Flowering Plants

Color is one of the great benefits of Desert Friendly. Below you’ll find many flowering perennials, that can brighten and perfume your garden, add flavor to your table, and attract hummingbirds and butterflies.

What kind of flowering plants should i choose?

With so many options to choose from, use the mature size, light exposure, water use and region-adapted information in the plant list to narrow down the combinations of flowers best suited to your planting spaces.

While many of these flowering plants are nearly as long-lived as shrubs and take up nearly as much space, others are smaller in stature and have a two- to ten-year lifespan that allows you to change the look of some spaces without a big investment in time or money. Xeric flowering plants are also ideal for planting in pots to dress up your patio or front entrance when that uncontrollable urge to play in the dirt strikes.

Most xeric wildflowers can be watered deeply and infrequently like the shrubs once they are well-rooted, but some flowers, especially those listed as Medium or Medium+ in water use will need irrigation every week or 10 days through summer with the water penetrating the soil to a depth of two feet.

Golden Baby Goldenrod, Solidago canadensis ‘Goldkind’

Golden Baby Goldenrod, Solidago canadensis ‘Goldkind’

Exposure: Sun/shade

Water: Medium

Height and Spread:12-18” x 15-18”

Blooming Season: Late Summer – Fall

Flower Color: Gold

Region: All parts of the Greater Albuquerque area

Among the most iconic and showy of autumn wildflowers, Goldenrod is native to many parts of North America, from deserts to mountains to prairies. The flowers hang gracefully from stems. Although Goldenrod is frequently mistaken as an allergen, its heavy pollen is in fact carried by birds and insects, not the wind. (Wind born pollen from plants like grasses are much more likely to annoy our sinuses). Long-lived with deep roots, Goldenrod provides vital sources of pollen and nectar for bees and other beneficial insects.

Cultivars for small garden settings include ‘Golden Baby’ – a clump-forming hybrid. This cultivar is best planted in groups to get extended color, since individual plants bloom for a short time. A good rain garden plant with bright green leaves that contrast nicely with silver and soft green desert plants. Water every two weeks in summer to keep it happy.

Since this is a late bloomer, situate it near plants with contrasting fall foliage, such as Western Sand Cherry. Removing spent flowers will encourage a longer bloom. Surprisingly good as a cut flower – try it in a fall bouquet!

Butterfly Weed, Asclepias tuberosa

Butterfly Weed, Asclepias tuberosa

Exposure: Sun / Shade

Water: Medium

Mature Size (H x W): 2’ x 2’

Blooming Season: June – September

Flower Color: Orange

Region: All parts of Greater Albuquerque

A must-have for all Monarch butterfly enthusiasts, this cheerful, easy perennial has a place in most gardens. Use it in rainwater swales, perennial beds, or cutting gardens. Native to most parts of North America, it does well in poor, dry soils. The flowers provide an important nectar source for Monarch butterflies, and the leaves are food for Monarch caterpillars.

Look for plants grown from local stock, which are better adapted to the desert than plants propagated from cooler, wetter parts of the country. Prune the first flowers in summer to encourage a longer blooming season. Spread these plants out in the garden; greater concentrations of the plants draw more predators to the caterpillars. Don’t be alarmed if your plants attract aphids – high quality habitat brings with it a greater diversity of insects, which are not necessarily harmful to the plants or to the Butterfly weed. (A mild solution of soap and water can be applied to treat the aphids.)

Water every two weeks while blooming. If planted in a shadier location, Butterfly weed will need less water. Leave the stems and dried seed pods intact over the winter and then trim to the ground in early spring. The silky fluff in the seed pods looks beautiful when backlit.

Hummingbird Plant, Epilobium syn zauschneria

Hummingbird Plant, Epilobium syn zauschneria

Full Sun
Medium Water

Mature Size: 24”X 36”
Blooming Season: Late Summer-Early Fall
Flower Color: Red

Along the front range in Colorado, gardeners have come to associate fall and the buzz of busy hummingbirds with the blazing scarlet Zauschnerias. Hummingbird Plant puts on an extravagant display of red-orange flowers. It thrives planted in front of hot south and west-facing walls and walks, in areas that might fry less heat-loving plants. Plant in well-drained soil; not too much clay. Hummingbird Plant appreciates regular watering the first year or two, particularly during dry winters, to help get it established.

