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

April 23, 2014

Creating a tropical look in a western exposure in Phoenix, Arizona

The Phoenix, Arizona area gets hot. Really hot. Not the ordinary *heat wave* in California, where you have to turn on the air conditioning during the day, but blistering, unbelievable, *you can fry eggs on the dashboard of your car* hot. It starts in June and stays ridiculously hot until September. Even in the middle of the night, it's too hot to even be outside comfortably.

And if you have a western exposure, that is, a yard that faces the setting sun, in the Phoenix area, you're gonna have a hard time. Not only is it blisteringly hot, putting up shade doesn't really help much, as the setting sun will get underneath it and get to your plants every evening. And that's why you see so much dirt and rocks, and cactus, in Phoenix.

Since my backyard faces east, the front of my house faces west. And that area, which I have experimented with over the years, I call *the fires of hell*. But it's not all just dirt and rocks. And there is no cactus. No, you can't do a real *tropical paradise* out there, but there are several plants that will work. This is what works for me.

Petite oleander
• Petite oleander. That's the oleander that has the pink flowers, and only grows to a maximum of six feet. Don't buy the gigantic kind, that grows to twenty feet, unless you have the room. This is a great place to start. No, it won't have people gasping with excitement, but it's not dirt, rocks, or cactus, and it will live in the fires of hell.

• Palm trees. If you have room, plant a Canary Island Date palm. I have a Phoenix rupicola out front (the one in the picture).

• Agaves. Agaves give the closest look to a tropical effect that I have found that can live in the fires of hell. Check the species very carefully, and avoid the ones that get too big. I have a friend who is an expert on that kind of thing and I follow his advice. Or go to a decent nursery, and ask. Gotta get more agaves!

And the single most important thing to do is to put in an automatic watering system. It just gets too hot for any sane person to go out there and water in the summer, so make this a priority before you plant anything.

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