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

February 9, 2015

What trees to plant in Phoenix, Arizona

Like a lot of people, I love trees. I feel better around them, they seem to make neighborhoods more friendly. I moved to Phoenix as a teenager from Minneapolis, a city of trees. And whenever I felt disconnected, while living in Tempe going to ASU, I would go to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, and walk under tall trees.

I collect old photos of Phoenix, and it looks like somewhere along the line most of the trees disappeared. From territorial times up to the 1920s, Phoenix was practically a forest. Then along came air conditioning, I guess, and nobody needed shade anymore.

So, if you would like to do a little bit to make Phoenix more beautiful, please do plant a tree. If you're wondering what does well in the desert, uses as little water as possible, and gives the best shade, just go visit a parking lot.

Most of the trees in parking lots are acacias and mesquite. And they can survive with minimal care - you see them everywhere, in public places, by the freeways. But if you really want to see what these trees look like grown with care, visit any historic neighborhood in Phoenix. With just a little bit more care than parking lot trees get (which is mostly neglect), these trees can be beautiful.

Apparently with best intentions, Phoenix went from being a city of trees, to a harsh and sterile landscape. It was a harsh and sterile landscape before the pioneers started planting trees, in the 1860s, and it was transformed to an oasis. Then something went wrong. It can be a beautiful oasis again. There's no need to write your councilman, or get a petition going. Just plant a tree.

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