Desert Mule’s Ears, Wyethia scabra

Desert Mule’s Ears, Wyethia scabra

Full Sun
Rainwater Only

Mature Size: 2’X 3’
Blooming Season: Spring into summer
Flower Color: Yellow

The rather odd name of this dryland perennial sunflower refers to its sand papery stiff leaves held upright on slender white stems; this eye-catching long-lived sunflower has vanilla-scented showy yellow flowers and large dark brown seed heads with seeds sought after by songbirds. Desert Mule’s Ears prefer lean, unamended soil at planting time and very little water once they are well rooted.

Partridge Feather, Tanacetum densum-amani

Partridge Feather, Tanacetum densum-amani

Full Sun, Part Shade
Low Water

Mature Size: 12”X 12”
Blooming Season: Early Summer
Flower Color: Yellow

Partridge Feather’s incredible silver-white leaves attract the attention of everyone; you can’t help but pet the soft foliage. The plant forms a dense carpet of foliage topped with clusters of yellow button flowers in early summer. It thrives in the sunniest, hottest spot you can find. Needs well-drained soil.

Desert Globemallow, Sphaeralcea ambigua

Desert Globemallow, Sphaeralcea ambigua

Full Sun
Rainwater Only

Mature Size: 2’X 2’
Blooming Season: Spring and late summer
Flower Color: Pink, lavender and coral

There are at least a dozen species of Globemallow native in the arid West, and Desert Globemallow is one of the finest as it produces a strong show of colorful flowers against the backdrop of pale green leaves. It is one of the earliest and longest blooming in spring and after a rest may bloom again with late summer rains. It will self-sow in gravelly or sandy soil.

Autumn Joy Sedum, Sedum telephium

Autumn Joy Sedum, Sedum telephium

Full Sun, Part Shade
Low Water

Mature Size: 24”X 24”
Blooming Season: Summer
Flower Color: Red

Once you have gone through the fall with Autumn Joy in your garden, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it. Not what you typically think of as a Sedum, this tall upright variety blooms with large flower heads that start pink and age gracefully to a rich bronze. Nice as a dried everlasting flower.

Soapwort, Saponaria oxymoides

Soapwort, Saponaria oxymoides

Full Sun, Part Shade
Medium Water

Mature Size: 9”X 24”
Blooming Season: Summer
Flower Color: Pink

Soapwort’s bright pink flowers make it a terrific border plant in a flower garden as well as a beautiful flowering ground cover. A vigorous grower, it readily reseeds itself and will spread rapidly in a favorable situation. (Be sure the neighboring plants are large, robust growers so they don’t get smothered!) Prompt shearing as the flowers fade keeps it tidy and prevents reseeding.

Gray Santolina, Santolina chamaecyparissus

Gray Santolina, Santolina chamaecyparissus

Full Sun
Low Water

Mature Size: 18”X 36”
Blooming Season: June
Flower Color: Yellow

A terrific evergreen perennial known for its button-like yellow flowers and its unique aromatic silver-green foliage that looks great all year long. Its woody stems are densely covered with fine, whitish gray leaves (which is why it’s sometimes known as Lavender Cotton). Can be used as a groundcover or as a foreground planting in a bed of perennials or shrubs. With a little extra shearing to remove faded flowers and tighten up the shape  in early spring, it gives a garden the look of age and maturity. Very cold hardy and heat tolerant.

Garden Sage, Salvia officinalis

Garden Sage, Salvia officinalis

Full Sun
Medium Water

Mature Size: 24”X 24”
Blooming Season: August-October
Flower Color: Violet-Blue

Yes, Garden Sage is an aromatic  herb. Its leaves can be used to flavor meats such as pork, goose and sausage. Equally impressive is its beauty in the garden. The fuzzy leaves of Garden Sage are a de- lightful gray-green. Two-foot-tall spikes covered with violet-blue flowers appear in late summer and last until fall. Handles drought well once established.

