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Desert Gardening: Hot Desert Plants for the New Year

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Lowe's Desert Regional Contributor Scott Calhoun makes a list of cool new plants for his 2012 garden.

Desert-Scott Calhoun
Desert-Scott Calhoun

 ‘Arizona Apricot’ Blanketflower

This new version of a native perennial wildflower is really fun and was a 2011 All America Selection. I love that its flowers have a tangerine blush and combine well with blue and purple flowers. Also the plant stays a nice compact size and is long-blooming. In fact I took the photo above in my Tucson garden in mid-January.

  • Coolest feature: long-blooming orange/yellow flowers.
  • Size: 1x1 foot
  • Cold-hardiness: At least USDA Zone 4

‘Arizona Sun’ Agave

'Arizona Sun' (Agave weberi 'Arizona Sun') is a variegated version of Weber's agave. It has light-blue leaves with snappy-yellow racing strips along its edges. In the past I've made the mistake of planting a Weber's agave in too small an area, so allow some extra space for this big beauty.

  • Coolest feature: racy blue-and-yellow-striped leaves
  • Size: 4 to 5 feet high x 6 to 8 feet wide
  • Cold-hardiness: USDA Zone 9
Desert-Scott Calhoun

'Blonde Ambition' Blue Grama Grass

Blue grama grass, with its eyelashlike seed heads, has always been one of my top ornamental grasses. It is super heat-tolerant and looks great planted among woody plants and succulents. A brand-new version of blue grama grass - Bouteloua gracilis 'Blonde Ambition' - has been named the 2011 Plant of the Year by Colorado's Plant Select. Larger than regular blue grama, this robust 2½ to 3-foot-tall plant puts out chartreuse seed heads that turn blonde in winter, providing season-spanning interest. As the photo above shows, the grass is handsome even when dormant.

  • Coolest feature: abundant seed heads that add winter interest
  • Size: 2.5 to 3 feet high and wide
  • Cold-hardiness: At least USDA Zone 5

'Brakelights' hesperaloe (Hesperaloe parviflora)

Brakelights' stays compact (2 x 2 feet), sports dark, ruby-colored flowers, and fits in many gardens too small for regular red yucca. 'Brakelights' blooms for 9 months in Phoenix. This traffic-stopping introduction is worth seeking out.

  • Coolest feature: blood-red blooms plus compact size
  • Size: 2 x 2 feet
  • Cold-hardiness: USDA Zone 6

As the spring planting season nears, what plants are catching your attention? What new gems are you itching to try?