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Regional Picks: Focal-Point Plants – Southwest

Fine Gardening - Issue 134

 1. Blue Oat Grass

Name: Helictotrichon sempervirens and cvs.

USDA hardiness zones: 4 to 9

Size: 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide

Conditions: Full sun; well-drained soil; moderate water

This explosive grass seems to reflect the look of a partly cloudy sky. Enjoy it all winter by waiting to cut it back until new growth appears in spring. This plant is less drought tolerant than the other plants discussed here, so don’t skimp on mulch, and divert runoff water to it if possible.


2. Red-Hot Poker

Name: Kniphofia uvaria and cvs.

Zones: 4 to 10

Size: 3 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Full sun; tolerates dry, alkaline, and clay soils; little water

Red-hot poker might be the most arresting focal-point plant for the Southwest. Even with our dry and high-alkaline soils, it’s relatively easy to establish this South Africa native. It looks so bizarre that, without the support of other plants, it can impart an almost…

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