Parry penstemon (Penstemon parryi) Figwort Family
A real show stopper when planted in masses in the garden, spring-blooming Parry penstemon sports light to dark pink flowers on 3-4 foot flower stalks. Not only is it attractive in bloom, it is also easy to care for. An added feature is the tubular shape of the flowers which are perfect for attracting hummingbirds. Parry penstemon is available from seed and in containers.
We can appreciate and enjoy this plant in our gardens, but where does it grow naturally? Parry penstemon grows along washes, on desert slopes, and in canyons in southern Arizona and in Sonora, Mexico, generally at elevations from 1500-5000 feet. You occasionally see it in masses in the wild, but it is more common to see one or two plants here and there.
Globemallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) Mallow Family
Another wildflower that’s a winner for the garden is globemallow. This perennial is a pretty reliable bloomer even in years with scant rain. Apricot the most common flower color, although white, pink, lavender and rose blooms are sometimes seen. Supplemental water in the garden promotes growth and more flowers. Container plants are readily available in the nursery trade.
In the wild, globemallow grows on dry, rocky slopes and washes, and along roadsides generally below 3,500 feet elevation. The plant has a wide range extending from southeastern Utah and southern Nevada through Arizona and southeastern California to Baja and Sonora.
Verbena (Verbena gooddingii) Verbena Family
Want to attract butterflies to your garden? Goodding’s verbena is an excellent choice. A variety of species of butterflies are attracted to the showy lavender to pink blooms. Goodding’s verbena blooms primarily in the spring, but will flower at other times in response to moisture. Available from seed and containers, this perennial is another easy-care plant for the garden.
Where can you see it in nature? Throughout the state of Arizona, mostly below 5,000 feet on dry slopes and mesas. Goodding’s verbena may also be found in southern Texas, Utah, Nevada, California, and northwestern Mexico.
Mexican Gold Poppy (Eschscholzia mexicana) Poppy Family
Who doesn’t love bright gold poppies? These annuals make a wonderful splash of color in the spring garden. Generally available from seed, the best time to plant is the fall.
Mexican gold poppies grow throughout much of Arizona, generally on plains and mesas 4,500 feet or lower. They are also found in western Texas to southern Utah, southeastern California and northern Sonora. In years with good fall and winter rains, Mexican gold poppies may produce carpets of gold in the spring—a dazzling sight for visitors and residents alike.
Desert marigold (Baileya multiradiata) Daisy Family
For showy bright yellow flowers try planting desert marigold in your garden. In an irrigated garden situation, desert marigold may bloom nearly year round. Grows best in sandy soils. Available from seeds and containers although plants in containers have a tendency to rot out easily.
Common throughout arid areas of the Southwest, desert marigold grows from western Texas to southern Utah and Nevada, southeastern California, and northern Mexico.
Summer Poppy (Kallstroemia grandiflora) Caltrop Family
These lovely orange flowers with crimson centers are common on open plains of the southwest and may sometimes be seen in masses in southern Arizona during the summer rainy season. Superficially they resemble Mexican gold poppies, but have five petals instead of four, have sprawling, hairy stems rather than delicate ferny ones, and appear in summer rather than spring.
You may need to shop carefully to find summer poppies. Choose nurseries with some depth of selection in wildflower seeds. Once you find them, don’t expect them to germinate at your command. Sow these with the expectation of summer rainfall, choosing places around your home where rainwater collects. If only one germinates, you’ll be rewarded with many seeds!
Desert Senna (Senna covesii) Legume Family
Desert senna is fairly woody—it seems like a cross between a wildflower and a tiny shrub. The butter yellow cup-shaped flowers are plentiful during the humid weeks of the summer monsoon. Sleepy Orange and Cloudless Sulphur butterflies use it as a larval foodplant.
Desert senna is native to lower elevations across the Southwest. It’s perfectly happy in desert soils—caliche, too. A weekly watering is all that’s needed to keep senna healthy and summer rains may be enough in a good season. When blooming is over, stems can be cut back and may re-sprout. If not, plenty of seeds will be produced.
Bahia (Bahia absinthifolia) Daisy Family
Here’s another spring- and summer-blooming wildflower that enjoys abundance on the caliche soils around Tucson. This wildflower enjoys elevations starting around Tucson and thriving particularly at around 3000’. Tough is the word! Bright yellow daisy flowers bloom on low stems of finely cut gray leaves. Lower and neater than desert marigold.
If you can’t find seeds of bahia, check around where you live to see if you don’t have it already! We put a few one-gallons in the TBG Cactus Garden several years ago and it has seeded around gently over the years, settling in where rain or irrigation water collects, and that is by no means often.