Homegrown: Xeriscaping, butterfly bushes

We are in the process of xeriscaping our 1-acre property with red shale, gravel, pea gravel and trail mix.

The backyard faces west and behind our 130-foot fence is approximately 10 feet of bare dirt and a waste water ditch.

I would like to plant something there but really don’t want to extend the drip system out there. We’re afraid something like lambs ear or sage would flower and the prevailing winds will broadcast the seeds all over the gravel. Any suggestions?

— Marilynn

Thinking about it, anything that would naturalize in an area like that would have a tendency to reseed itself in the area.

Having said that though, some are more prolific than others. From what you said, it sounds like you’d like some flowering perennial plants.

There are a number of native or adapted perennials to choose from. Here’s a list of a few:

Sulfur Buckwheat — Eriogonum umbellatum

Angelita Daisy — Hymenoxys acaulis

Desert Four O’clock — Mirabilis multiflora

Globemallow — Sphaeralcea coccinea or S. munroana

Paper Flower — Psilostrophe tagetina

Penstemon — Penstemon pseudospectabilis, P. palmeri, or P. eatonii

Prince’s Plume — Stanleya pinnata

Sundrops — Calylophus sp.

Prairie Zinnia — Zinnia grandiflora

Blackfoot Daisy — Melampodium leucanthum

Broom Snakeweed — Gutierrezia sarothrae

Golden Aster — Heterotheca villosa

A few that MIGHT need a bit of water occasionally that are great additions are:

Blanket Flower — Gaillardia sp.

Blue Flax — Linum perenne

Hummingbird Trumpet — Zauschneria garrettii

Chocolate Flower — Berlandiera lyrata

Evening Primrose — Oenothera caespitosa or O. missouriensis

Fringed Sage — Artemesia frigida

Wine Cups — Callirhoe involucrata

Whirling Butterflies — Gaura lindheimeri

Yarrow — Achillea sp.

Hyssop — Agastache rupestris or A. cana

Butterfly Weed — Asclepias tuberosa

Autumn Sage — Salvia greggii

Understand, this isn’t an exhaustive list. There are a bunch of other plants that would work great.

In addition, there’s a whole group of woody plants (that I won’t go into now) that would work for you, such as Sage, Saltbrush, Mormon Tea, Mountain Mahogany, Apache Plume, Sumac, Fernbush and Yucca.

One last thing to remember is that you can’t just plant these things and walk away. You’ll have to water them occasionally for two to four months to get them established before you wean them off water.

I’m hoping you can help me determine what is wrong with my butterfly bushes. Their leaves have lost their dark green color, and they look slightly chlorotic.

I pruned them severely in early spring, and during the first few months of summer, their leaves had a normal appearance.

They are growing on the east side of my house, and get morning sun, but are shaded in the afternoon.

I have aerated around each bush, and have tried not to over water them. Nothing has seemed to help.

Can you give me any suggestions about what might be the problem, and what I could do to correct it?

— Leah

I can’t be 100 percent sure without seeing the leaves in person, but I’m about 97.62543 percent sure (is that enough?) that you’ve got spider mites working on your plant.

If you want me to be totally sure, bring a sample out for me to look at, but if it were me, I’d start treating for the mites.

There are several sprays that do a good job on them, but I think the best thing you can do is to go out everyday (maybe every other day) and give the plant a hard shower with plain old cold water. Be sure to get the underside of the leaves (that’s where most of the little buggers are). Do this for a week and a half to two weeks and the problem should be solved.

It’s an old fashioned way to do it, but it works amazingly well.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, http://www.bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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