Prairie Coneflower, Mexican Hat, Ratibida columnifera

Prairie Coneflower, Mexican Hat, Ratibida columnifera

Full Sun
Low Water

Mature Size: 32”X 32”
Blooming Season: June-September
Flower Color: Yellow-Orange

The roadsides of northeastern New Mexico light up with color in mid-summer when large stands of Prairie coneflower come into bloom. This drought-tolerant plant is easy to establish, and it naturalizes readily so you can grow your own stand of wildflowers. Prairie Coneflower (a.k.a. Mexican Hat) is a heavy bloomer, with a mature plant producing hundreds of flowers with distinctive mahogany-red petals edged in yellow. Cold hardy and able to handle hot summers as long as it gets deep watering twice a month when flowering.

Desert Beardtongue, Penstemon pseudospectabilis

Desert Beardtongue, Penstemon pseudospectabilis

Full Sun
Low Water

Mature Size: 3’X 3’
Blooming Season: Spring into summer
Flower Color: Rose pink

Penstemon species exhibit a wide range of flower and leaf colors, but most share a strong preference for lean, well-drained soils and modest amounts of water. Desert Beardtongue is valuable for its deep rose pink flowers that can bring hummingbirds to dine near your patio and for its persistent silver or blue-green leaves that add garden interest long after the flowers have faded for the year.

Pineleaf Penstemon, Penstemon pinifolius

Pineleaf Penstemon, Penstemon pinifolius

Full Sun
Low Water

Mature Size: 12”X 20”
Blooming Season: June-July
Flower Color: Orange

Pineleaf Penstemon is an outstanding but often overlooked species from southern New Mexico and Arizona. Blooming for 6-8 weeks in mid-summer, the tubular orange flowers are profuse, attracting hummingbirds from miles around. P. pinifolius is long-lived and grows easily in both xeric and traditional perennial gardens. As the plant matures, the stems become woody, forming an attractive evergreen shrublet with bright green needle-like foliage.

Rocky Mountain Penstemon, Penstemon strictus

Rocky Mountain Penstemon, Penstemon strictus

Full Sun
Low Water

Mature Size: 24”X 24”
Blooming Season: May-June
Flower Color: Purple

A native Penstemon of the foothills and mountains of the southern Rockies (sometimes known as Beardtongue), this plant grows well in central New Mexico. It grows well in full sun, yet can tolerate some shade. Its tall, showy spikes of purple flowers last for over a month in the late spring. Spreading steadily via stolons to form large clumps of dense green foliage, Rocky Mountain Penstemon is  one of the longest lived and most easily grown of the Penstemons.

Yellow Evening Primrose, Oenothera macrocarpa syn missouriensis

Yellow Evening Primrose, Oenothera macrocarpa syn missouriensis

Full Sun, Part Shade
Medium Water

Mature Size: 1’X 2’
Blooming Season: Late spring
Flower Color: Yellow

Yellow Evening Primrose is a prairie wildflower that looks anything but wild. Its 4 inch-wide clear yellow flowers are nestled among shiny green leaves growing in a compact cultivated-looking mound. In addition to the species, there are interesting varieties including Comanche Campfire with silver leaves and red stems for added contrast. Deeply rooted and long-lived, Yellow Evening Primrose pairs nicely with Leadplant or Lavender.

Catmint, Nepeta x fassenii

Catmint, Nepeta x fassenii

Full Sun, Part Shade
Medium Water

Mature Size: 8”X 24”
Blooming Season: May-August
Flower Color: Blue

Catmint has become a cornerstone in many xeriscapes because of its hardiness and long period of bloom. The first flush of blue flowers comes in late spring. When deadheaded promptly, a second flush blooms in late summer. Out of flower, the neat mound of gray-green foliage has a pleasing fragrance and texture. Adaptable to any well-drained soil, Catmint can handle a range of light from full sun to light shade. Trim back in late winter for prolific blooms the following spring.

English Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia

English Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia

Full Sun, Part Shade
Medium Water

Mature Size: 36”X 36”
Blooming Season: Summer
Flower Color: Lavender

An old favorite, Lavender is a dependable performer blooming with pleasing purple flower spikes. In fact, this is the kind of plant that quickly becomes a favorite of everyone who grows it. Its compact silver-green leaves and gorgeous flowers combine well with many xeric and hardy garden perennials. A superb plant for edging walks and paths and wherever the aromatic flowers and foliage can be enjoyed.

