Horticulture in the Desert

a place to share and learn about plants in the Sonoran Desert

Dr Earth – Organic Fertilizers and pest control.

Posted by VT Jenny on March 3, 2010

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Leucophyllums, why do we never see your blooms…..

Posted by VT Jenny on October 6, 2009

Here are several examples of “pruning” of the leucophyllum or Sage bush in Phoenix. If you pay attention as you drive around it is amazing how many different shapes and sizes these things are formed into. It’s like a completely abstract acid trip version of those clipped hedges you see in England or at Disneyland.  The sad thing is that Sage bush has an amazing profusion of wonderful flowers that many people don’t ever see due to the blooms constantly being sheared off.

My 3 suggestions for growing and enjoying all these wonderful plants have to offer:

1. Choose the right variety for the space available. If you plant a Leucophyllum that wants to grow to be 8′ tall and 8′ wide but your space only allows a 3′ shrub you will be in a loosing a battle of wills. Choose one of the varieties that stays smaller such as: the ‘Rio Bravo’ Sage or Chihuahuan Sage.

2. Water Less. These are drought tolerant plants treat them that way. While, they can tolerate more water, even look fantastic and grow like crazy, but then you have to prune them more often. Think about it, more water = more growth which means you are spending more money on water and then spending more time pruning and more money hauling away the debris.

3. Selectively Prune instead of shearing. This means taking you hand clippers and cutting shoots back to a lateral bud. This will take more time per pruning session but it will reduce the sessions necessary to keep a good looking shrub. Overtime shearing will create a dense outer shell on the plant and requires weekly or bi-weekly shearing of the new shoots growing from that outer shell. This is a living growing thing and as hard as people try it cannot be kept at the exact same size all the time it.  Selectively pruning shoots back into the plant to a lateral bud does not encourage as many soots to grow and it gives a softer look that can hide imperfections and allow longer time between pruning. It is also healthier by not creating a dense outer shell that shades the interior of the plant. Selective pruning also allows the plant to grow more naturally and produce flowers to be enjoyed.

The next 3 pictures are of a selectively pruned Sage in flower. (it’s not in a great shape but it’s hard to find a good example of pruned sages in PHX)




The next two are the same type of Sage but irregularly sheared. In the first one they started to let it grow long shoots on top but kept the sides tight until they realized it would block he window and the flat topped it. You can clearly see the different growth patterns.  Be consistent on your pruning.


Lastly, a very confused group of sages.  From left to right we have the marshmallow, natural, angled and the flat-top w/ skinny legs.
Logically these were all pruned by the same person, so why are they all different??


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Amazing Beautiful Cacti

Posted by VT Jenny on September 22, 2009

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Euphorbia resinifera – Moroccan Ground Spurge

Posted by VT Jenny on September 22, 2009

Euphorbia resinifera – Moroccan Ground Spurge

Size: small mound of 4-angled stems 3’x3′
Flowers: small yellow along margins of stems
Site: full to part sun, well drained soils
Uses: specimen plant rock garden
Foliage: lime green, short dark spines, white latex sap
Native: N. Africa

Euphorbia resiniferaEuphorbia resiniferaEuphorbia resinifera

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Aloe longistyla

Posted by VT Jenny on September 21, 2009

Aloe longistyla

Cute and tiny but with a stout flower in late winter.

Aloe longistyla

Aloe longistyla

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Dancing Saguaro

Posted by VT Jenny on September 21, 2009

The ever amazing Saguaro – Carnegiea gigantea, growing in every direction almost looking like it’s dancing.

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Mammillaria grahamii – Graham’s Pincushion Cactus aka ‘Mammy Grammy’

Posted by VT Jenny on August 29, 2009

Mammillaria grahamii Graham’s Pincushion Cactus aka ‘Mammy Grammy’

Size: 3-8″ tall, single or basally branching clumps.
Flowers: Pink to lavender, 1″ in diameter borne in a ring around the crown
Site: Well drained soils in rocks and under shrubs.
Uses: Rock gardens, in combination with other desert plants, specimen in small areas.
Foliage: Central spine brown & hooked; radials white to light brown
Native: SW US, Sonora, Sinaloa & Chihuahua.

Mammillaria grahamiimammillaria grahamiimammillaria grahamii

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Blackfoot Daisy – Melampodium leucanthum

Posted by VT Jenny on August 29, 2009

Melampodium leucanthum

Size: 8″ high, 18″ wide perennial
Flowers: White with yellow center, blooms throughout year.
Site: Full sun, well drained soil, low water use
Uses: ground-cover, mixed with other perennials, used to soften accent plants, for scented garden, butterfly garden, post & planters.
Foliage: Oblong, long sender
Native: Rocky slopes and flat soils, AZ to TX, southern plain states, Northern Mexico
Note: stems are brittle be careful transporting and planting


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Caesalpinia mexicana- Mexican Bird of Paradise

Posted by VT Jenny on August 28, 2009

Caesalpinia mexicana– Mexican Bird of Paradise

Size: 10′ tall x 8′ wide
Flowers: Spring to Fall. Yellow spikes
Foliage: semi-evergreen fine texture green
Location: Full Sun




Beautiful in front of the blue of the American Agave.

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Echinopsis are Blooming!

Posted by VT Jenny on April 24, 2009








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