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

May 2, 2016

How to plant a tropical plant in Phoenix, Arizona

If you're the kind of person who keeps their receipts from Home Depot so they can return plants that have died, or if you're a "close enough for government work" kind of person, you aren't going to like what I have to say in this post. Because planting a tropical plant in the Phoenix, Arizona area takes a LOT of work, and time, and it can cost more than the plant itself. My granddad would have called it "digging a $100 hole for a $50 tree". Well, here in Arizona, it's much, much, more than that.

I just bought a nice little Arabian Jasmine. I got a one gallon size, and it cost me about seven bucks. And right now I'm in the process of planting it. And it's quite a process! Here are my suggestions:

• Plant in the spring. It's May 2nd, and a day after a rain, so the timing is perfect. Don't plant them in summer, fall or winter.

• Plant them in partial shade. If the tag says "partial shade", believe it. It gets to over 110 degrees in the Phoenix area, and there are very few plants that can stand full sun in the summer. This isn't San Diego!

• Prepare the automatic watering system. If your plan is to water them with a hose, then you're gonna have a hard time. My system is a simple low-pressure "drip" system that delivers water to the roots of the plants.

• Get rid of any plastic for several feet around the plant. If you dig a hole through the plastic that's just wide enough for the plant, it will die. That's cruel and unusual.

The process of removing the native soil. Soak, dig, repeat. Note that the sprayer head has been installed, and a trench has been dug for left-over spaghetti tubing.

• Start digging into the native soil. If it's untouched since the last Ice Age, like mine is, it will be as hard as concrete. I chip at it, fill with water, dig the clay soil out and put it in a bucket to be used elsewhere. If I had heavy-duty equipment I could dig this out quicker, but I don't so I just fill the hole with water, wait a while, and take the heavy clay out by hand. Today it took about an hour because of the rain yesterday, but it can take longer.

Arabian Jasmine planted in potting soil in a hole in Arizona.

Then I fill the hole with potting soil, add dry fertilizer and give it another nice drink of water. My motto is to buy plants small and take care of them. And no, I didn't keep the receipt. This is a strong, healthy plant, and if it dies it's my fault. But it will be fine!

Arabian Jasmine planted. It will have room to grow, some shade from the tree, and the wall on the right, and every chance to live a good, long life. 
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