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Desert shrubs with purple flowers

Texas Mtn. Laurel
Texas Mtn. Laurel
Linda Strader

Using plants with purple flowers in desert landscaping complements the colors of the desert environment, from native soil, native plants and the perpetual blue skies.

When choosing landscape plants in desert climates, purple flowering shrubs are a way to complement the desert’s natural colors. There are many to choose from, and to be water wise, make sure you select species that are native or drought tolerant.

Before you shop for plants, be sure you know your growing zone. For the West, Sunset Zones are more accurate than USDA Hardiness Zones. Check the Sunset Web site to locate your specific zone.

All of these shrubs are evergreen.

Medium to Large Shrubs with Purple Flowers

If you are looking for a large shrub that can handle heat, drought, and cold temperatures, the Texas ranger (Leucophyllum species) fits the bill. This shrub is native to the Southwest, and many varieties are cultivated to produce plants with a variety of heights, leaf and flower color.

For large Texas rangers, the standard version, Leucophyllum frutescens, is a popular landscaping choice. With silvery-gray leaves and light purple flowers, this species grows to about 8 feet tall and wide. ‘Green Cloud’ is a cultivar with green leaves and rosy-purple flowers, while ‘White Cloud’ has green leaves and white flowers.

Chihuahuan sage (Leucophyllum laevigatum) is a medium variety, reaching about 4 to 5 feet tall and wide. The flowers on Chihuahuan sage are lavender, and often hide the tiny green leaves when blooming.

The fragrant Texas ranger, Leucophyllum pruinosum, has bright purple flowers that smell like grape bubble gum. The leaves are silvery-gray. The fragrant Texas ranger grows to about 6 feet tall and wide.

The Texas rangers mentioned above are hardy in Sunset Zones 7-24.

Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora) is a large shrub to small tree, growing slowly to 10 feet or more, depending on soils. This bright green shrub has drooping clusters of purple flowers in early spring, and like the fragrant Texas ranger, adding the smell of grape bubble gum to your landscape design. This plant is hardy in Sunset Zones 8-16 and 18 to 24.

Small to Medium Shrubs with Purple Flowers

Cleveland sage (Salvia clevelandii) is a medium shrub with scented gray-green leaves. At maturity it grows to about 4 feet tall, including flower stalks. And the flower stalks are what make this shrub special, as the tops of the stalks bear purple flowers in spring, drying into a stem worthy of dried flower arrangements.

A smaller Texas ranger choice is Leucophyllum zygophyllum, which only reaches about 3 feet tall. The flowers are purplish-blue. The leaves are gray-green.

Adding a touch of purple to your desert landscaping will definitely make your yard special. If you want the purple to stand out, adding ground cover with complementary yellow flowers will do the trick.

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