New Mexico's diverse climate provides a full palette of possibilities for eager flower gardeners. From hot southern plains to cool mountain regions, the state spans U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4b through 9a. Temperature extremes team with the desert climate and changing altitudes to create distinctive challenges and gardening opportunities. The best flowers for New Mexico gardens are those adapted to the state's extremes.
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Even at cool, high altitudes, New Mexico remains an arid region. Annuals offer one of the best ways to add color without concern for winter hardiness. Annuals that thrive under dry conditions perfectly suit New Mexico's fast-draining soils and help keep supplemental irrigation to a minimum. Water-wise, drought-tolerant annuals such as the succulent moss rose (Portulaca grandiflora) and creeping zinnia (Zinnia angustifolia) provide colorful, season-long blooms in shades from brilliant red and magenta to southwestern-sunset orange and yellow, handling dry days and seasonal rains with ease.
Even when New Mexico temperatures ease up, the sun still beats down hot and hard. Plants that beg for full sun in other regions crumble under the heat of New Mexico's intense afternoon rays. Best bets include heat-loving, flowering herbs such as English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), hardy in USDA zones 5 through 8, and the square-stemmed hyssop (Agastache spp.), also known as hummingbird mint, hardy from USDA zone 4 through 11. These tough herbal flowers flourish under hot, sunny New Mexico conditions and respond with extra aromatic oils.
With New Mexico's low rainfall levels, soils tend to run on the alkaline side of the pH scale. Locally native wildflowers are perfectly adapted to higher pH soils found throughout the state. Natives such as Indian blanket flower (Gaillardia aristata) and butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), both hardy in USDA zones 3 through 10, excel in New Mexico's alkaline garden soils. The colorful flowers manage to attract scores of native pollinators in the process. Native flowers local to your garden's specific location handle the soil's pH and suit native butterflies and bees best.
Cool temperatures in New Mexico's high country suit many non-native, non-desert plants well. Flowers that need winter chill to bloom their best thrive in New Mexico's mountainous zones. Old-fashioned peonies (Paeonia hybrida), suitable for USDA zones 3 through 8, perform beautifully in high-country gardens. Perennial flowering bulbs such as daffodils (Narcissus spp.), hardy in USDA zones 3 through 9, and tulips (Tulipa spp.), hardy in USDA zones 3 through 8, expand the choices of New Mexico gardeners and surprise the range with some of its best spring color.