Cactus Farm

Have you ever seen the beauty of cactuses showcased in containers? Adding a cactus to a container helps to set it apart from the rest of the landscape and helps it to stand out so that its unique texture and shape really stand out. However, if the thought of having to plant a prickly cactus yourself has given you second thoughts about doing it yourself, it isn’t as hard as it seems. Let’s take a closer look at how to plant a cactus in a pot.

Cactus Farm

I have planted my share of cactus over my career (usually) without getting stabbed with the spines. My method of choice is to use an old towel to cover the cactus while I removing it from a pot and planting it. However, on a trip to B&B Cactus Farm in Tucson, I was able to observed an expert at work.

Cactus Farm

B&B Cactus Farm

Whenever I find myself in Tucson, I always try to find time to visit B&B Cactus Nursery. They have a large selection cacti, including my favorites – Torch cactus (Trichocereus hybrids).  While they are rather unassuming when not in flower, they transform win spring when their large blossoms open.

Cactus Farm

‘First Light’ Torch Cactus Hybrid

My first visit to B&B Cactus Farm was several years ago and I had the intention of buying one torch cactus. However, as often happens with me and plants, I came home with two, including this stunning ‘First Light’ torch cactus.

Cactus Farm

On my second visit, I bought a new torch cactus hybrid and a colorful blue container to plant it in. 

Normally, I plant my own cactus, but a conversation with one of the cactus experts at the nursery changed my mind.

Cactus Farm

Damon was busy potting cactus at a table with a large pile of succulent potting mix behind him. I struck up a conversation with him and found that he had an interesting story that had him ending up at a cactus nursery in Arizona. He worked in the banking industry and moved to Arizona from Oklahoma a year ago, and began work at a local bank. After awhile, he decided that being a banker wasn’t for him and found happiness working with cactus. As he put it, “People are always stressed about money when they visit the bank, but everyone who comes to the nursery is happy, because plants make people smile.”

We had a great time talking and I decided to have him pot my cactus, which would make it easier to transport home. When I explained that I had a gardening website and wanted to take a video of him potting the cactus, he graciously agreed and provided lots of helpful advice.

So here is a banker turned cactus expert, showing you how to plant cactus in a pot: 

I hope you enjoyed Damon’s helpful tips. For more helpful videos, subscribe to my YouTube Channel

April in the desert garden is, in my humble opinion, the most beautiful time of year.  Winter and spring-flowering plants (Damianita, Penstemon and ‘Valentine’ Emu Bush) are just beginning to fade and summer blooms are beginning to appear (Coral Fountain, Lantana, and Yellow Bells).   

But perhaps, the most colorful event in this month  is the flowering of palo verde trees.  

Did you know that each species of palo verde has a different shade of yellow?  

It’s true. The differences may not be obvious unless you see them next to each other, but I’ll make it easier for you and show you some examples below.

Blue Palo Verde (Parkinsonia florida)

Photo: Blue Palo Verde (Parkinsonia florida)

Foothills (Littleaf) Palo Verde (Parkinsonia microphylla)

Photo: Foothills (Littleaf) Palo Verde (Parkinsonia microphylla)

'Desert Museum' Palo Verde (Parkinsonia hybrid 'Desert Museum')

Photo: ‘Desert Museum’ Palo Verde (Parkinsonia hybrid ‘Desert Museum’)

Palo Brea (Parkinsonia praecox)

Photo: Palo Brea (Parkinsonia praecox)

Every year, the arrival of the yellow flowers are met with delight by many and to the dismay of others.  Those that like clean, pristine landscapes, without a stray leaf or fallen flower, don’t like the flowers that they leave behind.  

As for me, I like things mostly natural and the golden carpet that my ‘Desert Museum’ palo verde trees leave behind, area welcome sight.  

A few years ago, I drove by this lovely landscape along with my husband – he stopped the car and patiently waited while I took a few photos – this tends to happen often, so he is used to it.

summer blooms are beginning to appear

While I liked the contemporary entry to the front flanked by desert spoon and with the columnar cardon cacti (no, they aren’t saguaros) surrounded by golden barrels, it was the majestic ‘Desert Museum’ palo verde trees that caught my eye.

summer blooms are beginning to appear

The plant palette was limited, which works well with contemporary design.  The flowers from the palo verde trees along the street decorated the grass and sidewalk, (although they were pruned up to high).

summer blooms are beginning to appear

While my personal style is more informal, I do appreciate good, contemporary design and I really liked this pathway, although I believe a better species of agave that can handle full, reflected heat without growing too large would have been better – maybe Twin-Flower Agave (Agave geminiflora) or Artichoke Agave (Agave parrying var. truncata)?  

I’m still loving the flowers.

Victoria agave

My favorite picture is this one of the entryway which is covered with a solid carpet of golden yellow flowers, which contrast beautifully with the gray-blue walls and red door.  

