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Master Gardener Journal  


A S K  A   G A R D E N E R



Beautiful Brittlebush

by Judy Curtis,
Master Gardener




Question: The brittlebush in my yard is beautiful in the early spring but during the summer it looks scraggly. Some have died, even with regular water. What is the problem?

Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) is one of the toughest natives we have. In the wild it grows on the driest flats, and anchors itself in crevices of rocks. It will do best in your landscape if you respect the natural adaptations it has developed with its arid habitat.

Brittlebush produces two kinds of leaves. The larger, fleshier winter foliage supports the bloom period. Later on, smaller leaves covered with fine white hairs appear. They reflect up to 70 percent of the sunlight, and slow the rate of photosynthesis during hot weather. The lower stems are semi-succulent and hold water to help the plant survive the heat. The seasonal changes you observe in its appearance are a natural response to the environment. Too much water in the summer can interfere with the plant's cycle and it may become leggy or die.

For best results in your garden you should water only occasionally to supplement natural rainfall, perhaps monthly in summer, less in winter.

Dried flower stalks can be left or cut off after blooming. Prune stems back to new growth in the fall. When pruning wear old clothes, because the sap is extremely difficult to remove. A facemask and gloves are a good idea because some people have skin and allergy reactions.

While brittlebush is a perennial, it is not a long-lived one. It produces a lot of seed, which germinates easily. Let some of the new plants survive to replace older ones, and the plant can be a satisfying and lovely addition to your landscape.



Maricopa County Master Gardener Volunteer Information
Last Updated October 4, 2003
Author: Lucy K. Bradley, Extension Agent Urban Horticulture, University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, Maricopa County
© 1997 The University of Arizona, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cooperative Extension in Maricopa County
Comments to Maricopa-hort@ag.arizona.edu 4341 E. Broadway Road, Phoenix, AZ 85040,
Voice: (602) 470-8086 ext. 301, Fax (602) 470-8092