Growing the Desert Garden

Welcome to the Desert Garden, with garden coach Tyler Storey, where we talk about everything having to do with gardening and landscaping in the Desert Southwest. From composting to Cercidium and agaves to arugula — we'll cover everything you want to know to grow your own beautiful Desert Garden.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Plant to Ponder: Desert Marigold

Baileya multiradiata © Tyler Storey

Baileya multiradiata, also called the Desert Marigold, is a tough and colorful perennial addition to the Desert Garden. While it's easy to disparage the seemingly endless display of "little yellow flowers" in the desert landscape, it's hard to dismiss a flower that so reliably and easily provides a nearly year-round floral display. It will take full or reflected sun and extremely low water; I've seen this plant growing in the cracked pavement at the edge of a highway, merrily blooming away. A good soak mid-way through a dry spell will keep the bloom going, and shearing back the dead flower stems once or twice a year is the extent of its maintenance needs. It grows to about a foot tall and two feet across, with bright yellow 1- to 2-inch flowers held well above it silvery, woolly foliage.

Desert Marigold is often available in plant form at nurseries but is just as easily grown from seed, reaching flowering size in a single season. When planting it from pots, you'll need to strike the right balance between enough water to keep it alive and not so much that it rots out; it requires good drainage. It will re-seed vigorously anywhere the seeds can find a crevice to land in and a little moisture to jump-start them; the woolly-gray seedlings are distinctive.

B. multiradiata is native throughout the low elevations of the West and Mexico. Its common name derives from its perceived similarity to the common Marigold, to which it is not closely related. It's genus name is after Jacob Whitman Bailey a Nineteenth Century American naturalist, while its species, multiradiata, is Latin for "many rays," referring to the many flower petals of the bloom.

Use Desert Marigold for bright spots of color in a casual xeriscape, as part of a wildflower mix, and as a fast bloom in a newly planted desert landscape. In a more structured landscape, try B. multiradiata as a foreground plant for darker green and smooth prickly pears such as Opuntia ficus-indica, or large green agaves such as Agave weberi.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Best practical info Ive seen on desert marigold!