In search of flowers to brighten your fall garden as summer winds down and days shorten? Look no further than the cheerful yellow blooms of Copper Canyon daisy ( Tagetes lemmonii) or Mexican mint marigold ( Tagetes lucida)!
Closely related to the more common annual marigolds, these two perennials have hidden qualities that might pique your interest.
The Copper Canyon daisy grows wild in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and Northern Mexico; so established plants require no additional water in a San Antonio landscape. Like its smaller annual cousins, the foliage of the Copper Canyon daisy gives off a strong odor when it is disturbed. Some people enjoy the powerful olfactory stimulation but deer steer clear, making this plant highly resistant to our cloven-hoof friends.
It does attract more desirable visitors: butterflies! When it blooms in the fall, plants are covered in a profusion of small yellow flowers that pollinators love. Keep an eye out for a migrating monarch that might stop in for a snack on route to her wintering grounds in Mexico.
The yellow flowers contrast nicely with purple or blue-flowered perennials like mealy-blue sage or Mexican bush sage . Leave plenty of room as Copper Canyon daisies can grow to heights and widths in excess of four feet if the conditions are right.
For a smaller plant that provides the same pop of yellow in the fall landscape, consider Mexican mint marigold; it grows to approximately 18 inches in stature. Try planting it with other fall butterfly magnets like gay feather and fall aster. Before flowering, the dark green foliage adds interest to a flowerbed.
Mexican mint marigold enjoys a long history of medicinal and cultural use; it has even been said that the Aztecs blew a powder derived from the dried plant into the faces of their human sacrifices. Today it can be used as a tarragon substitute, hence another name for this plant “Texas tarragon.”
As we look forward to a reprieve from the heat, bring the warm glow of fall into your garden with one or both of these attractive, drought tolerant plants. Enjoy both the beautiful blooms and the butterflies you’re sure to attract with them.
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Cleveland Powell is a conservation consultant for SAWS. He is enthusiastic about grass taxonomy and milkweed propagation. In his free time, Powell enjoys hiking around area parks in search of intriguing bugs, birds and plants.
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