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

March 4, 2014

Creating a tropical paradise in the desert

Every once in a while I hear from someone who is converting their landscape to a tropical effect. Many times they are essentially working from *a blank slate*. And while, yes, you can do a tropical landscape in the desert, at first glance it hardly seems possible.

The best place to start is to think *oasis*. So if you have a large property, don't try to create Disneyland, create an oasis. That is, start small. Isolate the area right nearby your patio and focus on that. Here is the best way to go:

• Create some slopes. Whether you have to bring in dirt or move some around, get rid of the completely-flat, *pool-table* look. For me here at The Tropical Paradise, this happened (as most things have) accidentally. The entire backyard was covered with 1/2-inch gravel, which, when I found out I couldn't sell it, or even give it away, I piled up. Some of my plants are on the tops of slopes that are several feet above the basic ground level.

• Amend the soil. In fact, don't even plant in the desert soil. Dig it up and move it. Plant in potting soil. I've gone though about a million bags of the stuff. And I mixed in a huge amount of coffee grounds, which I got free at Starbucks. I started by picking up the little bags, and then I would go to the counter and ask them to fill up a big trash bag for me.

• Put in a watering system. If you live in the desert, and you think that you're gonna get out there and hand-water with a hose, you are kidding yourself. I put in a simple low-pressure system. You can get them at Home Depot.

And may I suggest that you leave room for people? For a table and chairs? A tropical oasis is naturally attractive to tired and thirsty desert travelers. No, it's not actually any cooler in The Tropical Paradise, it just feels that way.
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