The longer I garden, the less patience I have for needy plants. If it has to be coddled, acidified, de-pested, and drenched with inordinate amounts of water, I eventually give up growing it, no matter how attractive I once considered it.
More and more I fall back on the many Southwestern natives that ask little of me. Basically the plants I love most are those that are too tough to die. Cue the Ennio Morricone spaghetti western music here. A few of my favorites are listed below:
First up, Queen Victoria agave (Agave victoriae-reginae) in the photo to the right, which, despite its regal name, hails from the badlands and canyons south of Monterrey, Mexico. I have one plant that is 20 years old. She is a venerable old broad with gorgeous white markings on the edges of her leaves that grow in a symmetrical rosette. Everyone who sees my Queen Victoria turns green with envy.
Even tougher than Queen Victoria is Englemann’s prickly pear (Opuntia engelmannii). Its Mickey Mouse-earlike pads grow, flower and fruit with nary a watering. With the juice from the fruit, I make margaritas the magenta color of bougainvillea blooms.
For shrubs you could do a lot worse than Texas rangers (Leucophyllum sp.) in the top photo. With the onset of summer storms and humidity, these handsome, woody plants with small, silver leaves explode into clouds of purple and blue. Once established, Texas rangers stoically withstand months between rains.
Last: red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora), a plant tough enough to be planted in the street medians of Tucson. From its succulent rosette, red yucca sends up long wands of pinky-red (or yellow) flowers like flaming fishing rods.