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

July 2, 2013

Watering secret for tropical plants in the desert

There are actually two watering systems here at The Tropical Paradise, one is a low pressure "drip" system that sprays water out from spray heads, and the other is a misting system, which also adds water and increases humidity.

The reason I call it a "secret", even though I'm telling you here, is that it virtually disappears once it's in place. I know, because I have, uh, accidentally stepped on these things!

It's just an ordinary misting system, like the kind you see on patios of restaurants in Phoenix, with one rather expensive modification. The expensive modification is the riser, which is made of copper. These things should be made of solid gold, the amount I have paid for them! I get them online, as they are rarely available at Home Depot. They are about four inches tall, and although they start out bright and shiny (they're copper), they dull down very quickly and that's what helps them "disappear". By the way, if you don't use the risers, and if you just put the spray heads directly on the fitting, either the head will clog up and get lost in the dirt, or you will have to look at the ugly "plumbing" - neither of which is an option for me.

In the summer, I have the misters come on in 15 minute increments several times a day. The line is held in place by metal hoops and also with rocks that I strategically place on top of where the line is buried. This not only helps to hold down the line, which tends to buckle a bit over time, it tells me where not to dig. Yeah, I've made that mistake more than once!

I started this system with a misting system set that I found left out for trash in my neighborhood about fifteen years ago. It had never been opened, someone must have decided that it was too much trouble to install. If you're gonna do this, I recommend you start with a set. It will give you the line, a filter, some fittings, some spray heads, that you can add to later. I prefer the plastic fittings, as strangely enough, the brass ones leaked. The brass fittings are designed to be used under tension, the plastic ones you just squeeze together with finger strength. When the line moves a bit, as it inevitable does underground, the brass fitting lose their tension, and fail. The plastic ones work better.

Don't go to your local Home Depot and tell someone that you are doing this, they have enough to worry about. Just start with the misting system. The rest of the bits and pieces can be a challenge to find. The plastic fittings I only find at Ace Hardware, for example.

Misting riser head after installation.
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