By Debbie Roland and Emmy Ulmschneider, Master Gardeners
Copper Canyon daisy (Tagetes lemmonii) is a tough plant that grows well in West Texas. It is native to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona and northern Mexico and has quite a history. If you look at the species name, lemmonii, the double ii means that the plant was named for a person whose last name was Lemmon. Sara Plummer Lemmon started a library and helped to form the Santa Barbara Natural History Society. She married John Lemmon in 1880, sold her library and travelled to Arizona for their honeymoon, where they collected plants. On this trip they discovered a new species of Tagetes which is named for them. They introduced Tagetes lemmonii to the California plant trade and the rest is history. Both survived the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and were eventually reunited under a gravestone inscribed “Partners in Botany”.
This shrub is drought tolerant, requiring little water once established and no fertilizer. Plant in full sun or part shade. Deer do not like it, probably due to the smell.
I first encountered this perennial plant at a Master Gardener Plant Sale. There were a few plants left when the sale was over and I bought all four. That was six years ago and they are thriving in my backyard.
They have grown into gorgeous 3’ x 3’ shrubs that have long thin leaves. They bloom twice a year – in the spring and again in the fall. I find that mine blooms prolifically in October just like clockwork. The yellow flowers are so dense that you can no longer see the leaves.
A great plant for our area and a love story! This plant is usually available in local nurseries.
If you have questions, please call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information. Additional information is available at https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu and westtexasgardening.org.