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

September 10, 2013

The best place in your yard for tropical plants in the desert

The best place for tropical plants here in the desert is against an eastern exposure. That is, morning sun, afternoon shade.

When I bought this house I insisted on having a backyard that faced east. If your backyard faces east, you are in luck. If not, then things get a little bit tricky. And since you really can't pick up your house and turn it around, here are some suggestions.

• If your backyard faces west, or south, it will get the maximum amount of sunshine and heat. Unless you can provide some type of artificial shade, tropical plants will not do well there. Yours is a back yard that is best for a pool, or for sun-tanning. In "the fires hell", as I call it, I have planted palma sola cycads, agaves, and some Phoenix species of palm trees. They are OK, but they struggle. Next to my driveway is a cactus, which is flourishing.

• If your backyard faces north, you have the most serious problem. I have planted many things along my north-facing wall, most of which have failed. Right now I have a Mediterranean palm and some fountain grass, which seem to be doing OK. The problem with a north facing exposure is that it is cold and shady in the winter, and although this is Phoenix, it can get very cold at night when there is a frost, and tropical plants do not like severe cold and shade.

If, however your backyard faces east, your "prime real estate" for planting is along that wall. Here you will get morning sun and the blessings of shade in the afternoon, because of the house. Winter frost will still be a problem there, but not as much as a northern exposure.

Pictured: 8 am, eastern exposure.
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