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

August 25, 2013

The best time of the year to start your tropical paradise in the desert

It's the last week of August here in the Phoenix, Arizona area and we are now entering the very best time for planting your tropical paradise. If you're from back east, like I am, you are used to planting in the spring. But here in the desert, the season for planting is September and October.

The reason for this is that the best weather here happens in the fall and winter. That's what I like to call "Chamber of Commerce weather". And since we always get some rain in August, your yard is now ready for the transformation from dirt and rocks to a tropical paradise. Here is how to start:

Go get some inexpensive annual flowers. The best type is the humble petunia. They have a nice tropical look to them, they grow like mad, and they love it here. Get a few six-packs. There is no reason to get them in larger containers. If you plant them correctly, like right now, they will grow! Remember that they are annual flowers - they will do fine until the weather gets hot again, and then they will die.

Get some miniature palm trees. Now be careful here, all the palm trees look the same size at the garden center, so be sure to do your homework. Most palm trees will just grow into gigantic telephone poles in your yard! Get some five-gallon pygmy date palms (Phoenix roebelinni). If it's in the budget, get a cycad. The most common type is known as a "sago palm".

By the way, I tend to not use the term "garden center", I use the term "nursery". And there is a reason why gardeners use that term - those plants are babies, they will need your care to get a good start. Putting a plant in the ground and not paying attention to it is the main reason why people say that "plants like that won't grow in Phoenix", or "Home Depot plants always die". If you have no paternal, or maternal, instincts, don't go to a nursery. If you do, you will be in the right place.

And there you go. And did I mention the importance of potting soil? Can never have too much!
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