A Master Gardener's guide to gardening in a hot dry climate
|Red fountain grass
(Pennisetum setaceum) holds a dominant place in a mixed
border that includes white roses, Society garlic, flax
and star jasmine. Note:
(Phormium) does not do well is desert areas like Phoenix
and Las Vegas where it whithers and dies in summer heat.
In recent years ornamental grasses and other grass-like plants
have grown in popularity particularly as accents and borders in
rock mulch style gardens. Many are fast-growing, very
drought tolerant and will even thrive with considerable neglect.
As a rule of thumb, they need fast-draining soil.
In Fall, the seed-bearing
plumes of fast growing
selloana) rise to 20 feet high with little need for
irrigation or fertilizer. By mid-winter, this perennial
should be cut back to 18 inches tall. It will re-grow to
the height shown in the following summer. Avoid
planting the Pampas Grass
which is an invasive weed. Given the right conditions --
usually near a stream -- it will self-seed and spread
Common Blue Fescue
glauca) - this is the short, clumping, fine
blue or silvery gray grass, often seen as an edging
to borders. The ‘Elijah Blue’ selection is
relatively long lived and very blue. To 1 foot high.
It is not necessary to cut it back in winter.
In this photo it has been used as a dominant
plant replacing a conventional green lawn.
looks like a larger cousin of some of the fescues.
It grows to about 2 feet tall during the summer, but
unlike pampas grass and fountain grass it does not
need to be trimmed back in winter. Needs very
Blue Oat Grass (Helictotrichon
sempervirens) – looks like giant blue fescue grass, but
grows to 2 to 3 feet high and wide. Bright blue leaves with tall stems of
yellow flowers in the Spring. Needs rich soil.
Grass (Pennisetum setaceum) - has
reddish brown leaves and rose-colored plumes. Dies
down in winter and should be cut back to a few
inches high. Be sure to get the red variety, the
white fountain grass is invasive and has been
displacing native grasses.
For best appearance Fountain Grass should be planted
in dense clusters or as part of a mixed border.
tenax and lots of hybrids) - These New Zealand natives
can be 5 to 7 foot tall giants, but with the proliferation
of hybrids, smaller, more colorful plants are now available.
You may have to ask for some of the newer colors – and they
are glorious. For example, ‘Morticia’ has purple-black
leaves; ‘Dazzler’ has scarlet leaves striped with maroon;
‘Tiny Tiger’ (only 1 foot tall at maturity) has variegated
leaves that become tinged with pink as the weather cools and
‘Tom Thumb’ gives you green, wavy-edged leaves with a
reddish border. You will have to put most of these in
large pots out of direct sunlight; they do not do well in
hot summer areas such as Phoenix or Las Vegas.
||Japanese Blood Grass (Imperata
cylindrical ‘Rubra’) - leaves emerge in spring
with brilliant red tips and a green base. The red
color intensifies as it grows to 1 or 2 feet tall.
Rarely blooms and should be cut back almost to the
ground in mid-winter. The photo, taken in early
Spring, shows young Japanese Blood grass.
Golden Silky Threadgrass is the basis for this
drought-tolerant front yard. Simplicity is the
key: in addition to the Threadgrass, large agaves and
blue-green iceplants make up most of the other
plantings. Almost no maintenance involved!
(Tulbaghia violacea) – a member of the lily
family, has very fine bluish-green leaves with
shoots of lavender flowers in Spring and summer. On
the right, it is shown in a pot filled with rich
soil. It retains its leaves all year round. It also
emits the scent of garlic to the nearby area.
Other members of the lily family, including
are also excellent grass-like plants for hot
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|More gardening news for you
|Lilac vine blooms in early
Spring and is one of many
vines for hot climates.
leafy trees that give you
cooling shade and some that
add color to your garden.
should you pick
for your garden? See ones that
thrive in hot, dry climates.
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