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Feb062010

Bloom on, and on, and on...

By Kirti Mathura

The Mexican-bird of paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana) is a small thornless tree that grows 12-15 feet tall and wide. Bright green foliage remains throughout the year unless temperatures become extremely cold. Vivid yellow flowers form clusters at stem tips on and off through the year, more frequently in the warm season. With such prolific bloom, abundant seedpods are produced, but the litter is a fair trade-off. Two shrub relatives bloom continually through the summer season. Yellow-bird of paradise (C. gilliesii) has yellow petals with deep red stamens (reproductive parts) protruding, and Red-bird of paradise (C. pulcherrima) has brilliant red-orange and golden flowers. All prefer full sun exposure with well-drained soil.

Red Fairyduster (Calliandra californica) rarely takes a break from blooming. The deep red puff ball-form flowers are wonderful for attracting nectar-sipping hummingbirds and butterflies. Typically this shrub is evergreen in the Phoenix area, with dark green leaflets on an upright, open branching form that grows 4-6 feet in height and spread. Red Fairyduster is happy in full sun with well-drained soil. Protect young plants from extreme cold exposure – established plants are more cold hardy.

Desert Ruellia (Ruellia peninsularis) provides beautiful purple funnel-shaped blossoms from spring through fall. These contrast nicely with the white stems and dark green leaves, and get occasional visits from hummingbirds and butterflies. Reaching 4-5 feet tall and wide, Desert Ruellia develops a dense rounded form that is so perfect it doesn’t need any manipulating with clippers. It prefers full sun and well-drained soil.

Angelita-daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis) will grace your garden with cheerful yellow daisy-like flowers in flushes through most of the year. This perennial develops a basal clump of dark green narrow leaves. With the flowers rising on individual stems above the foliage, the plants reach about a foot in height and 1-2 feet in width. Angelita-daisies prefer full sun and well-drained soil, but they will tolerate filtered sun or a little bit of shade. Clip the spent flowers periodically to encourage a new spurt or bloom.

 Yellow Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens) is a succulent plant with rounded, fleshy, grass-like leaves. Clumps form from spreading underground stems to 3 feet wide. Bloom stems rise above the leaves, giving the plants an overall height of 1½-2 feet. Clusters of yellow star-like flowers sparkle from fall through spring. Different orange blooming forms are also available. In lower desert areas, it is best to offer a little afternoon shade through the summer. In slightly less intense locations, they would thrive in full sun. Either way, provide a well-drained soil to avoid rot.

Yellow Dot (Sphagneticola trilobata, Wedelia trilobata) will definitely provide a lush or tropical look in a garden. This groundcover spreads 4-6 feet with deep green, rough foliage. Dotted here and there are deep golden-yellow daisy-like flowers, from spring through fall. If planted in full sun Yellow Dot is more of a ground hugger, whereas in shade it can reach over a foot in height. If foliage and stems freeze back during winter, trim it back just before new spring growth occurs.

 Mix and match some of these various plant selections, and you can create splashes of color that will last for months and months and months in your garden. The birds and butterflies that they will attract will add even more color! The show doesn’t have to stop when the spring  annuals fade.

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