Sunday, December 22, 2013

Coyote Brush

The lowly Coyote Brush is a bane to many gardeners and farmers in our area.  A scrubby plant which springs up in the morning and can quickly grow into an 8-foot tall, unattractive monster before dinnertime (OK, so I exaggerate), most people pull these plants out as soon as they crop up.  But I like them.  To me, they represent the quintessential drought-tolerant plant we should actually be using in our dry, mediterranean landscaping, and after a year's worth of watching them, I can tell you why.

First of all, you can give these plants NO water whatsoever if you choose, but if you provide just a small amount of water once a week or so, they will stay healthy and green throughout the year, without getting too woody or leggy.  When frost strikes and takes down your colorful (but temperamental) geraniums and bouganvilla, your coyote brush will still be green.  When everything in your yard looks a little burned and brown after a long, hot summer, there again is your faithful Coyote Brush, looking fresh as a rose after rain.

Coyote Brush can be shaped into whatever form pleases you.  The ones around my property are shaped into Christmas tree-like triangles, which keeps them neat and also allows me to control their height. But you could shape yours into a ring shape, a dog shape, or a Miley Cyrus twerking shape -- your choice.

But to me, the most important thing is the benefit these bushes provide to the local ecosystem.  They bloom late in the fall, when many plants have already gone dormant, and become a literal beehive of activity, as bees flock to the bushes each day.  In winter, they provide a thick covered space for birds of several species to find camouflage and safety.  And of course on the hottest summer days, they provide shade for all manner of birds and small animals.  They also appear to be gopher and deer proof -- always an advantage up here in the hills.

They do not take well to transplanting, unless they are quite small, so my recommendation is to watch your property and, when you see a seedling emerge, transplant it ASAP to a place where you want it to stay and grow.  I am planning on creating a hedge along our front yard, so that is where my plants will be going as I find them.

But most importantly, don't remove them entirely from your land.  They provide such a vital and necessary habitat to our native bees and birds that keeping a few around, just for that purpose alone is a good idea. And I think is also a good step towards being a good steward of the land you've been given, whether it's a suburban back yard or acreage.  The coyote brush deserves a place among whatever you are growing.


  1. I applaud you! It looks nice to me. Sort of if thyme and boxwood had a love child. Native plants are a wonderful gift.

    1. Well, I felt like I had to say something in its defense, most people around here clear it off their property completely and it's SO valuable to the bees and birds!