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Desert Gardening: Raging Sages: High Summer Flowering Shrubs

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Shrubs might be the most useful plants in desert gardens, adding texture, color, privacy and bird habitat. Here are some picks to consider.

Purple Texas ranger and desert spoon

By Scott Calhoun

When the hot summer temperatures kick in, a few shrubs begin a flurry of flowering, and none do it better than a group of plants known as Texas sages or Texas rangers. These summer workhorses more than pull their weight. Following are a few that are easy to grow.

Texas rangers are a group of shrubs from the Chihuahuan desert that love heat and humidity. They respond to summer rains with spectacular displays of flowers. Depending on the variety, the flowers range from white to lavender, and blue to purple. There is a fragrant variety as well, with a sweet bubble gum aroma. The photo above is plant called Lynn's Legacy sage (Leucophyllum langmaniae 'Lynn's Legacy').

When considering a Texas ranger variety, you need to think about height. Most varieties grow quite tall - 6 to 8 ft - so you need to plan accordingly. It is best not to prune Texas rangers severely, as this will retard flowering. A few varieties stay more compact, and I mention those below.

Chihuahuan sage blooms with lavender flowers.

The lavender flowers of Chihuahuan sage (Leucophyllum laevigatum) perfectly complement a soft-textured shrub with olive-green flowers. Chihuahuan sage tends to hold its flowers on wandlike branches and forms a plant about 4 ft tall and 5 ft wide.

Blue ranger mixes nicely with creosote bush.

Another compact species of ranger is blue ranger (Leuophyllum zygophyllum), with cup-shape silver leaves and lavender- blue flowers. As shown in the picture, it mixes nicely with open-branch native shrubs such as creosote bush. It stays a nice size also - 3 ft high by 3 ft wide.

When a Texas ranger blooms, it really blooms!

The most common of the Texas sages is regular Texas ranger (Leucophyllum fructescens). You can use this large workhorse as a screen or hedge, or as a large specimen. Leave plenty of room, as it can grow as tall as 10 ft high, although more commonly it is in the 6- to 8-foot-high range. Regular Texas ranger also comes in a few color variations. There is 'Green Cloud' with green leaves, and white cloud, with white flowers.

 

See more Desert gardening articles.

For more about shrub texture, watch my video.