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

June 6, 2015

Creating a tropical paradise in the desert

Here in the Phoenix, Arizona area it's very hot and dry. Well, usually - we do get thunderstorms in the summer. But mostly the stereotypes you've seen of Phoenix are true - it's a desert after all, and a very hot and dry one. And that's part of the reason that I wanted to create an oasis here.

I've made a lot of mistakes over the years - my motto is "I'm experimenting, mostly" and there are a few things that I've learned that you gotta do to have your own "tropical paradise". Here they are:

• Shade. This photo was taken in the morning, and that's the only time that my backyard gets this type of sunlight. Shade is provided by the olive tree by late morning, and by my house in the afternoon. You are looking north in this photo, and the sun is coming up to your right.

• Automatic watering system. I've seen people try to keep their plants alive by dragging out a hose, but it really is the wrong thing to do. Your enthusiasm may be high enough at the beginning, but month after month, year after year, of 100+ temperatures will wear you down. I have a simple, inexpensive, drip watering system that I got at Home Depot.

• Good soil preparation. You know the old saying "dig a $100 hole for a $50 tree"? A lot of the plants here I got either for free (like that big sago palm) in the foreground, or cheaply, as tiny plants at the garden center. My investment has been in making the soil as rich as possible. There are countless tons of bags of potting soil, and fertilizer, and I keep adding.

So there you go. If you need proof that it can be done, just ask me. This garden has been growing and evolving here for over twenty years, and I'm really just getting started!

Cycads of the 1800s Drinking Glasses
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