Southwest Wildflowers Burst with Desert Beauty

Bring your corner of the sizzling Southwest to life with colorful native wildflowers.
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Photo By: Image courtesy of CivanoNursery.net

Photo By: Image courtesy of CivanoNursery.net

Photo By: Image courtesy of CivanoNursery.net

Photo By: Image courtesy of CivanoNursery.net

Photo By: Image courtesy of CivanoNursery.net

Photo By: Image courtesy of CivanoNursery.net

Photo By: Image courtesy of CivanoNursery.net

Photo By: Image courtesy of CivanoNursery.net

Photo By: Image courtesy of CivanoNursery.net

Photo By: Image courtesy of CivanoNursery.net

Photo By: Image courtesy of CivanoNursery.net

Photo By: Image courtesy of CivanoNursery.net

Photo By: Image courtesy of CivanoNursery.net

Photo By: Image courtesy of CivanoNursery.com

Photo By: Image courtesy of American Beauties Native Plants

Fishhook Pincushion Cactus (Mammillaria grahamii)

Also known as Graham’s nipple cactus, this desert native opens 1-inch-wide pink blooms in spring and summer. Flowers fade to red fruits, prized by desert wildlife. Spines are usually so dense that they completely obscure stems. Central spines curve at the tips to resemble a fishhook. This cactus is hardy in Zones 8 to 10. It grows 3 to 6 inches tall and 3 to 4 inches across.

Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata)

Eye-catching silver-gray stems and leaves make yellow flowers pop on desert marigold. Blossoms appear from early spring through fall, although they may disappear during summer’s hottest days. Plants self-sow readily to form drifts. Remove spent blooms if you don’t want plants to spread. Desert marigold grows 6 to 18 inches tall and 6 to 9 inches wide and is hardy in Zones 7 to 10. Plants are susceptible to overwatering. Avoid bark mulch; use stone instead.

Sandpaper Verbena (Glandularia rigida)

Sandpaper verbena (Glandularia rigida or Verbena rigida) earns its name from its rough leaves. Bright purple flowers that attract pollinators open from spring through fall. Cut plants whenever they get leggy or spent; new growth will emerge from roots. This verbena forms a shrubby mound up to 24 inches tall and 48 inches wide. Plants are suitable for xeriscape designs and are hardy in zones 7 to 9.

Desert Bluebells (Phacelia campanularia)

Give your garden a touch of cobalt blue with desert bluebells. Flowers open from spring through summer and attract butterflies and other pollinators. Plants sprout easily from seed. Sow during a cool season for best success. Desert bluebell grows 6 to 18 inches tall and 3 to 6 inches wide. Use it as a groundcover in a xeriscape garden. Desert bluebell is hardy in Zones 7 to 10.

Claret Cup Cactus (Echinocereus triglochidiatus)

Also known as claret cup hedgehog cactus, this desert native flowers in spring and summer. Hummingbirds flock to the nectar-rich, bright red blooms. Plants grow 6 to 12 inches tall and form clumps 6 to 72 inches wide. Like most cacti, claret cup makes an excellent addition to a xeriscape landscape. It’s hardy in Zones 8 to 11.

Desert Zinnia (Zinnia acerosa)

Butterflies can’t resist the papery blooms of desert zinnia. Flowers blanket this wildflower in spring and reappear after summer rains arrive, lingering through fall. Desert zinnia has a shrubby look, growing 12 inches tall and 12 to 18 inches wide. Plant it in full sun with well-drained soil. Use it to add color to a xeriscape garden. Plants are hardy in Zones 6 to 9.

Mexican Hat Plant (Ratibida columnifera)

Tall flower centers edged with drooping petals earn this wildflower its common name, Mexican hat plant. This is a must in wildlife gardens: native bees and butterflies mob blooms, and birds feast on seeds. This native grows 18 to 24 inches tall and 12 to 36 inches wide. Plant in masses for a drift of color that’s hardy in Zones 3 to 8.

California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)

Bright gold-orange flowers appear in late spring to early summer on this eye-catching wildflower. Plants typically grow in average to poor, sandy, well-drained soils—this is a plant for tough spots. California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) forms a loose mound that grows 12 to 18 inches tall and wide. It’s hardy in Zones 6 to 10, but acts like a short-lived perennial in Zones 8 to 10. This is the state flower of California and readily self-sows [if you let a few seedheads ripen].

Apache Plant (Guardiola platyphylla)

Tuck apache plant into rocky soil, and it will feel right at home. Its native habitat is on rocky canyon walls. White blooms appear from spring through summer and are usually clustered along stem ends. Young stems are bright red. Plants typically grow 24 to 36 inches tall and wide, forming a shrubby perennial. Apache plant is rabbit-resistant and hardy in Zones 8 to 10.

Beardlip Penstemon (Penstemon barbatus)

Bright red tubular blooms lure hummingbirds and other pollinators. Beardlip penstemon natively grows at higher elevations (4000 to 10,000 feet) and demands well-drained soil. Plants self-sow freely, forming drifts of color. This penstemon grows 12 to 20 inches tall and 12 to 18 inches wide. Cut blooms for garden bouquets. Plants are hardy in Zones 4 to 9.

Cooper’s Paper Flower (Psilotrophe cooperi)

Also known as whitestem paper flower, blooms on this wildflower linger long in the garden, drying in place. Flowers appear in spring and continue to open sporadically through summer. Count on this drought-tolerant beauty to add color to xeriscape plantings and butterfly or cactus gardens. Cut plants back in fall to encourage a bushy, less sprawling form. Paper flower grows 12 to 18 inches tall and 24 inches wide. Plants are hardy in Zones 8 to 10.

White Prairie Clover (Dalea candida)

White prairie clover opens blooms that appear from spring to summer, beckoning butterflies. In ideal conditions of well-drained soil in full sun, this clover self-sows, forming colonies. This drought-tolerant wildflower boasts a thick, deep taproot—the secret to its water-hoarding ways. Plants grow 12 to 24 inches tall and 9 to 18 inches wide. This native has a wide growing range and is hardy in Zones 3 to 8.

Goodding’s Verbena (Glandularia gooddingii)

Butterflies can’t resist the lavender flowers that blanket Goodding’s verbena in spring. Blossoms continue to open sporadically through autumn. Plants tend to be short-lived, but self-sow readily. Use this wildflower in xeriscape plantings or to weave color into cactus gardens. Goodding’s verbena grows 6 to 12 inches tall and 12 to 24 inches wide. Plants are hardy in zones 9 to 11.

Parry’s Penstemon (Penstemon parryi)

One of the desert’s earliest wildflowers, Parry’s penstemon opens blooms in shades of bright pink to purple-pink. Flowers are a favorite of butterflies, hummingbirds and native bees. These fuss-free plants thrive in a dry meadow or hillside garden. Let flowers set seed, and this penstemon will self-sow, establishing a colorful colony. Parry’s penstemon grows 36 to 48 inches tall and 12 to 24 inches wide. It’s hardy in Zones 8 to 10.

Chocolate Flower (Berlandiera lyrata)

Savor the fragrance of chocolate in your garden by planting chocolate flower. Blossoms resemble golden daisies and appear from spring to summer, beckoning butterflies by the dozen. This wildflower is deer-resistant and drought-tolerant once established. Grow chocolate flower from Colorado to South Texas—plants are hardy in Zones 4 to 9. Typical plant size is 12 to 24 inches tall and wide.