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Desert Gardening: Extending the Fall Season

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Lowe’s desert region gardening expert talks about his favorite plants that extend the gardening season far into fall.

Moss verbena, purple, with octopus agave

By Scott Calhoun

Fall is a delicious season to be gardening. Morning temperatures fall to the 50s and 60s, and you can work outdoors midday without fear of overheating.

Without question fall is the premier season for planting almost all desert-adapted plants. A few fall bloomers stretch out the season into early winter, and maybe a little beyond, depending when hard frosts arrive. Here are a few of my favorite plants for extending the fall season:

Cool-season-growing Groundcovers
As featured in the photo above, groundcovers, such as moss verbena, spread out beneath succulents (octopus agave in this case) and often get a late flush of blooms as temperatures moderate.

purple-flowered black dalea shrub, fall

Delightful Daleas
Daleas also are among my very favorite small shrubs for fall bloom. Many of the plants in the genus Dalea bloom in fall (as well as spring), but none more so than black dalea (Dalea frutescens). Another dalea that really extends the season, indigo bush (Dalea pulchra), is a winter bloomer. As shown in the photo, daleas pair particularly well with ornamental grasses, which I talk about next.

fall-blooming ornamental grasses

Gorgeous Grasses
Nearly all the ornamental grasses that thrive in the Southwest bloom in fall, although most people think of their blooms as seed heads (which they become).

Anyhow you can choose grasses with exceptional fall color such as the bright-pink-red regal mist muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris). It's pictured with deer grass (Muhlenbergia rigens), which brings architectural interest. Its tall, golden flower spikes wave in the breeze, adding movement to the garden.

Yellow daisy and purple sage

Perennials
A few perennials really shine in fall. Copper canyon daisy (Tagetes lemmonii) and Mexican sage, both featured in the photo, are two great ones. Copper canyon daisy blooms fall into winter, as does Mexican sage.

What are some of your fall favorites?

See more Desert Gardening Articles.