4 benefits of the beautiful brittlebush

4 benefits of the beautiful brittlebush

Last fall, I bought my first brittlebush to include in my drought tolerant landscape. Since then, my inexpensive, one-gallon brittlebush has grown fast and produced lots of flowers. My recent experience has shown there are at least 4 benefits of the beautiful brittlebush.

Before I list those benefits, I should explain that the often overlooked brittlebush grows naturally in the Sonoran and Mojave deserts. This tough, beautiful plant also grows throughout southern California, along with parts of Nevada, Utah, Baja California, and other parts of northwestern Mexico.

Daisy family

The brittlebush (Encelia farinosa ) is a member of the daisy family. Just like other daisies, the brittlebush produces beautiful yellow flowers. The flowers add a splash of vibrant yellow warmth to any drought-tolerant xeriscape.

4 benefits of the beautiful brittlebush

1. Easy to grow

Brittlebush is remarkably easy to grow. In fact, this plant would be a perfect starter plant for any gardener who wants to naturalize parts of their landscape.

Once I planted my immature plant in my unamended soil, it quickly took root and grew. Only six months later, it was producing an abundant bouquet of flowers and growing new leafy stems from its base.

— Frost sensitive

While the brittlebush is sensitive to below-freezing temperatures, my young plant survived a few nights of frost. Those same low temperatures had scorched the leaves and flowers of my nearby trailing lantanas.

— Rounded growth habit

Mature brittlebushes have a rounded growth habit. When I first planted my young bush, it only had a few stems extending from the base. Now, more leafy stems have sprouted and have grown quickly.

By next fall, my brittlebush should be filled with blue-green leaves supported by woody stems. From a distance, the plant will look like a round mound of vegetation punctuated by stems of flowers.

In the desert, many of the brittlebushes I’ve seen have been mounds of about two-to-three feet high. However, with a little extra water and warmth, your brittlebush might reach four-to-five feet.

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2. Drought tolerant

As a native to the Sonoran and Mojave deserts, the beautiful brittlebush is tolerant of drought conditions. Even so, I have watered mine every week throughout the fall, winter, and spring months.

During the hot summers, I will also water it deeply once a week. The extra water should prevent the plant from dying back to the ground. In its natural desert habitat, the brittlebush does lose leaves and look a little spindly during the intense summer heat.

— Plant in well-draining soil

Just like most drought-tolerant plants, the brittlebush performs best in soil that drains well. In its desert habitat, this plant grows naturally on sunny, rocky hillsides and close to naturally draining arroyos and washes. If this plant’s roots sit in wet soil too long, they can easily develop root rot.

Brittlebush flowers in Palm Canyon
Brittlebush flowering in Palm Canyon, CA.
Wikimedia Commons image by Stan Shebs, CC BY-SA 3.0,

In my own landscape, I planted my brittlebush in a naturalized area that receives lots of sun and is surrounded by other drought-tolerant cacti and agaves.

3. Flowers almost all year

Even though the brittlebush might flower all year long, it produces its most abundant show of flowers in the fall, winter, and spring seasons. Temperatures are more moderate then, and the plant can devote more of its resources to flower production.

brittlebush flowers on long stems
The daisy-like brittlebush flowers
are supported by long, fleshy stems

photo by Doug Martin

— Flowers attract pollinators

Like many desert plants, the flowers of the brittlebush attract many natural pollinators. I’ve seen bees, butterflies, and even the occasional hummingbird hover around the bright yellow flowers.

— Seeds germinate easily

My young brittlebush has already produced lots of flowers. After they withered, the seed heads dried out within a few weeks.

If you let the seeds alone, they eventually dry out so much that the wind will naturally blow them throughout your landscape. When conditions are right, the seeds will germinate easily.

I’ve taken a handful of dried seeds and planted them in loose soil around the drier perimeter of my landscape. Many of them should germinate, and soon I will have all the brittlebushes I need in my landscape.

If you live in the southwest, just be aware that this bush can naturalize very easy throughout your landscape, even in places you’d rather not have them.

brittlebush seeds germinate easily
The seed heads will dry out after a few weeks,
then the seeds will blow away
to a new location and germinate there

photo by Doug Martin

4. Adds a natural charm to your landscape

If you’re like me, you love the ‘look’ of deserts. To me, the tall cacti, the resilient agaves, and the drought-tolerant, aromatic bushes are icons of the rough-and-tumble, live-free spirit of the Wild West.

— Naturalized landscape plants

I like to capture that same spirit by using those tough plants in my own landscape. By naturalizing our landscapes, we can choose plants that will thrive and also add natural beauty to our surroundings.

No matter where you live in the world, you can surround yourself with a naturalized environment. Use plants that will thrive in your specific locale, and you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful, self-sustaining habitat.

Here in my southwestern landscape, I’ve used many varieties of cacti, agaves, trees, and bushes to add a natural charm. One of those plants I’ve incorporated in my natural xeriscape is the brittlebush.

— Brittlebush is a perfect accent plant

While the brittlebush will not be a focal point in your landscape, it is a beautiful accept plant. Use it to create contrast with your more commanding columnar cacti, or intriguing agave specimens.

In my landscape, I planted my brittlebush next to a moderate-sized agave americana (century plan). I’ve also planted brittlebush seeds next to a Peruvian apple cactus, and my white cloud and purple sages.

— Beautiful color contrast in your landscape

As the seeds germinate and grow, the bushes will add a lovely contrast of blue-gray around the base of the larger plants. When they mature, the brittlebush’s flowers will add a brilliant splash of sunny yellow warmth.

You could also pair your brittlebush with a taller red bird of paradise bush, or as a companion to your Spanish lavender. The bright yellow flowers will be a brilliant complement to the purple or red flowers.


4 benefits of the beautiful brittlebush

Brittlebush is one of the most low-maintenance plants to include in your landscape. It is drought-tolerant, and can survive a wide range of temperatures. In addition, it doesn’t require soil additives, although the soil should be well-draining.

Best of all, your brittlebush will give you lots of bright yellow flowers, and will attract a bevy of interesting pollinators to your landscape.

By Doug Martin, Opportunity Muse.

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by Doug Martin and Opportunity Muse.
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