Drought-Tolerant Plants To Grow

For more than four decades, Mountain States Wholesale Nursery (MSWN) based in Glendale, Arizona, has specialized in desert plants for drought-tolerant gardens. Below are six recent introductions picked by MSWN's local representative Wendy Proud suited for San Diego gardens and readily available in area nurseries.

  • Blue Emu-Bush (Eremophila hygrophana) – An Australian native, this compact shrub to three feet tall and wide can handle heat and cold. Its silvery-white foliage is a dramatic foil for violet-blue tubular flowers that bloom almost year round. Hummingbird magnet.
  • ‘El Toro' Bull Grass (Muhlenbergia emersleyi ‘El Toro' – Bull grass is native to the rocky oak woodlands of Arizona and Texas. This variety is prized for its blue-green leaves and purple-tinged rosy panicles that appear in the fall and turn straw-colored in winter. Grows in dense clumps to 3 feet tall. Sun or part shade; very drought-tolerant.
  • ‘Yellow' Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora ‘Yellow') – Like the familiar red-flowered form of this tough yucca, the arching foliage on this variety is dark green with curled slender white threads along the edges. But its flowers on spikes that rise up to six feet tall are a soft yellow. Likes full sun, well-drained soil and minimal water once established.
  • Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana) –Sunny yellow daisies top this compact mounding shrub in spring and fall. The Texas native is also famed for its aromatic dark green foliage. Grows to two feet tall and wide in full sun;  drought tolerant once established. Can become woody over time.
  • Purple Prickly Pear (Opuntia ‘Santa Rita Tubac') – A must-have for cactus collectors, purple prickly pear shows off pads washed in shades of lavender in winter. As temperatures warm, the pads turn a soft blue-green. Spring flowers are golden yellow. Grows to 6 feet tall in full sun. Plant away from high-traffic areas.
  •  Phoenix' Mesquite (Prosopis hybrid ‘Phoenix') - This hybrid combines the desirable traits of a strong grafted root system, thornless branches and slow growth. Vase-shaped and often multi-trunked, it grows up to 30 feet tall. Yellow flowers in spring.


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