The Southwest is known as the hottest and driest region in the US. Landscapes here are and have been defined by the availability of water. This already parched region must now also face the global warming and is expected to get even hotter and significantly drier especially in the southern half. The agriculture sector is already affected by precipitation changes and increased heat, and water sources are already over-utilized, in many areas, increasing competition in plant and animal life. The projected warming and extreme events will increase stress on the rich diversity of plant species in the Southwest.
In this context, gardening in this region has its own particularities and raises specific concerns. Wildflowers are species that grow naturally without any help. Most of them grow on poor soils and are well adapted to their natural environment. They do not need pollination, fertilization, or any other human intervention. Some can be adapted to grow in other areas, but this process is quite difficult and sometimes it doesn`t produce good results. In general, when you decide to have a garden with wild flowers, it is good to opt for native plants, accustomed to the soil and climate in the region.
Native wildflowers are very beautiful and probably the easiest to grow, as they are adapted to the local conditions, need little water and tolerate the heat.
If you want to have a bright and colored garden in spring, it is best to prepare it and plant the wildflowers in the fall. The best species include desert wildflowers, which also attract native birds and butterflies to your garden, consolidating ecosystems. Here is a popular native wildflower mix to consider:
- Mexican Gold Poppy (Eschscholzia californica ssp. mexicana)
- California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
- Toadflax/ Wild snapdragon (Linaria/ Linaria vulgaris)
- Red or Scarlet Flax (Linum grandiflorum)
- Desert Lupine (Lupinus shockleyi)
- Owl’s Clover (Castilleja exserta)
- Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-script)
- Baby Blue Eyes (Nemophila menziesii)
- Tidy Tips (Layia platyglossa)
- Arroyo Lupine (Lupinus succulentus)
- Verbena (Verbena officinalis)
- Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata)
- Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis)
- Mexican Hat (Ratibida columnifera)
- Shirley Poppy (Papaver rhoeas)
- Phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia)
- Blanket Flower (Gaillardia)
Tips for growing desert wildflowers in your Southwest garden
- Plant the seeds in sunny locations
- Avoid heavily compacted and poorly drained soils; is you have such type of soil in your garden, loosen the top 1 inch before planting the wildflowers.
- Ensure soil humidity until the seedlings emerge, to ensure a good wildflower display. Once the flowers are grown, water your garden only when you see signs of wilt.
- Mix the seeds with sand or other filler, to distribute them evenly. Do not bury them any deeper than 1/8th of an inch, because they need light for germination. Do not worry if some of them will actually remain visible on the soil surface. Just protect them from birds with bird nets, or by spreading mulch over them (but mulch must be removed as soon as the seedlings appear).
- If you want to extend the blooming season, make sure to remove wilted flowers.