Phoenix, Arizona is a great place to grow plants, but it's not Hawaii. So if you want a tropical look, you have to do a few tricks. I've been experimenting here in Glendale, which is a suburb of Phoenix, for about twenty years now and here are some tricks I've learned:
• Don't try to grow ferns. Ferns do terrible here in the desert. No matter how much water you give them, or shade, or misting, the air is just too dry, and the desert gets way too cold in the winter for ferns. The things that look like ferns in the photo are cycads. They give an illusion of ferns, and do great. The most common cycad is called a *sago palm*, but these are dioons.
• Plant as much in the shade as you can. The clump of cycads in the photo are tucked up against the east wall of my house, so they only get morning sun, and go into shade by afternoon. There's also a tree just to the left of this photo, which casts some nice summer shade, as it's toward the south side of the yard.
• Automatic watering system. Mine is a very simple and inexpensive system, and the timer runs on batteries. It's a low-pressure *drip* system with sprayer heads. All from Home Depot, and all easily installed by non-mechanical-minded people, like me. I have a hose along the side of the house, but I never use it anymore.
• Misting system. This is a cool trick that uses those misters that you usually see along the tops of patios. I have a line buried just slightly underground, with the heads of the misters on the end of 3" risers. Not only does this add some humidity to the garden, it looks pretty cool in the morning!
My motto is *I'm experimenting, mostly* and while most of what I've tried has failed, you really can't tell from the garden, because I just keep trying. My greatest success has been with the cycads, especially dioons, but I also have pygmy date palms, and more common plants woven in. And of course, as you can see, I use the leaf litter from the tree as mulch. I get as much as I want, and it's free!
My Tropical Paradise here is an illusion, I'm really in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. And if you are, you can do it, too. It just takes a few tricks!