It is without a doubt the summer in the Southwest! For some, that is a great time; for those fine flora that inhabit the great southwestern parts of the USA, it can be horrible. If you happen to be one of those lucky men or women whose living depends on providing a beautiful landscape for either a residential property or commercial property, then I have a plant just for you.
Botanically known as Chrysactinia mexicana, or commonly known as Damianita, it is a landscape plant that thrives in the sweltering heat. What makes this such a desirable plant? Is it the fact that it blooms throughout the summer? What about the fact that it stays low and requires very little care?
Lets’ get some information about this fine little plant. Damianita is native to Texas, New Mexico and parts of Northern Mexico. Needless to say, if a plant is native to those locations, it has to be a survivor. It is listed as being hardy to about 15-20 degrees F, although it will probably survive dips a bit lower. Texas does have some harsh winters, so I have to believe that the plant is a tough little bugger!
Identifying Damianita is fairly easy. It is a low-growing, and almost appears like it could work as a ground cover. But I would not under any circumstance consider it as a ground cover. Growing to about a foot tall, and spreading about a foot or two in diameter, it grows into a round mound of a plant. Its dark green leaves are scented and have a pleasing fragrance. The yellow flowers will cover the entire plant when in bloom. The blooming period can last well into the summer, starting in the late spring. This value is what I believe makes it a fantastic landscape plant.
So, now that we are aware of this splendid little plant, where and what does it need to survive? Luckily, it is a drought-tolerant plant that does not need gallons and gallons of water. It will need regular irrigation through the hottest part of the summer.
Considering where it originates, its soil requirements are simple. A good well drained soil will do. I am not suggesting that one modify the soil as if planting a delicate, ultra-sensitive plant. Rather, all I am suggesting is that one provides a nice hole for the plant, (usually found in 1 gallon size ), maybe twice the diameter of the container and just as deep. You don’t want to bury the plant or let it sink. Toss in a small amount of organic matter, and plant like any desert plant.
In the landscape, this low-grower is obviously a plant that would be used along walkways, in front of plants that are foot or taller, and even in planters. Personally, I like using them where there is a narrow path along a sidewalk, and something is needed to soften an entry. Planting in large planters is something that is by all means possible, but not used nearly as much as it could be. Heck, for that matter, one can treat Damianita as a seasonal plant for really hot areas, and fill pots and have some sort of accent plant in the center of the pot.
One thing to remember, full sun can be blazing in the deserts, so a tad bit of shade will make these beauties a whole lot happier. In closing, the “pretty little girl“ or Damianita is a great plant that could find a place in the landscape. Whether it is planted in the full sun, or even better, gets a smidge of shade in the late afternoon, it is by all means worthy of being used in residential and commercial sites.
Joe Pearl is a horticulture consultant in Mesa, AZ.