Red Hot Poker, Kniphofia uvaria

Red Hot Poker, Kniphofia uvaria

Full Sun
Low Water

Mature Size: 36”X 36”
Blooming Season: Summer
Flower Color: Orange

A sturdy South African native known for its tough, easy-to-grow nature. It has long grasslike foliage and unusual bicolor flower spikes in shades of orange and yellow. A substantial plant that looks great alone or in long beds lining driveways or entrances where dryness and alkaline soils might defeat even a daylily. Particularly attractive with Yarrow.

Perky Sue, Tetraneuris syn hymenoxysis

Perky Sue, Tetraneuris syn hymenoxysis

Full Sun
Low Water

Mature Size: 12”X 12”
Blooming Season: April-August
Flower Color: Yellow

A wonderful everblooming yellow daisy that is both heat-loving and drought-tolerant. The narrow, silver-green foliage is evergreen and supports short stems of yellow daisies starting in spring. A vigorous reseeder, it quickly colonizes harsh areas of the garden. Use it to interplant with cold hardy cacti. Provide lean, well- drained soil. Once established H. scaposa is very xeric and needs little extra water.

Maximilian Sunflower, Helianthus maximilianii

Maximilian Sunflower, Helianthus maximilianii

Full Sun
Medium Water

Mature Size: Up to 120”X 120”
Blooming Season: September-October
Flower Color: Yellow

Maximilian Sunflower produces one of the most spectacular late-season bursts of color. The tall flowering spikes, up to 20 or 30 in a mature clump, are covered with up to 30 or more yellow, closely spaced daisies. Place Helianthus against walls or fences or make a hedge with  it, but don’t put it in the middle of your most fertile flower beds, as it will crowd out weaker neighbors. The more water it receives, the taller it gets. (Growing Tip: put it in a tomato cage early in the season and let the tall stems grow up through it so they don’t flop over with the weight of their flowers later in the fall.)

Gaura, Gaura lindheimeri

Gaura, Gaura lindheimeri

Full Sun
Medium Water

Mature Size: 48”X 48”
Blooming Season: June-September
Flower Color: White or Pink

A native to the Southwest, Gaura gives the garden a wonderful  informality with its long, wispy stems of spider-like flowers. It responds with a profusion of flowers when watered regularly during the summer. Most varieties of Gaura feature white flowers, but a new variety called Siskiyou Pink features pink blooms. Other native perennials that enjoy similar garden conditions and combine well with Gaura include Echinacea (Purple Coneflower) and Agastache cana (Giant Hyssop).

Indian Blanketflower, Gaillardia grandiflora

Indian Blanketflower, Gaillardia grandiflora

Full Sun
Medium Water

Mature Size: 24”X 24”
Blooming Season: Summer
Flower Color: Yellow/Orange/Red

Blanketflower is one of the most dependable perennial bloomers. It’s easy to grow and tough enough to handle hot micro-climates. The flowers sport red centers; the petals are orange with yellow tips. The flowers keep coming all summer, just remove the spent blooms and another crop of flowers will appear in a couple of weeks. Although fairly drought-tolerant, regular watering produces the most prolific blooms.

Wild Buckwheat, Eriogonum species

Wild Buckwheat, Eriogonum species

Full Sun
Rainwater Only

Mature Size: 1’X 18”
Blooming Season: Spring into summer
Flower Color: White, pale pink or yellow

No matter where you live in the arid Southwest, there is probably a Wild Buckwheat native nearby. All have nectar-rich flowers that attract butterflies, and their nectar also supports the tiny parasitic insects that help rid our gardens of pests such as aphids and thrips. After blooming, they develop seed heads of rust brown or deep red that provide color well into autumn. Luckily several species are offered as garden plants at nurseries that specialize in native plants.

Garden Pinks, Dianthus gratianopolitanus

Garden Pinks, Dianthus gratianopolitanus

Full Sun, Part Shade
Medium Water

Mature Size: 1’X 2’
Blooming Season: Late spring
Flower Color: Light pink to bright rose pink

Garden Pinks have single flowers on short slender stems with a light clove scent. They form dense cushions of pale blue-gray leaves that make attractive groundcovers even when the plants are not in bloom. The named varieties such as ‘Firewitch’ have darker flower colors and bloom longer than other species, and all are beautiful growing along paths, spilling around boulders and in large pots on the patio.

