If you are deciding to go native, you can’t go wrong with the monkey flower. Whimsical, flowery and cheerful, the monkey flower is a garden greeter.
Some say it looks like a monkey, but personally, I’m not sure I see Curious George in those yellow or orange flowers. Monkey-faced or not, these are plucky little plants that may make you question the snooze rating you gave the label “drought-tolerant.”
There are a number of varieties of monkey flower. If you are saving water, make sure you select the type that is drought-tolerant. This is a versatile plant — some varietals thrive in dry, well-drained and even rocky environs, while others love a wet, mucky locale.
Diplacus aurantiacus, often called Sticky Monkey Flower or Orange Bush Monkey Flower, is a good bet for dry conditions.
As a general rule, the Diplacus species is drought-tolerant, while the Mimulus varietals require water. To confuse the matter, Sticky Monkey Flower was, at one time, placed in the Mimulus category. Check those labels before purchasing.
Of course, all plants need some water, though our current weather conditions — dry and drier — will not help you in this aspect. Diplacus will fade without a little sip now and then and may go deciduous in dry, summer conditions in an effort toward self-protection. But once the plant is established, only extreme conditions and a dash of bad luck would cause this hardy perennial to perish.
To get an extra bang for your buck, you may spot a hummingbird or two slurping the nectar out of your friendly flowers. The monkey flower is a smallish shrub that hardly grows larger than 3 feet around. Behind the flowery show is a woody support system.
This is a California native that you can see out on local hikes, particularly near the coast. They convene, plump and effusive, alongside other coastal shrubbery. For those creative landscapers, place the monkey flower in a cameo role near large rocks, dry stream beds or plants of contrasting colors, shapes and textures.