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Southwest Regional Reports

Shrubs That Bloom All Year Long in the Southwest

These three standout selections flower on and off continuously, even in winter

A profusion of frilly, bright bracts extends outward from the foliage of orange shrimp plant. Photo: Laurel Startzel

The Southwest winter landscape doesn’t just have to be filled with various tones of brown and green. There are many beautiful flowers that can bloom throughout the milder months in our region. Here are some of our favorite shrubs that bloom all year long, including in winter, and how you can incorporate them into your garden.

emu bush
Winter Blaze™ emu bush is just starting to flower (left), while Blue Bells™ emu bush is flush with small purple blooms (right). Photos: Laurel Startzel

Winter Blaze™ Emu Bush

Eremophila glabra ssp. carnosa cv., Zones 9–11

This highly drought-tolerant, evergreen shrub has showy, red, tubular flowers that bloom year-round. Hummingbirds in the neighborhood will flock to your yard to enjoy the nectar. This shrub can grow to 4 feet tall and wide. It prefers full sun and is a fast grower. If yours is getting a bit too large for its space, you can cut it back in late spring. Another emu bush we love is Blue Bells™ (Eremophila hygrophana cv., Zones 9–11), which has silver foliage and purple flowers. At 3 feet tall and wide, this variety is a bit smaller than Winter Blaze™. But like Winter Blaze™, it’s a year-round bloomer that loves full sun, has low water needs, and adds some serious impact to any garden or landscape.

Orange shrimp plant
Orange shrimp plant is a small shrub that explodes with color in the landscape. Photo: Stan Shebs, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Orange Shrimp Plant

Justicia fulvicoma, Zones 8–11

Orange shrimp plant is a compact grower that stays around 24 inches high, unlike red shrimp plant (Justicia brandegeeana, Zones 9–11), which tends to grow to 3 to 4 feet tall and wide. These plants produce bracts that look similar to shrimp. Orange shrimp plant is a small shrub that will bloom year-round in full sun or partial shade. Beyond this shrub’s obvious visual interest, it also attracts pollinators, which is always a welcome addition to any garden. We love to plant it as a focal point. Find a great location, because it’s a conversation starter.

cape plumbago
The light baby blues of cape plumbago are a refreshing change from the hot colors of many other Southwestern flowers. Photo: brewbooks, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Cape Plumbago

Plumbago auriculata, Zones 8–11

One thing that makes cape plumbago quite unique in the desert are its flowers of light blue, a color that is quite hard to come by in the Southwest. This hardy shrub features its flowers in large masses. Although it can take full sun, it prefers partial sun or shade. This fast grower can take on different growing habits. Many use it as a shrub, while others let it climb a trellis, sprawl as a ground cover, or trail over the edges of a container. An established cape plumbago is drought tolerant, but be cautious if the temperatures dip below freezing. You will want to protect it with a frost cloth or take it indoors if it’s in a container.

Life doesn’t get much better than sitting outside on a beautiful day, smelling the sweet fragrance of flowers, and enjoying their vibrant colors. Visit your local nursery, and get creative with your garden. Be sure to add some color during the winter months here in the Southwest. Good luck, gardeners!

—Sheila Schultz and Laurel Startzel are a mother-daughter duo who founded Denver Dirty Girls Container Gardening while living in Denver and have continued their business since moving to Tucson, Arizona.

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