This blog is about growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area

April 15, 2018

What to plant in the springtime in Phoenix, Arizona

It's mid-April, and here in the Phoenix, Arizona area, it's a good time to plant some things, and a bad time to plant other things. That's because, brace yourself, summer's coming. And it doesn't just get hot here, it gets brutally hot. Ridiculously, crazy, hot. You could get a nasty burn on your hand from just touching one of the rocks in my garden in July, and August. Heck, we've had a preview of high temperatures already, so summer will probably be here in just a few weeks. And if you're wandering around a garden center, there are things you want to walk past, and other things you do want to plant in the spring.

So sorry, but no delicate plants like annuals. The petunias you see there were planted last fall and are already feeling the strain of the desert heat. If you're tempted to buy petunias in the spring you might as well save yourself the trouble of planting them and watching them die, by tossing them in the garbage right after you buy them. Better still, don't buy them now - wait until the fall. And that goes for any delicate-looking plant that you see for sale, like coleus, or, well, just about everything that isn't what most people would consider a desert plant.

That being said, this is a great time to plant palm trees, or just about any tree (you'd really be better off planting a desert-adapted tree, you know!). It's also the time to plant agaves, and cactus, and cycads. Plants that do well in the desert heat are best planted when the soil is warm, which is springtime. Planting them when the soil is cold can cause their roots to rot. So go get those agaves!

April 9, 2018

Why you should plant cycads and miniature agaves

I live in the desert, in the greater Phoenix, Arizona area, and when I bought my house, I wanted the tiny backyard to be an oasis. I had just moved from Southern California so I wanted a tropical effect. What I found out is that the high temperatures and low humidity meant that a lot of plants, like ferns, just didn't grow. I would buy them, and no matter what I did, I would just watch them slowly die.

Then someone introduced me to a "sago palm", which got me interested in that type of plant, which is called a cycad. Cycads are sort of miniature palms, and have a nice ferny look without being so delicate. I've planted a lot of them around here. I've also found that miniature agaves make a wonderful complement plant for them.

But hold on there, before you go rushing out, you gotta do a little bit of homework. That is, you have find out the mature size of these plants before you make the mistake of planting something that will get way too big. And you'll also have to be prepared to either spend a lot of money, or know people who will give you plants like this, as they are very expensive. Miniature plants tend to be very expensive, and if you go to a nursery, you can find many much larger plants for cheaper. But you don't want large plants, and that's the trick.

The cycads you see there are mostly dioons. There are also a couple of miniature palms. The agaves are also all miniatures. I love how the shapes work together.

My tropical paradise is a tiny space, filled with miniature plants. If you visit a nursery with knowledgeable people, they can help you. Think small!