Southwest Herb Gardening: June In The Low Desert

June in the low desert is generally the driest and hottest month. Desert gardeners often must begin their garden activities in the early morning or at sunset to avoid the intense sunlight. Plants must endure the intense heat throughout the day. Many native and desert-adapted plants have numerous adaptations that enable them to live successfully in the desert, such as succulence, drought-deciduousness, and small leaves, to name a few examples. Even with these numerous adaptations, desert plants sometimes need a little help to keep them healthy and thriving in your garden. Native and desert-adapted plants that were newly planted and those that are not established in the landscape need to be watered until they become established in the landscape and can then survive with natural rainfall. Even established plantings will need an occasional supplemental watering during long periods of drought to keep them healthy and stress-free.

Summer is the prime time for many night-blooming cacti to exhibit their showy and often fragrant flowers. The Queen of the Night (Peniocereus greggii) is known to have one of the most breathtaking and sweetly-scented blooms of North American cacti.

If you encounter a Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea), look upward and you will see large fruits bursting open on its stems. The outside of the fruit is smooth and lime-green, but when they split open a luscious, scarlet color is revealed with approximately 2,000 tiny seeds inside. The fruits are a significant food source for many desert animals. The fruits and seeds are also edible to humans and have a delicate, sweet taste.

The fruits of many Prickly-pears (Opuntia spp.) and other cacti are ripening. The fruits of Indian Fig (Opuntia ficus-indica) and Engelmann’s Prickly pear (Opuntia engelmannii) are considered the sweetest tasting. Fruits can be prepared to make a variety of delicious dishes and are highly nutritious.

The Boojum Tree (Fouquieria columnaris) and Elephant Tree (Pachycormus discolor) should be blooming, usually, after they have dropped most of their leaves for the summer. Boojum Tree flowers are cream-colored, sweetly scented and attract a variety of insects. Elephant Tree flowers are rosy to white in color and frequented by bees.

Many Agaves (Agave spp.) can be flowering. Agaves are monocarpic, producing flowers and seeds only once and then they will expire. Many agaves can also reproduce asexually through the formation of bulbils and/or pups. Bulbils are developed on the flowering stalk and pups are formed from underground stems. These two asexual forms are genetically identical to the parent plant or “clones.”

Shade protection may be necessary for many plants including cacti, agaves, and other succulents. Even vegetables like tomatoes, bell, and chile peppers will need to be shaded. Shade cloth can be purchased at your local nursery. Shade cloth rated between 30-60% works best. Keep the shade cloth on your plants for the duration of the summer.

tx mountain laurel

Many of the leguminous trees and shrubs are producing their fruits or pods. Some are edible while others are not and can be quite toxic like the Texas Mountain Laurel (Calia secundiflora syn. Sophora secundiflora). However, fruits of our native Mesquites such as Velvet Mesquite (Prosopis velutina), Honey Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) and Screwbean Mesquite (Prosopis pubescens) are often prepared to produce flour which can be used in a variety of recipes. If you do not harvest your mesquite pods, allow the pods to fall and remain on the ground for desert animals to eat as they are a vital food resource. It might even help distract them from eating your most prized plants.

jojoba plant

If it has been a good flowering year for Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis) you will notice an abundance of fruits on the female plant. Jojobas are dioecious meaning male and female flowers are produced on separate individual plants. The fruits are somewhat bitter tasting but are used in a variety of products such as cosmetics, lubricants, soaps, and pharmaceuticals. Jojoba is also an effective drought-tolerant evergreen ornamental; however, it can be slow growing without supplemental irrigation.

With proper plant selection, you can provide your garden with color as there are many native and desert-adapted plants that will continue to flower through the summer and into the fall.

