Common name: Brittlebush
Origin: Native to the southwestern United States into northern Mexico
Where it will grow: Hardy to 15 degrees Fahrenheit (USDA zone 8; find your zone)
Water requirement: Low
Light requirement: Full, reflected sun
Mature size: 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide
Benefits and tolerances: Extremely drought tolerant once established; can survive on natural rainfall, but will appreciate water once a month in the summer.
Seasonal interest: Flowers in late winter into spring
When to plant: Spring, fall and winter
Shown: Brittlebush lining the pathway to The Living Desert in Palm Desert, California
The shrub thrives in seemingly inhospitable areas with rocky soil, scarce water and full sun. In the low deserts of the southwestern United States, brittlebush can be found growing up on hillsides, along washes and by the roadside.
Shown: Brittlebush grown from seed along the roadside in Scottsdale, Arizona
Brittlebush is a fast-growing shrub and can be grown from small plants, but is also easily grown from seed and will self-seed in the landscape. Its seed is often used for revegetation purposes in desert areas and to help stabilize sloped areas.
Avoid overwatering, as it leads to succulent growth that can bring aphids in spring; it will also shorten the life of the shrub.
This shrub is best used in landscape areas where a natural desert look is desired. Pair it with other drought-tolerant plants, such as barrel cacti (Ferocactus spp), firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatonii), ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens), Texas ranger (Leucophyllum spp) or pink fairy duster (Calliandra eriophylla).
Shown: Brittlebush growing among ocotillos and barrel cacti at The Living Desert.
Water it weekly until it’s established — usually six months to a year. Thereafter brittlebush can survive on natural rainfall, but its appearance will be improved if you water it once a month in the absence of rain.
In late fall prune it back severely (to at least half its size) to rejuvenate it and create a more compact-growing shrub.
Shown: Brittlebush growing on a rocky slope above the Hoover Dam in Nevada
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