Birds and Bees

Salvia leucantha sage


A favorite of hummingbirds is the Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia Leucantha), a vigorous grower in a hot climate. Better yet, it blooms twice a year in spring and early winter.  One year, we picked the blooms and used them to decorate our Christmas tree!


Plants To Attract Birds and the Bees

How easy it is to attract birds to your hot climate garden! Simply plant some shrubs, trees and flowers and, almost immediately, birds appear.  Bees will show up, too.

Chitalpa blooms close-up
The blossoms of the long-blooming Chitalpa tree (Chitalpa x tashkentensis) are favorites with hummingbirds.  The Chitalpa is one of the best small trees for hot, dry desert gardens.

The shrubs offer birds nesting sites, trees will provide shelter from predators like peregrine falcons and your neighbor’s cat, and the flower seeds can be a food source for many wild birds. Birds also feast on insects in the garden.

The real trick is to attract the birds you want in your xeriscape garden — say, for example, hummingbirds, without attracting pest birds like pigeons.

A Hummingbird Garden

Shades of red and orange are the colors and tubular is the shape that attracts these tiny acrobatic birds, so plant a drought-tolerant border or flower bed with the vibrantly blooming plants hummingbirds really love.

Penstemon (Penstemon species and hybrids) – these Western native perennials grow as low, ordinary-looking clumps of leaves, but come Spring, spires grow to heights of 2 feet covered with tubular shaped red, orange and yellow blooms. The bushier Garden Penstemon hybrid (Penstemon x gloxiniodes) blooms later, larger and in a wider range of colors.

Trumpet creeper campsis radicans

The Trumpet Creeper (Campsis radicans) originally from the eastern U.S. is a self-attaching vine with bright yellow and orange blossoms. This vine can grow as much 40 feet in one year! Because it is such a vigorous grower and can become invasive, it is best planted in a large container beside the trellis or arbor. It is tolerant of a variety of soil conditions and of heat and cold. Needs moderate water in summer.

 California Fuchsia (Zauschneria californica) – a western native perennial, it is low growing with narrow gray-green leaves. In late Summer and Fall, it bursts into bloom with orange, red or yellow flowers to liven your xeriscape garden.

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Coral Bells (Heuchera sanguinea) – coral bells have relatively large and colorful leaves. On many newer hybrids the leaves are bronze. These perennials prefer some shade. Dainty flowers bloom in Spring on slender spire-like stems. 

Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii) – you will find this popular Western native with tiny red flowers in every nursery in town. It needs some shade during the hottest part of the day, but is a drought tolerant plant.

Baja Fairy Duster (Calliandra californica) – the deep red blooms on this shrub look like mini powder puffs. Will bloom almost year round with moderate watering. Grows to 5 feet tall. 

Mexican bird of paradiseMexican Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii or Poinciana pulcherrima) – A fast-growing, sturdy shrub with fine feathery foliage, it blooms yellow or red/orange almost all summer long. Grows to 10 feet tall. Needs very little water once established.

Lion’s Tail (Leonotis leonurus) – you may have to search out this South African evergreen shrub that grows 4 to 6 feet tall. From Summer to Fall it blooms with whorls of tubular, vibrant orange and yellow flowers.

Luring more bees to your garden

Plant salvias (sages), desert willow, hollyhock, columbine, and butterfly bush and lantana to attract more bees to your desert garden. Bees especially love rosemary which would also give you a herb to use in cooking!

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