• Desert Senna (Senna covesii)
• Sacred Datura (Datura wrightii)
• Fleabane (Erigeron divergens)
• Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata)
• Chocolate Flower (Berlandiera lyrata)
• Paperflower (Psilostrophe cooperi)
• Desert Zinnia (Zinnia acerosa)
• Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana)
• Arizona Foldwing (Dicliptera resupinata)
• Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri)
• Dyssodia (Thymophylla pentachaeta)
• Trailing Lantana (Lantana montevidensis)
• Katie Ruellia (Ruellia brittoniana ‘Katie’)
• Desert Plumbago (Plumbago scandens)
• Mealy Cup Sage (Salvia farinacea)
• Arizona Milkweed (Asclepias angustifolia)
• Lemon Dalea (Dalea capitata)
• Hummingbird Trumpet (Epilobium canum ssp.   latifolium)
• Desert Milkweed (Asclepias subulata)
• Rock Verbena (Glandularia pulchella)
• Showy Menodora (Menodora longiflora)
• Odora (Porophyllum gracile)
• Texas Indian Blanket (Gaillardia pulchella)
• Hearts and Flowers (Aptenia cordifolia)
• Blood Flower (Asclepias curassavica)
• Marvel of Peru (Mirabilis jalapa)
• Red Sage (Salvia coccinea)
• Pink Sage (Salvia coccinea ‘Brenthurst’)
• Mexican Hat (Ratibida columnifera)
• Yerba Mansa (Anemopsis californica)
• Desert Four O’Clock (Mirabilis multiflora)
• Desert Verbena (Glandularia gooddingii)
• Mist Flower (Conoclinium dissectum)
• Butterfly Mist (Ageratum corymbosum)
• Wine Cups (Callirhoe involucrata)
• Baja Bush Snapdragon (Galvezia juncea)
• Blue Mist (Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Dark    Knight’)
• Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum)
• Yellow Dots (Sphagneticola trilobata)
• White Woolly Twintip (Stemodia durantifolia)
• Rock Penstemon (Penstemon baccharifolius)
• Queen’s Wreath (Antigonon leptopus)
• Yellow Orchid-vine (Callaeum macropterum)
• Arizona Grape Ivy (Cissus trifoliata)
• Yellow Morning Glory-vine, Yuca (Merremia aurea)
• Lavender Trumpet Vine (Clytostoma callistegioides)
• Wait a Minute Vine (Merremia dissecta)
• Pringle’s Clustervine (Jacquemontia pringlei)
• Passionflowers (Passiflora spp.)
• Purple Bushbean (Macroptilium atropurpureum)
• Snapdragon-vine (Maurandella antirrhiniflora)
• Tree Ocotillo (Fouquieria macdougalii)
• Little-leaf Cordia (Cordia parvifolia)
• Woolly Butterfly Bush (Buddleja marrubiifolia)
• Red Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima)
• Blue Emu Bush (Eremophila hygrophana)
• Mexican-honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera)
• Flame Anisacanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii)
• Lantana (Lantana camara)
• Desert Ruellia (Ruellia peninsularis)
• Velvet-pod Mimosa (Mimosa dysocarpa)
• Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha)
• Prairie Acacia (Acaciella angustissima syn. Acacia angustissima)
• Yellow Bells (Tecoma spp.)
• Desert Honeysuckle (Anisacanthus thurberi)
• Baja Fairy Duster (Calliandra californica)
• Guayacán (Guaiacum coulteri)
• Texas Sage (Leucophyllum frutescens)
• Rio Bravo  (Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Rio Bravo’®)
• Heavenly Cloud Texas Ranger (Leucophyllum x ‘Heavenly Cloud’)
• Lynn’s Legacy Texas Ranger (Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Lynn’s Legacy’)
• Cimarron  (Leucophyllum zygophyllum ‘Cimarron’®)
• Silver Nightshade (Solanum hindsianum)
