Plants for Arizona??

sandysgardensAugust 21, 2007

We bought my father in-laws house in Apache Junction so I am thinking about what I want to grow there. We won't be moving out for several years (need to work a few more years), but have a sister in-law that is living at the house for now. I want to start designing, planting, etc with plants that aren't to hard to take care of (sis isn't a gardner)then once I am there for longer periods I can expand. Who knows maybe she'll get into gardening (oh well I can dream). What types of flowers, and shrubs do you recommend for the area? Parts of the yard has drip irrigation (we will install more once out there).

I have 75+ perennial varities of flowers here in MN and would be nice to know what types of perennials will do wll in Arizona besides the typical annuals.

Also - When is it best to do veggies in Arizona? I love growing tomatoes, peppers, etc.

Sorry for so many questions, just wanting to start my vision in my minds eye.



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raikman1(z5 CT)

I have only been in the Tucson area for a year, but have done a lot of gardening, and may be of some help.

We have about an acre of land in a forest of mesquite trees. The former owners have foundation plantings of oleander, mock orange, flowering willows, and the like. There are also seven olive trees, a large bottlebrush bush, and all manner of cacti.

I have a three-zone drip irrigation system covering the whole yard around the house, where I have had great success growing Texas sage, verbena, lantana, Mexican bird-of-paradise, periwinkle, roses, vinca, and the like. All of these grow here as perennials. Nurseries also stock rhododendrons and azaleas, which I assume will grow here if irrigated. I had forty rhodies and azaleas back in Connecticut, and was tired of them. I have had mixed success with butterfly bushes.

As for vegetables, I made a herb garden out of an old wheelbarrow, and grew huge crops of basil, Thai basil, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, Mexican oregano, spearmint and sage. I have no doubt that tomatoes and peppers and the like would be very easy. Hatch, NM is the chili pepper capital, and they have hot, dry weather too.

The key is irrigation. There are two rainy seasons here in Tucson. Spring (really March) and the desert monsoon season from the middle of July through the middle of September. The dry climate plants like the oleander (easy to grow and covered with white, purple, and pink flowers on stems up to fifteen feet tall) would only bloom for a couple of weeks then. But I have all the flowers in the planters on daily drip irrigation for 45 minutes, and the foundation plantings and olive trees daily for an hour. That way, most plants bloom continuously. I also planted five shoelace acacias, when get deep watered for two hours every three days.

In short, you can grow darn near anything here if you throw enough water at it. The previous owners had a big patch of lawn out back, but had to water the grass with sprinklers for a couple hours a day. That leads to about $200 a month in water bills. I let that go back to desert.

Hope that has been of some help. Welcome (in advance) to our desert paradise. We absolutely love it here.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2007 at 6:00PM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

Rhodies and Azaleas won't do well even if irrigated. It is too hot. I would think it is only big box store's nurseries who stock them as local nurseries would know better. The big boxes stock hibiscus, citrus and bougainvillea and palms here where they won't grow without a greenhouse in winter. :(

All sorts of tropical plants do well as well as desert plants and desert adapted plants. It is possible to have color year round. Many desert adapted plants don't need irrigation after they are established.

Many traditional perennials and roses especially do well.

You can certainly grow peppers and tomatoes!
I can't remember when they are planted though. sorry.

Annuals like petunias, pansies, snapdragons are planted in fall for winter color. Annuals like salvias, gazanias, Madagascar periwinkle also known as Vinca though it isn't Vinca major or minor but Catharanthus are planted in May for summer color. They may be perennial too.

Plant the stuff that needs water and/or shade close to the house and adapted and natives farther out on the property. Keep lawn in the back to play on and use granite mulch and groundcovers in front to reduce water use.

Embrace the desert instead of trying to make it like Minnesota!

There really are tons of great plants that grow there that aren't cactus. Though cactus are really cool too.

Visit the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, the Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Superior and the Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson for great ideas.

I miss living and gardening in the desert. Wish I was moving back.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 3:01PM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

I highly recommend the book linked below and the Sunset Western Garden Guide to get you started.

Here is a link that might be useful: Plants for Dry Climates

    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 3:04PM
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Thanks everyone for your comments, much appreciated. The house in Arizona sits on 1 & 3/4 acres and doesn't have a speck of grass and wonÂt. The yard close to the house and other side of drive is where I will be updating with plants, and the way back will remain desert (lots of different cacti, etc.). No plan on making it look like MN, since I will still have our summer cabin there with my gardens, but hoping I can plant a few of my favs. Hey, I have 2 kinds of cacti here in my MN gardens. This fall I will be definitely checking the current drip irrigation system the house has and begin adding.

I have been to the Desert Botanical Garden, the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, and the Sonora Desert Museum but it's been a while so have them on my list to visit again and to take lots of notes. When are the best times to visit?

