Growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area. With a wiener dog.

April 18, 2014

The illusion of ferns in Phoenix, Arizona

This past weekend a friend of mine from California asked me what kind of "ferns" he was looking at in my backyard here in Glendale, Arizona (a suburb of Phoenix). They are cycads, not ferns. And it's my favorite illusion.

No, you can't grow ferns in the Phoenix, Arizona area. Believe me, I've tried, and I know a lot of people better than me who failed, even with fancy watering and misting systems. It's just not humid enough here, even compared to Southern California. Yes, you can buy ferns, and you can plant ferns, but all you will get will be sick-looking ferns that will eventually die. So don't bother with ferns.

If you Google *cycads*, the most common one that you will find will be a *sago palm*. The ones that you are looking at in the photo are dioons, which do better here in the desert because of their bluish color, but are difficult to find, and expensive. But they require very little water and virtually no maintenance.

Unlike ferns, cycads are not soft, so be sure to plant them well away from where people will walk. I've had cycads here at The Tropical Paradise for many years and they are, by far, my favorite plant. There are some serious cycad collectors out there, and I've met them, but I just wanted a tropical look for my garden, so these aren't rare species.

On a rare overcast morning like this, they look even more like ferns. Cool.
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