The Arizona rosewood (Vauquelinia californica) is a great alternative to Sonoran Desert oleanders. It is a large evergreen shrub that may grow to 30 feet tall and 10-15 feet wide; In our climate, however, it typically stays under 20 feet tall. It responds well to some pruning and can be used as a semi-formal flowering hedge, but don’t shear it.
Arizona rosewood comes from the rose family. The flowers are a beautiful creamy white and grow in clusters, attracting pollinators. The leaves are deep green and about 4 inches long, narrow, with serrated edges. The flowers turn into small brown fruits that fall off. So if you’re worried about patio clutter, consider planting it a little further away from hardscape areas. The plant grows relatively slowly, although once established it will speed up somewhat if you water it regularly. It is very hardy (up to 10 F) and drought tolerant.
Due to its size and dense vegetation, it is ideal as a privacy screen and windbreak. It also provides habitat for native 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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The Arizona rosewood tolerates our full sun and even does well in reflected sun. The plant likes well-drained soil but prefers little organic matter (so don’t add any changes when you plant it). Once established, you can only water it once a month, although more frequent watering might help it grow a little faster. If you want to control her size, water her once a month and she will likely stay less than 10 feet tall. It can also be cut in the shape of a small tree. It is susceptible to Texas root rot, so don’t plant it in areas where other plants have been infected.
Unlike oleander, which is poisonous, Arizona rosewood is non-toxic. It’s a perfect plant for larger, hot rooms if you have time to let it grow to its impressive size. It is not aggressive and will not spread in your garden.
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