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

March 22, 2013

Creating shade for The Tropical Paradise

The tropical plants here love the heat, but too much direct sun can sunburn them. My backyard faces east, so it gets a lot of shade in the afternoon, which is critical to the success of a garden like this, but this morning I am doing some design refinement that will add shade in the morning.

As you can see, I got a shade umbrella. It will make a nice addition to the backyard, and will be a nice gathering place for my visitors. But the real function of this is to shade the area you see here. It's 7:30 am on March 22nd so I think, hopefully, I am on the right track.

Morning sun for most of the year is the best thing that these plants can get. But through May and August, the morning sun here in the Phoenix area can be brutal. I've seen people put up elaborate shade structures, but that's not for me. This is my backyard, not a greenhouse!

The plant that I am most interested in protecting from the sun this summer is the dioon spinulosum cycad. The sun won't kill it, but it will sunburn the tips, which is not very attractive.

And having a nice shady place outside to drink my coffee in the morning is a bonus! I will let you know how it goes. I'm experimenting, mostly.

Update an hour later. Success! It looks like this is going to work. The funny thing is that you have to think backwards (or reverse). As the sun rises more and more towards the north as the year progresses, the shadow will fall more towards the south. My goal is to try to place the table and umbrella so that it looks normal in its setting, but in the heat of the summer, I will move over as far north as I can.

The idea here is to protect the cycad from sunburn. And if I do this right, the additional shade will make the fronds longer and more elegant. The "stubby" fronds on this spinulosum are caused by the fact that it has gotten way too much sun in the last couple of years.

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