Two Outstanding Native Shrubs for the Western US
Native plants are a passion for my staff and I, particularly western native plants. And yet many of our great Western natives are virtually unknown among amateur and professional gardeners and landscapers. Such is the case with these two species native to the Great Basin of UT and NV and eastern CA.
Western Redbud (Cercis occidentalis)
Growing as a small tree or large shrub in its arid habitat, this relative of the popular Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis), Western Redbud has been used historically by native American peoples as a source of flexible branches for weaving baskets. Blooming in mid-spring with pale pink to dark rose pink flowers before the leaves appear, it is a showstopper. Deep green, almost glossy leaves follow and change to yellow in the fall before they drop. Western Redbud becomes more cold hardy with age. Do this by providing young transplants with supplemental cold protection for the first two winters in the ground. This is easily done by wrapping the plant in burlap and filling the fabric with fallen leaves to insulate the branches. My 5 year old plant has now withstood occasional winter lows of -15° F ! Zones (6 with initial cold protection) 7-10.
Native in the foothills and lower elevation mountains of eastern CA and western NV, this species is a relative of the eatable Peach. In late spring the shrub is covered by a cloud of fragrant, pale to medium pink flowers. The shrub is both heat and cold tolerant and grows to medium size with dense, angular, thorny branching and small light green leaves. By mid-summer, tiny, non-eatable peaches are abundant. As a habitat plant, Prunus andersonii is a fabulous shrub for feeding bees and to provide nesting habitat for songbirds. Desert Peach can also be used as a barrier or hedging and is a great choice for poor soils. Very xeric once established. Zones 5-9.