in Tucson, Phoenix,
Arizona and California

Gardening in Tucson, Phoenix, Arizona and California

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Growing Justicia californica: Chuparosa

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Form: A shrub with a casual, unkempt appearance.
Leaf retention: Drought-deciduous.
Growth rate: Moderate to fast depending on water.
Mature Size: 3-5' high and wide.
Flowers: Red, orange, or yellow, tubular, to 1.5" long, with a small flared upper lip and a narrow three-lobed lower lip. This flower is edible; the nectar is said to have a cucumber-like flavor.
Bloom: Fall, winter, and spring.
Fruit: Seed capsule.
Leaves: Green, ovate to heart-shaped, often dropped during drought.
Stems: No thorns. Blue-green, thick like a succulent, arching, sprawling. The stems may get woody at bottom with age.
Roots: This plant spreads by rhizomes.
Wildlife: Attracts hummingbirds and birds.
Toxic / Danger: No.
Origin: California, Arizona, and Mexico.

Cultivation and Uses
USDA hardiness zones: 8-10. It may die to the ground in hard freezes and come back from its roots.
Heat tolerant: Yes.
Drought tolerant: Four to six weeks depending on the extent of its root system. In the wild it is found next to dry washes.
Sun: Full sun to part shade.
Water once established: Once a month to weekly depending on appearance. It withstands temporary flooding.
Soil: Well drained, dry, pH 6.6-8.5 (neutral to alkaline).
First Year Care: Water every one or two days to establish an extensive root system. Taper off water starting six weeks prior to the first freeze date in fall. Do not irrigate in winter when freezing temperatures are possible.
Prune: After the spring bloom, remove damaged or diseased stems, and trim to shape.
Litter: Low.
Propagation: Seed.
Uses: Ornamental, hummingbird garden. The flowers can be used in salads.

This plant is a member of the Acanthus family (Acanthaceae). Other common names are Hummingbird Bush and Beloperone. Small birds bite off the petals and eat the nectar-filled bases.

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Latest update: January, 2022

Justicia californica: Chuparosa - flower

Justicia californica: Chuparosa - flowers

Justicia californica: Chuparosa - with hummingbird

Justicia californica: Chuparosa