How about you?  Do you like the way flowers look on the ground once they have fallen?  Or do you feel the overwhelming impulse to blow them away?  

I have had a love affair with roses for over 26 years.

William Shakespeare rose sign

It all began when we bought our first house. I was a young mother with two girls who was giddy with the possibilities of having her very own spot of garden to grow roses in.

local rose garden

We would take our girls around to the local rose gardens where so could see what types of roses to pick for our new rose garden.

The rose garden was located in the front yard along the side of the driveway.  At the time, money was tight so we ended up purchasing twenty different ‘grade 1 1/2’ roses for $3 each at Home Depot.

‘Grade 1’ roses are considered to be the cream of the crop and the best type to purchase based on the their size and number of canes (stems).

A few months later, my roses were in full bloom and the talk of the neighborhood (we definitely stuck out from the surrounding neighbors since we had taken out a large chunk of lawn to grow a LOT of roses).

rose garden

Many people ask if I had a favorite hybrid tea rose and the answer is “yes”.  Mr. Lincoln with its deep red blossoms which were incredibly fragrant always stands out in my memory of our first rose garden. At one time, it reached almost 6 ft. tall and had over 30 blossoms covering it.

Three years later, I had gone from 20 rose bushes to 40 – all a different type of hybrid tea or shrub rose.  I realize that I maybe went a little overboard, but I loved growing roses – no two roses were the same.

Whenever we were traveling, if there was a rose garden nearby – we would visit it…

The rose garden at Kilkenny Castle in Ireland

The rose garden at Kilkenny Castle in Ireland.

That's me posing by the roses and the castle.

That’s me posing by the roses and the castle in 2003.

Santa Barbara Mission rose garden in California

Santa Barbara Mission rose garden in California

After we sold our home in Phoenix, we moved out to the suburbs to be closer to my husband’s job. As we built our new home, I knew that I did want room for a few roses.

Love Affair With Roses: Looking Forward and Back

After adopting our three youngest kids, I was eager to share my love for roses with them.  They each picked out their own rose from a rose catalog and helped plant them.  It was a fun experience, complete with finding earthworms in the soil and more.

While their roses did grow, they didn’t have the best location, which was rather shady and so they turned out rather straggly.  Needless to say, they were pulled out a couple of years later.

Even though I didn’t have roses growing in my garden, I still went out of my way to enjoy them whenever I found myself on the road.

International Rose Test Garden in Portland, Oregon.

International Rose Test Garden in Portland, Oregon in 2015.

Stopping to smell the roses in Santa Barbara, CA.

Stopping to smell the roses in Santa Barbara, CA in 2016.

A few years ago, I realized that my love affair with roses never ended and that it was time to think seriously about growing a few again.

Surprisingly, not a single one is a hybrid tea rose. In fact, all are David Austin shrub roses.

Shrub roses are easier to grow, more resistant to disease and insect pests and smell amazing!

One of the cool aspects of being a local garden expert is the the folks at David Austin send me free roses to test in my garden. In return, I tell them how they do in the desert climate and share my findings with you too!

‘Olivia Rose’ David Austin Shrub Rose

My favorites for the desert garden are ‘Ancient Mariner’, ‘Darcey Bussell’, ‘Lady of Sharlott” and ‘Olivia Rose’. All of these are available through mail order via this link.

I am so happy that I have returned to growing the plant that inspired my passion for gardening years ago.

Winter is the best time to add new bare root roses to the desert garden. I invite you to consider adding some to your garden.

**Have you ever grown roses?  Do you have a favorite type? If you find yourself overwhelmed by the different types of roses there are to pick from, I have written an article for Houzz, which looks closer at several of the most popular roses in order to help people select the best type of rose for their garden.

What Kind of Roses Should You Grow?

To Do About Aphids

What do you do when you spot aphids on your plants?

Do you reach for the nearest bottle of insecticide? Spray them off with a hose or remove them with your fingers?  

Believe it or not, sometimes the best thing is to do nothing.

So, is this something I learned in school? No. I figured it out by observing the plants in my first garden.

To Do About Aphids

I remembered this early lesson when I passed by a severely pruned oleander shrub in front of my favorite bagel shop.  

To Do About Aphids

The oleanders were growing back nicely. However, there were yellow aphids on the young leaves.

Years ago, my oleander shrubs had an infestation of yellow aphids like this, and I was anxious to get rid of them. Really, this is our first reaction when we see bugs on our plants – we want them gone.

I had several methods at my disposal – insecticidal soap, a strong jet of water or my fingers – all of which, would help get rid of most of the aphids. But, life got in the way, and I didn’t have a chance to get out to treat my shrubs until about ten days later.  

Can you guess what I found?  Not a single aphid.  I didn’t have to do a thing, and the aphids were gone, and my shrubs look great.