• Arizona Rosewood (Vauquelinia californica)
• Bee Brush (Aloysia gratissima)
• Mexican-oregano (Lippia graveolens)
• Lindheimer’s Senna (Senna lindheimeriana)
• Desert Cotton (Gossypium thurberi)
• San Marcos Hibiscus (Gossypium harknessii)
• Pinky Anisacanthus (Anisacanthus puberulus)
• Coral Fountain (Russelia equisetiformis)
• Sky Flower (Duranta erecta)
• Rosemary Mint (Poliomintha maderensis)
• Indigo Bush (Dalea bicolor var. argyrea)
• Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii)
• Rose-mallow (Pavonia lasiopetala)
• Skeleton-leaf Goldeneye (Viguiera stenoloba)
• Graythorn (Ziziphus obtusifolia)
• Shrubby Senna (Senna wislizeni)
• Desert Hackberry (Celtis ehrenbergiana syn. Celtis  pallida)
• Mangle Dulce (Maytenus phyllanthoides)
• Smoke Tree (Psorothamnus spinosus)
• Ironwood (Olneya tesota)
• Texas Ebony (Ebenopsis ebano)
• Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis)
• Texas-olive (Cordia boissieri)
• Screwbean Mesquite (Prosopis pubescens)
• Honey Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa)
• Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus)
• Sweet Almond Verbena (Aloysia virgata)
• Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea)
• Desert  Christmas Cactus (Cylindropuntia leptocaulis)
• Queen of the Night (Peniocereus greggii)
• Organ Pipe (Stenocereus thurberi)
• Compass Barrel (Ferocactus cylindraceus)
• Coville’s Barrel (Ferocactus emoryi)
• Fishhook Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus wislizeni)
• Coast Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus viridescens)
• Turk’s-head Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus hamatacanthus)
• Senita (Pachycereus schottii)
• Pencil Cholla (Cylindropuntia arbuscula)
• Chain Fruit Cholla (Cylindropuntia fulgida)
• Pencil Cholla (Cylindropuntia tesajo)
• Cane Cholla (Cylindropuntia spinosior)
• Cardón (Pachycereus pringlei)
• Toothpick Cactus (Stetsonia coryne)
• Peruvian Apple (Cereus hildmannianus)
• Coryphantha macromeris
• Beehive Cactus (Escobaria vivipara)
• Cob Cactus (Escobaria tuberculosa)
• Thelocactus bicolor
• Easter Lilies (Echinopsis hybrids)
• Red Torch (Echinopsis huascha)
• Torch Cactus (Echinopsis candicans)
• Woolly-headed Barrel Cactus (Echinocactus polycephalus)
• Golden Barrel (Echinocactus grusonii)
• Graham’s Fishhook Cactus (Mammillaria grahamii)
• Common Fishhook Cactus (Mammillaria tetrancistra)
• Midnight Lady (Harrisia pomanensis)
• Boojum Tree (Fouquieria columnaris)
• Elephant Tree (Pachycormus discolor)
• Sotol (Dasylirion wheeleri)
• Karoo Roses (Adenium spp.)
• Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora)
• Giant Hesperaloe (Hesperaloe funifera)
• Golden-flowered Agave (Agave chrysantha)
• Weber Agave (Agave weberi)
• Lechuguilla (Agave lechuguilla)
• Desert Agave (Agave deserti)
• Palmer’s Agave (Agave palmeri)
• Schott’s Century Plant (Agave schottii)
• Shaw’s Agave (Agave shawii)
• Octopus Agave (Agave vilmoriniana)
• Harvard’s Agave (Agave havardiana)
• Torote papelillo (Bursera fagaroides)
• Copal (Bursera laxiflora)
• Leatherstem, Limberbush (Jatropha dioica)
• Slipper Plant (Pedilanthus macrocarpus)
• Woolly Aloe (Aloe tomentosa)
• Medicinal Aloe (Aloe vera)
• Carrion Flower (Stapelia sp.)
• Madagascar Palm (Pachypodium lamerei)
• Cyphostemma juttae