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

May 28, 2018

The first steps of moving a cycad

I'm doing some rearranging of things in this corner of my garden, and will be moving a cycad over just a few feet. But there are a couple of things to do before moving day. The most important (which is already here) is that the soil temperature needs to be warm. Moving cycads in cold temperatures just encourages root rot, so this is the time - it's the last week of May, and the air temperatures are hitting the 90s, and the 100s, so the soil isn't hot yet, but it's certainly not cold. The next week or so will be perfect.

Another vitally important thing to do is to wait until the plant has stopped flushing. That is, if there's new growth, to wait until the leaves harden off. This may only be a few days, because cycads flush quickly. Of course they do that only once a year, so you shouldn't disturb a cycad at that time, or the flush will stunt. I figure that I'm a couple of days away from it being safe. The inner leaves still feel softer than the outer leaves, so I'll wait.

The other important step, which I started this morning, is preparing the hole. I determined exactly where I wanted it to be, and marked it with a stick. This morning I went out there and gently poked around. I found a stray watering tubing line, which in my laziness years ago I had just stopped up with a goof plug out in the middle of everything, and I snipped it back closer to the trunk line, and goof-plugged the tubing again, and then tested the line for leaks. It's actually back there behind the plant in the shade to the right, under a rock, and it won't get in the way in the future.

As you can see, my goal is to move as much planet earth over with the transplant as possible. I'm going to dig deep, and essentially slide it just a couple of feet. The less roots I lose, the better. I'm hoping to not shock the plant, and not have it lose its leaves. It wouldn't kill it to do that, but it would look better if the leaves stayed on, and I didn't have to wait until next year's flush. Well, that's the plan.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Update: the next day. It was a good morning for the move, so I went ahead and did it. I hadn't realized that the area would be in shade in the morning, but it was, and since I'd done so much preparation, the actual transplant only took about ten minutes. I put a nice layer of mulch around the plant, watered it in well several times today, and I'm very pleased with the final result.

Dioon edule var. palma sola - now with plenty of room to grow!

May 21, 2018

When it's time to remove petunias

Petunias are wonderful plants. They flower like crazy, and even the foliage is attractive, with a bit of a tropical shape. And they even smell good! So to me they're worth the trouble of planting them every year. And you have to do that, because petunias are annuals, and that means that they only grow for one season, and then they die.

So don't panic if your petunias look like the ones in the photo - if they've been in the ground for several months. All of the water and fertilizer in the world won't keep an annual alive once it's done its thing. The only thing to do is to remove it, wait for the next season and plant a new one. In the meantime there's some cleanup that you have to do.

Here in the Phoenix, Arizona area, annuals are planted at the beginning of winter (it never snows here) and they die when the heat starts coming back, which is does in May. A nice sunny location this past winter has turned into an area that is way too hot, and so the petunias have to go.

Petunias at the end of their life cycle.

This morning my petunias looked terrible. The blooms had almost all stopped, and the foliage with dry-looking and wrinkly, and I knew it was time to trash the plant.

But I didn't pull it up, I cut it and left the roots in the ground. They'll decompose and become part of the garden. But the plant itself was thrown away. The next step was to cover up the hole, visually, which I did with river rocks. That's one of the nice things about garden design with river rocks, they're easy to move around. I have some blooming dwarf palm trees, and the dried fruit makes nice mulch, so as they dry up I'll cover up the area with that. I like organic mulch that's supplied for free, from my trees!

OK, looks like summer is officially on its way, and here in the Phoenix area that means the end of annuals. When it cools off again, in October, I'll replant with new petunia plants.