Flowers that Hold Up to Summer Heat in the Desert Southwest

When it comes to heat-tolerant plants, gardeners in the Southwest are experts. Here are two surefire picks for big color and low care.

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I recommend two plants from the same genus -- a small tree and a shrub -- that are much loved for their rich, bright colors and unfussy culture. Caesalpinia is robust enough to be planted in the asphalt-surrounded medians of Arizona streets. The plants positively bask in the heat, producing flowers in colors hot enough to match summer temperatures.

Mexican bird of paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana) is a small -- 15 feet tall and wide -- thornless tree with pendulous gold flowers throughout much of the warm season. In warmer areas, it is evergreen. This tree looks smart planted in courtyards or near south-facing walls.

Red bird of paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima), pictured, produces ruffled red and orange flowers that are as flashy as a flamenco dancer's skirt. A true heat-lover, this big shrub (6 feet tall and wide) will bloom periodically throughout the summer months. In frost-free climates, red bird of paradise is evergreen, but in most Southwest locations it is cut to the ground each winter.

Click here for more ideas on landscaping in tough climates.

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