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

July 3, 2017

Sansevierias in your desert tropical garden

I like the look of a Tropical Paradise, but my garden is in the Phoenix, Arizona area, not Hawaii, so I have more challenges. It gets really hot here in the summer, and it can get to below freezing in the dead of winter, so a lot of tropical plants can't survive here, and even the ones that can survive can look pretty bad, holding on for dear life, which looks kinda sad. So I keep experimenting, and I'm happy with what I've recently discovered: sansevierias.

I had never heard of sansevierias until a friend of mine gave me some cuttings last year. I recognized one type as "Mother-In-Law's Tongue", although I guess you're not supposed to call it that anymore, now the common name is snake plant. But that's just one type. As you can see, I have two types that are doing fine here. I wish I could tell you the name of the other one, but I just call it sansevieria. I've never seen it for sale at a nursery, but I probably haven't looked hard enough. If you show this pic to the people at the nursery, they'll recognize it.

By the way, I just experimented with the cuttings by planting them all over the garden. I have learned that they dry out too fast to look good in full sun, no matter how much water they get, and they look their best with dappled shade and being close to a misting head. They do seem to like a lot of water, so I do additional hand-watering in the summer, and I've noticed that the leaves tend to fold together when it's too dry, and spread out nicely when the water is just right.

By the way, I just added the cycad that you see there at about center. Behind it is an aloe, and behind that is another cycad. These plants are doing fine in the 100+ temperatures, with regular daily water, the misters, and dappled shade from my tree. It's not Hawaii, but it sure beats just dirt, rocks, and cactus!

June 30, 2017

How to plant a tree, and care for it, in Phoenix, Arizona

If you're interested in making the world a little bit better, I have a suggestion: plant a tree, and care for it. If you're like me, living in the Phoenix, Arizona area, you know how wonderful trees can be, providing shade, softening the heat and glare. No, planting a single tree won't create a miracle, Phoenix will still be hot in the summer, but it's small thing that you can do that will help return Phoenix to what it was when the pioneers first began it, an oasis, not a glaring city of concrete and asphalt.

I collect old photos of Phoenix, and post them on the internet, and I was surprised to see how much Phoenix had been a forest of trees from territorial times up until the late 20th Century, when most of the trees went away. And no, it's not a conspiracy, man, it's just that trees didn't seem to matter after the invention, and common use of air conditioning. So the trees went away, and more lanes were created for traffic, which moved along with air conditioning. I guess I understand. But I like trees.

If you like trees, I recommend that you plant one, and care for it. Writing letters to some government official, or ranting on Facebook won't get a tree planted as quickly as you could do it yourself. If you have a patch of ground, or know someone who does, plant a tree. This is how to do it:

• Do some research on what type of tree to plant. Ask around, you'll find that there's a reason for, and against, just about every tree you can think of. Some people get so confused, and so dedicated to doing exactly the right thing, that they do nothing. If you want my advice, I'd say don't listen to me. Do what you feel is right. And don't start at your local Home Depot, or nursery. Yes, you'll want to go there eventually, but start by just looking around your neighborhood. I started by looking around at the Xeriscape Garden at the Glendale Main Library, which is on 59th Avenue just south of Peoria, right next to the Sahuaro Ranch. Look around, the trees and plants there are all labelled. And then wander over to the ranch, and stand under a tree. This all costs nothing.

• Make an investment. Trees cost money. There will be the cost of buying it, of planting it. Then there will be the cost of watering it, of fertilizing it (if necessary), of trimming it. I won't do the "if you take the money you spent at Starbucks" thing, but you can look at ways that you're spending your money, and maybe there's a way to move some of that over to the tree? The most common thing I hear people say about doing something that don't want to do is that they can't afford it.

I can help. You can write a comment here, and ask my recommendation (although it will probably just get people arguing - see paragraph 4). I can't come over and help you plant it, but I'm sure that if your physical abilities are lacking there, you can find someone to help you. You can just look what I have growing here to see that, yes, it's possible. My house isn't in California, it's right where yours is, in the Sonoran Desert.

Phoenix was once a city of trees. A lot of people don't know that, because the trees have been gone for the lifetime of most people who live there. And Phoenix was much cooler, and shadier, because of the trees. And hopefully the trees will return. It's up to you.