Among our local, native Phacelias (of which there are many) Branching Phacelia stands out for being a perennial. As opposed to its annual Phacelia relatives in the Borage family, which make a big splash in spring before dying back by the beginning of summer, Branching Phacelia will usually make it through to the rainy months, year after year.
Branching Phacelia also requires part shade, making it a useful, low-growing groundcover under trees, where its long branches (as in “Branching”) will sprawl in every direction. While it’s usually listed as being summer-dormant and does experience some dieback, we find Phacelia ramosissima will retain at least some of its leaves throughout the dry season once established, especially if you give it a little supplemental water on occasion (which can also help it to survive until the rains fall again.) If, by chance, it doesn’t survive the summer, don’t worry: you’ll likely get a bunch of volunteers to replace it.
The trade-off, if that’s what you’d call it, for all of these horticultural advantages is Branching Phacelia’s comparatively nondescript flowers. (Full disclosure: they’re far smaller and less colorful than that of the annual Phacelias.) Nonetheless, we feel that’s a small price to pay for its extraordinary staying power, not to mention its reliable contribution of summer green to a garden of browning natives.