I've looked up the books mentioned and have ordered one through my book club and have the other on my X-mas list. They should be very helpful.

Thanks everyone

    Bookmark   August 27, 2007 at 8:53AM
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There are a number of FREE booklets that will help you with your plant selection and irrigation.
Landscape Plants for the Arizona Desert
Xeriscape: Landscaping with Style
Landscape Watering by the Numbers

The Apache Junction Water Company 480-982-6030, should have these publications but just in case I've included a link to more information about the booklets and where to get them.

The Landscape Plants brochure features over 200 plants including trees, shrubs, flowering perennials, cacti and succulents, vines, native bunching grasses as well as colorful annuals. Because most are native to the Southwest they will thrive with little maintenance and don't mind the harsh climate.

I hope this helps.

Here is a link that might be useful: Landscape Plants for the Arizona Desert

    Bookmark   August 27, 2007 at 12:03PM
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Aztreelvr - Thanks for the info. I have printed a ton of stuff off the link you provided.

I'm going to have my sister in-law stop by the AJ water company and get whatever brochures they have too.

Thanks again

    Bookmark   August 28, 2007 at 8:42AM
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I inherited my folks place in Tucson in 2003 and the 1 1/2 acres was pretty much a blank slate. I made some mistakes and had some successes.

The most important thing that I learned is plant some fast growing shade trees first. Even plants that like full sun will benefit by a break in the mid-afternoon.

Next, trees are better off being planted near flower beds. It gives water sources for the roots to run toward. That is basically how to design your yard.

Third, you can grow anything you want. Winter is time pansies and petunias, etc. You have to reason out an adjustment in the growing time and amount of sun and shade.

Plan it well and a really good nursery will go over it with you and advise how to be successfull. Thanx to Mesquite Valley Growers I have apple, apricot, plum, almonds, lemons, oranges all growing magnificently. I have designated flower beds for all my favorite eastern perenials and annuals. Limit your beds or else the water bill will make you sick!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2007 at 5:21PM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

If you want to see the most native wildflowers and cactus blooming, go in April or May.

If you are more interested in how plants look when they aren't blooming October is a great month to visit when you live in a cooler climate and there will be some blooms then too.

I'm so jealous. I had to buy a greenhouse to have a little slice of Arizona. My tiny city lot is over flowing and I have to rip out to plant new and DH won't let me get rid of the dang lawn despite it being an eyesore from too much shade. Why did I marry an Oregonian who hates to travel? LOL

    Bookmark   August 29, 2007 at 11:46AM
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We live just east of Apache Junction (1/4 mile). Lots of rocks, and caliche. Rabbits and javelina will eat most anything. Fencing helps a little, but they are persistent.
I have found that aromatic herbs (Mediterranean types)do well, and the bunnies don't eat rosemary, basil, oregano, thyme, sage, onions, garlic, etc...There is information on my web site about Apache Junction plants, animals, etc.
The local nursery, Shady Way Gardens, is a fun place to shop for local flora. Great place on Superstition Blvd!

Here is a link that might be useful: Superstition Pet Portraits

    Bookmark   January 6, 2008 at 2:59PM
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Here is a somewhat useful calender made by a local tropical nursery for gardening activity in the area. Lots of gardeners experiment with plants that don't usually do well in the DRY HEAT but some have limited success. We grow several plants as perennials outside here that most parts of the country consider house plants and vice versa.

Here is a link that might be useful: gardening calender

    Bookmark   January 6, 2008 at 9:45PM
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yogi-gardener(9 AZ)

Wow, great link Solar gh Thanks!

    Bookmark   January 8, 2008 at 10:55PM
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I grow quite a few vegetables here in Tucson in a small garden - It help a lot that I have a very large palm tree shading the area 1/2 the day during the hot summer months. So, if you can plan your location to partial shading during the summer months, I think you will have an easier time. My tomatoes produce all through May to November.

As long as there is enough water, about the easiest thing I have found to grow in the cooler months (Feb - Apr) and (Oct - Dec) has been snow peas. They need something vine up but then produce well and reliably. I usually plant some in mid-Feb and then again in October (they die off in the heat of the summer). The ones I planted this last October are still producing even though we had a 26 F night some weeks back.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2008 at 8:42PM
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While I like the botanical garden in Phoenix, I LOVE the one in Tucson. I highly recommend a trip down to that one, especially for someone who wants ideas for gardens around their home. They have different areas with smaller-scale gardens that seem completely do-able. It seems much friendlier and more personal than the Desert Botanical Garden (though I do like that one).

    Bookmark   January 15, 2008 at 3:48PM
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This website will tell you absolutely everything about gardening in Arizona. And I mean absolutely everything. I have read through it several times, and it has a wealth of information. I'm serious, whatever you want to know, it's in there.

Here is a link that might be useful: Arizona Master Gardener

    Bookmark   January 15, 2008 at 5:19PM
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