Threadleaf Coreopsis, Coreopsis verticillata

Threadleaf Coreopsis, Coreopsis verticillata

Full Sun
Medium Water

Mature Size: 24”X 24”
Blooming Season: Summer
Flower Color: Yellow

Coreopsis is a carefree perennial with fine, thread-like foliage and pale, 2-inch wide yellow flowers that cover the plant all summer. Performs best in compost-enriched soil. Add soil sulphur to keep the foliage nicely green. It is relatively late to awaken from its winter dormancy, so be patient! The “Moonbeam” cultivar is one of the most drought-tolerant varieties and bears flowers that are pale yellow.

Red Valerian, Centranthus ruber

Red Valerian, Centranthus ruber

Full Sun, Part Shade
Medium Water

Mature Size: 36”X 36”
Blooming Season: Late Spring-Summer
Flower Color: Red

Red Valerian is a versatile plant, being equally at home in both the xeric garden and traditional perennial border. Not fussy about its growing conditions, the showy rose-red flowers are continuous from late spring through summer. A willing reseeder under favorable conditions, Centranthus ruber prefers well-drained garden soil not clay.

Sundrops, Calylophus species

Sundrops, Calylophus species

Full Sun
Low Water

Mature Size: 18”X 18”
Blooming Season: Spring-Summer
Flower Color: Yellow

This spectacular native wildflower is everblooming with a profusion of large, bright yellow, four-petaled flowers. The narrow gray-green foliage gives the plant a lacy look in the garden. Calylophus thrives in the heat, and grows well in a wide range of soils, as long as they’re well drained. This tough plant is the star of any dryland rock garden or xeriscape. A good shearing before the growing season starts in late spring will keep it looking tidy and loaded with flowers.

Poppy Mallow, Winecups, Callirhoe involucrata

Poppy Mallow, Winecups, Callirhoe involucrata

Full Sun
Low Water

Mature Size: 24”X 24”
Blooming Season: Late Spring-Summer
Flower Color: Red-Pink

The five-petaled flowers of Poppy Mallow (also known as Winecups) are a rich pinkish-red color with a white eye, and cover the plant all summer. The low-spreading stems make this plant useful on slopes or cascading over retaining walls. A valuable plant for hot south or west facing beds. Grows well in a wide range of soil types including clay. Gently reseeds itself and will slowly spread if you let it. Recommended companion plants are Berlandiera lyrata (Chocolate Flower), Nepeta x faassenii (Catmint) and Gray Santolina.

Chocolate Flower, Berlandiera lyrata

Chocolate Flower, Berlandiera lyrata

Full Sun
Low Water

Mature Size: 16”X 16”
Blooming Season: Early Spring-Summer
Flower Color: Yellow

Step out into your garden on a clear summer morning and delight to the scent of chocolate that perfumes the air. This native wildflower blooms profusely all season with cheery light yellow daisies; the sweetly fragrant blossoms really do smell just like chocolate! Easily grown in a variety of soil types, this drought-tolerant species readily reseeds itself, making it a desirable addition to any wildflower meadow or informal garden area. Surround Chocolate Flower with Callirhoe (Poppy Mallow) for a bright summer-long show of color.

Seafoam Artemisia, Artemisia versicolor

Seafoam Artemisia, Artemisia versicolor

Sun or Shade
Low Water

Mature Size: 8”X 18”

The fine-textured swirling silver green foliage of Seafoam Artemisia suggests cool water running through a dry desert garden. Although it has no showy blossoms of its own, it mixes well with Salvias, Penstemons and other brightly colored flowers and with ornamental grasses such as Little Bluestem for a subtle blend of textures. Seafoam Artemisia holds up well in winter and needs less trimming than its sprawling cousin, Powis Castle Artemisia.

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P.O. Box 568
Albuquerque, NM 87103-0568

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P.O. Box 568
Albuquerque, NM 87103-0568
505-842-WATR