So, what happened to the aphids?

When harmful insect pests first appear, it can take a week or two before their natural predators follow. In the case of aphids, lacewing and ladybugs showed up and ate the aphids.  

To Do About Aphids

Plants are tougher than we give them credit for and can handle a certain amount of insect pests without any adverse effects.  

So, when I come back in a couple of weeks to the same bagel shop, I expect to see no aphids in sight and a healthy oleander shrub.

The lesson here is that you don’t need to freak out when you see aphids as the normal cycle of nature will take care of them. However, you can step in to get rid of them if you see adverse effects on plants such as wilting, smaller blooms, or discoloration.

No matter where you live, you will see the same shrubs being used over and over again in countless landscapes. While the shrubs may be attractive, their overuse throughout neighborhoods creates a boring appearance because they are so common.

oleanders

In California, Nevada, and Arizona, oleanders have held a prominent spot in the landscape for years. Their popularity is due to their lush evergreen foliage, ability to withstand intense heat, and their pretty flowers.

However, their overuse in many areas makes their beauty less impactful and frankly, almost forgettable.

 At a recent conference, this point was put quite succinctly by the head of horticulture for Disneyland who said,

“When things are expected (in the landscape), they become less powerful and impactful”.

His statement sums up what happens when we use the same plants over and over.

In the case of oleanders, there is another problem.

Oleanders

Oleanders are susceptible to a fatal disease called, oleander leaf scorch. This disease has come from California into Arizona where it is popping up in neighborhoods in Phoenix and also Lake Havasu. I have consulted with several cases affecting large, mature oleanders in Arcadia, Biltmore, and Moon Valley areas in Phoenix. 

This bacterial disease is spread by leaf-hopper insects and there is currently no known cure or control available. Infected oleanders slowly decline over 2-3 years before dying. To date, dwarf oleanders have not shown signs of the disease, only the larger forms. But, that could change sometime in the future.

Objectively, there’s a lot to like about oleanders; they thrive in hot, dry climates with minimal fuss, have attractive dark green foliage, and add color to the landscape when in flower. However, their overuse in the landscape makes them less impactful and coupled with their susceptibility to oleander leaf scorch, people want an alternative. 

You can learn more about this disease that affects oleanders here.

Hop Bush: 

Hop Bush

When asked for another option for the large, tall forms of oleanders, I recommend Hop Bush (Dodonaea viscosa), also known as Hopseed Bush.

Grab my FREE guide for Fuss-Free Plants that thrive in a hot, dry climate!

This native desert shrub has attractive, evergreen foliage and a similar growth habit to oleander. They grow up to 12 feet tall or prune to a shorter height.

Hop Bush

Use Hop Bush in the same ways as oleanders to provide a nice green hedge or privacy screen.

Hop bush flower

Hop bush flower

While they don’t have colorful flowers; they have lovely foliage that is only mildly poisonous as opposed to oleanders which are highly toxic.

Hop bush

Hop bush has a lovely natural shape or prune as a formal hedge.

Want to learn more about this oleander alternative? In my latest Houzz article, I share what types of plants look nice next to hop bush, how to care for them and show a purple-leaf form.

I hope that you find a spot for this lovely shrub in your landscape.

Have you ever seen hop bush growing in the landscape?  

newly-planted landscape

Have you ever driven by a newly-planted landscape?  If so, you probably noticed that many of the plants were quite small.  

I like to joke that sometimes you need a magnifying glass just to see the new plants. But as small as they are, within a short amount of time, those plants start to grow.  

overgrown plants are unattractive.

Look at the same landscape three years later. The plants are well-established and look great.  

Fast forward eight-ten years, and you may start to see signs of some plants becoming overgrown and unattractive.

When this happens to shrubs, we can often push a ‘restart button’ (for most types of shrubs) and prune them back severely in spring using a good pair of loppers, which reduces their size. I use my Corona loppers to do major pruning of my shrubs.

However, there are some plants where this approach doesn’t work.

Let’s identify a few of these plants and how to deal with them once they outgrow their allotted space or become filled with old, woody growth.

Desert Spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri)

Desert Spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri)

Desert spoon is one of my favorite plants.  I love how its blue-gray, spiky leaves add texture to the garden and contrast with plants that have darker green foliage.  

Old, Overgrown Plants

After ten years or more in the landscape, desert spoon can start to take on a ragged, rather unattractive appearance, as well as grow quite large.

When this happens, I recommend that they be removed and a new one planted in its place.  

Now, some of you may think that may seem wasteful, but I invite you to take another look at your landscape and the plants within it.

Your outdoor space isn’t static and unchanging. Its appearance changes with the seasons with plants blooming at different times. Trees gradually extend the amount of shade they provide and plants change in size.  

