Low-Maintenance Perennials for the Desert Southwest

Beloved, hardy, low-maintenance garden plants are the best friend-makers a gardener can grow.

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    Every region has its share of plants that are easy maintenance. Choose these low-maintenance perennials and you can enjoy a colorful, almost carefree yard. We've pulled together some of the easiest-to-grow perennials in the Desert Southwest. Add them to your landscape for season-long color. These time-tested favorites have become classics of country and cottage gardens and are full of heirloom charm. 

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    Datura

    A sprawling, native wildflower with pretty trumpet-shape flowers, datura blooms all summer long. The beautiful white flowers are fragrant in the evening hours, and the gray-green leaves make a nice foil. Be careful though, all parts of these low-maintenance outdoor plants are extrememly poisonous if digested.

    Plant Name: Datura meteloides

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 4 feet tall and wide

    Grow It With: Salvia, which offers wonderfully contrasting spiky blooms

    Zones: 7-11; often grown as a self-seeding annual in colder areas

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    Agave

    This dramatic, shrublike succulent offers interesting texture and foliage to any garden. It's no wonder agaves are becoming favorites of gardeners everywhere—their bold, architectural form really stands out in the landscape.

    Plant Name: Agave americana

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 25 feet tall in bloom and 6 feet wide

    Grow It With: Western columbine for a bold combination of color and texture

    Zones: 9-11

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    Mexican Tarragon

    Enjoy the low-maintenance aromatic foliage all year long; the charming golden-yellow flowers are a great autumn bonus. Mexican tarragon, also called Mexican mint marigold, is rather tasty and can be used for cooking and baking.

    Plant Name: Tagetes lucida

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 30 inches tall and 18 inches wide

    Grow It With: The lush blooms of desert primrose

    Zones: 8-10

  • 'Electric Blue' penstemon, Penstemon, blue flowers 5 of 11

    Penstemon

    You can't go wrong with penstemon. These plants are as tough as they are beautiful. There's a huge variety; look for selections that bloom in just about any color. All are great plants for attracting hummingbirds and butterflies; most are great cut flowers, too.

    Plant Name: Penstemon heterophyllus

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 2 feet tall and wide

    Grow It With: Salvia; the two have a similar shape and texture

    Zones: 7-10

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    Salvia

    Salvia, like penstemon, is another surefire winner for your garden. Salvias bear spikes of blooms in a wide array of colors—from bold red to true blue—on heat- and drought-resistant plants. Many have extended bloom seasons, and are favorites of hummingbirds and butterflies. Try one and it's likely to become one of your favorite plants (with a low-maintenance bonus).

    Plant Name: Salvia farinacea

    Growing Conditions: Full sun or part shade and well-drained soil

    Size: To 2 feet tall and wide

    Grow It With: Creeping phlox, which makes a great skirt for the plant

    Zones: 8-11

  • Prickly pear cactus Opuntia 7 of 11

    Prickly Pear

    Not all cactuses are created the same. Look for easy-growing prickly pear in a wide variety of colors—as well thornless selections. These plants are a great choice for gardeners in high elevations; certain prickly pears are among the hardiest cactuses.

    Plant Name: Opuntia selections

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 5 feet tall and wide

    Grow It With: Echeveria, another easy-care succulent, for a fun mix of color and texture

    Zones: 5-11, depending on type

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    Western Columbine

    Add a soft, delicate texture to shady spots in your garden with Western columbine. This low-maintenance perennial sprouts colorful red-and-yellow springtime blooms. The blue-green, soft-textured foliage is a perfect way to add interest into your garden when the columbine isn't blooming.

    Plant Name: Aquilegia formosa

    Growing Conditions: Partial shade and moist, well-drained soil

    Size: To 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide

    Grow It With: Pasque flower for a topnotch springtime display

    Zones: 4-7

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    Four o'Clock

    It's four o'clock somewhere! All summer long, these easy-growing perennials will fill your garden with fragrance in the afternoon. Plus, it's a favorite of dusk-feeding hummingbirds and many beautiful moths.

    Plant Name: Mirabilis jalapa

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 2 feet tall and wide

    Grow It With: The morning blooms of coneflower

    Zones: 10-11; often grown as a self-seeding annual in colder areas

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    Primrose

    Add some color to your garden with almost no maintenance. Primrose is a great choice for adding a spring-to-fall carpet of color to hot, sunny areas. The cheery yellow blooms shine against the perennial's rich evergreen foliage. 

    Plant Name: Calylophus hartwegii

    Growing Conditions: Part shade in dry soil

    Size: To 1 foot tall and several feet wide

    Grow It With: Salvia—the yellow and blue color combination is a garden classic

    Zones: 5-9

  • Next Slideshow 15 Great Native Plants for Southwestern Gardens

    15 Great Native Plants for Southwestern Gardens

    Add low-maintenance beauty to your yard with these tough Southwestern plants.
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