Lots of plants put on spring shows, but few stop traffic like a Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora), above. This 10-15-foot-high and 8-10-foot-wide evergreen becomes covered with rich-purple chains of fragrant flowers. It can be used as a hedge, a stand-alone specimen or pruned into a small multitrunked tree. It is cold-hardy to at least 10 degrees.
A relative of Mexican bird of paradise, the red bird of paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) produces ruffled red and orange flowers that are as flashy as a flamenco dancer’s skirt. A true heat lover, this big shrub (6x6 feet) thrives in the very warmest spots and will bloom periodically throughout the summer months. In frost-free climates red bird of paradise is evergreen, but in most Southwest locations is it cut to the ground each winter. It is hardy to USDA Zone 8.
Desert cotton (Gossypium thurberi) is a deciduous shrub—a wild relative of domestic cotton—that produces lovely hibiscuslike white and pink flowers in summer. In the fall its maplelike three- and five-point-tipped lobed leaves turn a mottled green and crimson for an awesome autumn show. Desert cotton will grow to 7 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet wide in full sun and is a ready reseeder. It is hardy to Zone 7.
Come February we’re all ready for a little color, and an Aussie shrub called ‘Valentine’ (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’) is eager to please. As its name suggests, ‘Valentine’ often blooms around February 14. It has reddish leaves and becomes engulfed in trumpet-shape red-pink flowers in late winter and early spring. ‘Valentine’ eventually reaches 4 to 5 feet high and 5 to 6 feet wide. For best results, provide good drainage. It is hardy to Zone 8.
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