the Arizona Rosewood (Vauquelinia californica) is an excellent native Sonoran Desert alternative to oleander. It is a large evergreen shrub, reaching 30 feet in height and 10 to 15 feet in width; however, it usually stays under 20 feet tall in our climate. It responds well to some pruning and can be used as a semi-formal flowering hedge, but don’t prune it.
Arizona rosewood is from the rose family. The flowers are a beautiful creamy white and grow in clusters and attract pollinators. The leaves are deep green and about 4 inches long, narrow, with serrations along the edge. The flowers turn into small, brown, droopy fruits, so if you’re concerned about patio messes, you might want to plant them a little further away from hard landscape areas. The plant grows relatively slowly, although it will speed up a bit once established if you water it regularly. It is very hardy (down to 10 F) and drought tolerant.
Due to its large size and thick vegetation, it makes an excellent screen hedge and windbreak. It also provides habitat for local birds. The plant is also a larval host for the two-tailed swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata), a spectacular butterfly with yellow, black and blue wings.
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Arizona rosewood tolerates our full sun and even does well with reflected sun. The plant likes well-drained soil, but prefers little organic matter (so don’t make amendments when you plant it). Once established, you can only water it once a month, although more frequent watering can help it grow a little faster. If you want to control its size, keep watering once a month and it will likely stay under 10 feet tall. It can also be pruned into the shape of a small tree. It is susceptible to Texas root rot, so do not plant it in areas where other plants have been infected.
Unlike oleander, which is toxic, Arizona rosewood is non-toxic. It is a perfect plant for large, warm spaces if you have time for it to grow to its impressive size. It is not aggressive and will not spread through your garden.
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