
Bougainvillea does well growing on a trellis. The 2 vines in the picture are a Bougainvillea vine in a pot next to the Mandevilla Vine growing in another container. I trained both vines to continue growing up the trellis.
The pictures of these plants growing on our front porch gives you and idea of how happy the Mandevilla Plant is in the large container and how well the Bougainvillea Bush does in a pot.
To grow your flowering Bougainvillea shrub/vine choose a very sunny place. Be sure your pots have good holes in the bottom, so you will have good drainage. Fertilize with Hibiscus food as it has more potash than many other fertilizers. Be sure to measure exactly the amount of food according to the size of your pot. Bougainvillea comes from a hot humid climate, and they love the heat!
Be sure the dirt in the pot feels dry before you water your bougainvillea. Water large pots until water runs out the drainage holes in the bottom. There are exceptions to watering and caring for your Bougainvillea. Here in the southern Arizona desert we have had some temperatures above 110 degrees F. When I saw any of our plants wilting, including the Bougainvillea plant and Mandevilla vine I watered them. Being very careful not to get water on the leaves so they do not get burned from the Sun!
The Bougainvillea is climbing up the bamboo sticks to the trellis and combining with the Mandevilla vine.
If you want your Bougainvillea to grow up and not out you must trim/prune the stems that grow outwards. Keep them short around the bottom.
I found that the plants we cut back are growing straight up the bamboo garden stakes, look at the picture of our bougainvillea. The Bougainvilleas I do not prune, have many leaves but fewer blooms, color.
During this winter, both the Mandevilla bush/vine and the drought tolerant shrub, Bougainvillea, did ok. The winter temperatures dropped to the mid 30’s. I removed all the dead leaves.
Bougainvillea is drought resistant, I do not call it drought tolerant because it is not a desert native plant. Bougainvillea are native to South America. This flowering bush or is heat resistant to the extreme. Probably the best heat resistant desert plant is the Bougainvillea. Caring for and growing a Bougainvillea takes more effort but it is worth it. Note how short I prune the bottom branches of the Bougainvillea in the front pot.
Growing a Mandevilla – traditionally it is called a Dipladenia, but they are different in how they grow and look. For basic purposes they are vines with the Dipladenia growing better as a shrub or bush and being planted in a container or does well as a hanging plant. The Mandevilla is a climbing vine and does well twining and growing on a trellis.
Our Mandevilla Vine prefers part shade. It receives bright light but is also partially protected from rain and the Arizona Monsoon season. It is NOT drought tolerant or drought resistant. But the Mandevilla plant is HEAT RESISTANT. Our Mandevilla is doing incredible and growing well in the pot. Please see the attached photos.
It has bloomed continually most of the year. As far as pruning the Mandevilla Plant. I remove the Mandevilla yellow leaves, and trim a few branches that may have died but that is about it. This Mandevilla vine, bush, plant takes very little pruning. Although it is NOT drought tolerant, it doesn’t seem to have any problems with the desert heat as long as I water it every day. If your Mandevilla vine/bush can be planted in part shade… I would recommend this tropical flowering bush for any garden, from planting in Florida to growing in Texas, Arizona and California.
In this picture, we took 4 large trellises bending the top 2 to form the arch. As the Mandevilla Plant grew I used garden tape and ties to gently connect it to the trellis. The Mandevilla vines grow back and forth along the top of the trellis giving our desert yard a tropical, lush look. Our trellises were purchased from Home Depot. http://www.homedepot.com/
Mandevilla is a genus of plants belonging to the Dogbane (attributed to its toxicity) family. Native to South America. It has about 100 species, mostly tropical and subtropical flowering vines (any plant with a growth habit of climbing, stems or runners).
The Mandevilla flowers come in a variety of colors, including white, pink, yellow, and red. The Hummingbirds and butterflies visit our Mandevilla often. It is a pollen yielding plant that is fast growing and high flowering. In conclusion, Mandevilla is easy to care for as long as it gets watered regularly, has a trellis to climb on, is in part shade and protected from winds and rain.
Bougainvilleas are tropical plants that thrive in areas outdoors with low rainfall and intense heat, someone say desert! They need lots of sun and are happy with Arizona temperatures reaching over 100 degrees. They have thin roots that are somewhat delicate and I find my Bougainvilleas take more of my attention in the garden.
My conclusion and my gardening experience with Bougainvilleas is that they are happier in large pots.
In this picture the stem looks a little bare because I recently removed the dead leaves and these are the new blooms arriving. The Bougainvillea loves this planter and will fill out in no time! At the top of the trellis is our Mandevilla.
The amount of watering needed for your bougainvillea is directly related to your area and the local weather. There are some basics – Bougainvillea is a drought resistant plant, and requires very little water once established. Let the soil dry between waterings; if your Bougainvillea’s roots stay continuously wet it will promote a weak and shallow root system. Wilting is the best indicator that watering is needed. Don’t let it dry out completely as this will cause bracts and foliage to drop.
For Bougainvilleas planted in the ground: At the time of watering, do it thoroughly – making sure that every inch of root gets watered! I use long bamboo garden stakes to measure how far down the watering has reached and I soak until it reaches 8 inches. This will create a stronger root system for your bougainvillea.
In Florida, landscape professionals commonly perform a hard cut at the first sign of summer, and keep on a regular trimming schedule all summer long to maintain size. Pinching is the method of removing the soft tips of young plant stems to encourage fuller growth. Bougainvillea will send out several new stems just below the pinched tip. I am going to prune/pinch all 6 of our Bougainvilleas this week. My Arizona Garden keeps me busy, and I love it!
The more regularly you pinch, the more your bougainvillea will branch and bloom. The best time to prune or pinch is after the flush of color or flowering cycle is completed. Flowering cycles are typically four to six weeks. Lets get pinching!
Like most plants, the best time for pruning a yucca is right before it goes into its growth period. This will be in early spring. While early spring is the ideal time, a yucca can be pruned anytime. Just make sure the yucca plant gets plenty of light while it is recovering. Like all things about yucca plants, care and pruning is very easy. It may seem drastic, but I assure you that your yucca plant considers this to be a very normal thing.
Wear gloves as you trim and shape your Yucca, otherwise you will get many cuts on your hands. The pruning will be much easier if you have extra sharp garden shears.
The yucca plant in the above picture was so large we could not walk to the front door. Pruning your Yucca is a bit time consuming but is well worth it. As I look above at our Yucca I think it needs a little more trimmed off the top!