in Tucson, Phoenix,
Arizona and California

Gardening in Tucson, Phoenix, Arizona and California

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Larrea tridentata: Creosote Bush

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Form: Shrub.
Leaf retention: Evergreen.
Growth rate: Slow.
Mature Size: 4-10' high and 6-12' wide.
Flowers: Yellow, with five wrinkled petals.
Bloom: Winter into spring, sporadically following summer rains.
Fruit: Fuzzy white seed capsule that persists on plant.
Leaves: Shiny green, two leaflets joined at base, resinous surface often sticky, creosote smell after rain which some find enjoyable, others unpleasant.
Stems: No thorns, gray.
Roots: Aggressive, take so much water from surrounding soil that seeds and other plants cannot get established. Nothing grows underneath. New stems may sprout from root crown after extended drought. Tends to naturally spread itself out in orchard style in the wild. Difficult to transplant.
Wildlife: Attracts bees and specialized insects, used as shade cover by desert animals.
Toxic / Danger: Poisonous to, and usually avoided by, grazing animals. Possible skin rash from crushed leaves. Unsafe as home remedy.
Origin: California to Texas, Nevada and Utah, Mexico.

Cultivation and Uses
USDA hardiness zones: 7-11.
Heat tolerant: Very.
Drought tolerant: Very.
Sun: Full sun.
Water after becoming established: Survives on annual rainfall alone. Supplemental water every four months in drought is beneficial. Soil should dry out between waterings.
Soil: Well drained, dry, low in organic content, not compacted, pH 6.6-9.0 (neutral to highly alkaline). Best on rocky ground.
Prune: After the danger of frost is past. Can be sheared into a hedge, compact shrub, or tree form. Trimming stem tips makes it bushier and more attractive.
Litter: Low.
Propagation: Seed that is hulled, fumigated, and dried before storage, then scarified, and soaked in distilled water overnight before planting.
Uses: Ornamental, hedge, xeric garden.

Creosote Bush is one of the hardiest plants in the desert and is thought to live for over one hundred years.

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Larrea tridentata: Creosote Bush - flowers

Larrea tridentata: Creosote Bush - plumed seeds

Larrea tridentata: Creosote Bush