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Pretty and Drought-tolerant Plant for High Desert Gardens

The wind is howling. The temperature is climbing. I just bought a Lantana (lantana camara) plant and I’m afraid it will get blown right out of the pot. I love the small flowers and the red-orange flame of color is my favorite. Nurseries in our area know that they come in several color varieties. How can I enjoy adding some new color to my drab garden when I’m afraid of killing it?

Drought-tolerant plants are one of the better choices for our High Desert in Southern California. We have two strikes against us though: 1) we have high winds 2) Californians should be paying more attention to their water use.

Pink variety of Lantana

Pink variety of Lantana

I chose the Lantana due to its hardy nature in arid climates. It has clusters of tight, tiny trumpets that give off a light scent. They’re great for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds. So I really want this plant to survive but I’ve killed more than I want to admit.

So I stopped off at my nursery of choice and asked how to keep my Lantana healthy. One of the clerks I found also loves Lantana, so she suggested that I water two or three times a day when the temps go over 100 degrees F. And, yes, I know the temps get that high almost every year.

I should also make sure I have a thick mulch to protect the roots and keep the heat from dehydrating the soil too fast. But how much water is enough? She said there’s an easy way to test that. Dig a hole in your garden larger and deeper than a one gallon pot. Plant the empty pot. pack soil around it. Pour exactly one gallon of water in it and let it evaporate and soak into the ground. Watch it often until all of the water is gone. That will give you the time it takes for a gallon-per-minute soak for your soil conditions.

If you don’t like how fast it goes then use an amendment that holds the water longer. If it takes too long, then loosen the soil and amend it with a more fibrous mulch product that allows drainage. I have heavy clay so I’m still trying to balance the drainage time to fit my plants.

For wind problems, I can always build a short wind wall to keep the speed under control. And for too much direct light, I can tent my plant with a tiny tarp until late in the summer.

Two colors in one planter: red flame and pink

Two colors in one planter: red flame and pink

At any case, I know this plant will be babied this year just so I can prove I can keep a Lantana in the yard. I think I’ll make a baby bonnet and get a drip bottle to make it happy. [grin]

Are you having special trouble with any of your desert plants? We may not have all of the answers, but we’ll look for them. Let us know here at High Desert

Rusty LaGrange

For more Lantana growing info, here’s a place that helped me:

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