The flower color folks have reinvented the color wheel to suit purposes we can only guess at. Some of them think that pink is red, which is interesting… have you ever seen a pink firetruck? No one calls a pink tomato ‘red’. If you order a red sweater, you’ll get a red sweater, but not so with a perennial or shrub. Plant people can really make a mess of your landscaping color scheme, and the same can be said about the photos they combine with the description. It’s not the soil, it’s their wishful thinking.
Here’s some true red blooming phoenix landscaping plants – not magenta, not orangish, or pink disguised as ‘light red’. We’re talking rich, jazzy red.
Pictured above is a shrubby plant that will infuse your xeriscaping with a blast of righteous red blooms in all four seasons. Callistemon citrinus blooms heaviest in spring and summer, and there is a rest period between flushes, so while it blooms a lot, it doesn’t bloom all year. But that’s okay. If it was constantly in bloom, you’d appreciate it’s showiness less.
The standard Bottlebrush is a large shrub that can be trained into a tree reaching 14 feet high by 8 feet wide. Don’t despair if your yard is too compact to accommodate such a big plant. There’s a dwarf version known as, ‘Little John’ that is perfect for many spots in today’s smaller yards. This one tops out at 3 feet high by 5 feet wide, and since this is an evergreen shrub, it’s excellent placed along the foundation. No need to harshly sheer it to see out the windows! It naturally forms a soft mounded shape, though some judicious shaping will give you a more densely branched mature plant than if you just let it grow naturally.
Little John Bottlebrush is drought tolerant, and very at home in the Valley climate.
Salvia elegans is a perennial that is native to Mexico and thrives in xeriscaping and the desert climate. Every yard can accommodate this red bloomer, as it grow 36-48 inches tall and 24-36 inches wide. As the name suggests, the aroma is similar to pineapples, and it blooms in late summer and fall (August through October). Plant it behind shorter plants that bloom earlier to keep it’s placement interesting during it’s non-blooming months.
This plant is beloved by hummingbirds and butterflies, so you might want to place it near your favorite chair to observe the action up close. The flowers are edible too, and popular for garnishing drinks and dessert, which means you might want to plant several so picking flowers for cocktail hour doesn’t impact your landscaping display.
It is fast growing, and thrives in full to part sun with low water requirements. Image courtesy of Erica Glasener.
Soften your privacy walls or add some flowering height in a narrow planting space against the side of the house with climbing red Mandevilla vines. While they also come in pink shades, there’s a variety of true red blooming cultivars old and new, like ‘Sun Parasols Dark Red’, ‘Giant Crimson’, or ‘Red Riding Hood’. It grows 8 feet tall, and does best in indirect or filtered sunlight here in the Valley, at most give it morning sun only. It’s best not to over water, especially in winter. It starts blooming in April and continues all summer.
Frost damage is possible should the temperature drop that low, but it can be covered to protect the above ground portions, or grown in a large pot so it can be moved indoors during cold snaps. Protect the roots and lower portions of the plant, and it will repair when spring arrives. Sometimes this proves not necessary though, the damage seems to be hit or miss, but its wise to cover instead of gambling on the outcome.
There’s also the close relative, Dipladenia, which is more shrubby when kept clipped. The cultivar, ‘Rio Dark Red’, is rich and vibrant if you’re looking for true red. As they mature, Dipladenia can become somewhat vine-like too if you just let it grow wild. Climbing stems are easily spotted before they get out of control, just prune them back and keep it as shrub that grows 3 feet tall.