A newly planted garden doesn’t look the same through the years, it changes.  

Trailing Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis 'Prostratus')

Trailing Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Prostratus’)

Rosemary is a good choice for those who want rich, dark green color in the garden. Bees love the light blue flowers that appear in late winter and spring, and the aromatic foliage can be used to flavor your favorite dishes.  

Old, Overgrown Plants

But, as time passes, it does get bigger, outgrowing its original space.  

Old, Overgrown Plants

When this happens, people start to shear their rosemary, which is stressful for the plant and contributes to sections of branches dying.

For those who don’t like the formal look, pruning rosemary back severely would be your first impulse. But, the problem with rosemary is that they don’t respond well to severe pruning.

So again, in this case, it’s best to pull out the old rosemary and add a new one, which will provide beauty for several years.

 Rosemary hedge

Rosemary hedge

To avoid having to remove and replace rosemary too often, allow them plenty of room to grow to their mature size.

Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora)

Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora)

Red yucca is prized for its succulent, green leaves that resemble an ornamental grass and its coral flowers, which appear spring through fall.

red yucca Overgrown Plant

Once it has been growing seven years or more, red yucca may overwhelm the landscape visually. This is particularly true if the area it’s growing in isn’t very big.

Occasionally, some people will try to remove the outer leaves at the base. However, this is laborious and only serves to stimulate red yucca to grow back faster.

In those situations, I tell people that their plant has had a nice life, but it’s time to start over.

Newly-planted red yucca

Newly-planted red yucca

You may be thinking, why use plants that you’ll only have to replace after seven to ten years?

Well, all three of these plants add beauty to the landscape and are low-maintenance.

Another way to think of it is to compare your landscape with the interior of your home.  Do you make small changes to the decor of your home every few years to keep it looking fresh and attractive? The same should be true of the outside.

Replacing a few plants after seven years or more isn’t expensive. Don’t you think that the beauty these plants offer to your outdoor space makes them worth it?

What have you replaced in your garden recently?

Got Old, Overgrown Plants? Know When to Prune or Replace

Portable Drip Irrigation With a Recycled Milk Jug

Do you have plants that need extra water this summer? 

Many of us have a few plants that aren’t connected to an irrigation system. Some people don’t have an irrigation system and use a hose to water plants, which is time-consuming and inefficient.

While you can certainly haul out your hose and water each of your thirsty plants, it is not the best way. The main problem is the hose puts out water quickly and the soil can’t absorb it fast enough. As a result, much of the water runs off and doesn’t benefit the plant as much as it should.

So, if the time-consuming task of watering plants by hand isn’t your cup of tea, I’m here for you. You can make life easier by creating your own portable drip irrigation system with a recycled milk jug

This solution is very easy and will have you digging through your recycle bin collecting your used milk jugs.

To get started, you will need an empty plastic milk jug and a nail.

1. Heat the nail using a lighter or stove burner. Then use the nail to pierce 3 – 4 small holes in the bottom of the milk jug.

Portable Drip Irrigation With a Recycled Milk Jug

2. Fill the milk jug up with water, put the cap on and carry it upside down to the plant. Turn it right side up and set it down to the plant that needs irrigation. *You can also set the empty milk jug(s) next to your plants, bring the hose to them and fill with water that way.

Portable Drip Irrigation With a Recycled Milk Jug

3. Slightly loosen the cap, which will allow the water to drip out of the holes at the bottom – this allows the water to penetrate the soil slowly, instead of running off.

Once the water has drained out of the bottom of the jug, pick up your milk jug and move it to the next plant. After you are done, bring the empty jugs inside and store until the next time you need them.

If you live in a windy area and worry the milk jug will blow away, weigh them down with an inch of small rocks in the bottom of the jug – the rocks won’t interfere with the water dripping out.

Portable Drip Irrigation With a Recycled Milk Jug

I usually recommend this method of irrigating cacti monthly in summer.

This portable drip irrigation system is a great aid for those who live in areas that are suffering from drought or where an irrigation system may not exist.

**A semi-permanent variation of this method is to create holes along the sides instead of on the bottom. Then bury the entire jug next to the plant, leaving just the top exposed. To water plants, remove the milk cap and fill with water and replace the cap.

I hope you find this DIY garden project helpful. Please feel free to share it with your friends by clicking the “Share” button below. 

How To Grow Tomatoes in the Desert

Do you love roses?

I do.

For those of you who have been following me for any length of time, you know that my love affair with roses is something that I like to share with others. For that reason, on a lovely day in May, I made a visit to the Old West town, Tombstone, Arizona.  

Old West town, Tombstone, Arizona.

This historic town has two different attractions that appeal to me and my husband. He loves old westerns, and walking along the main street and seeing where the famous gunfight took place is something he enjoys. While it’s fun to explore the real-life places from long ago, my favorite destination lies just a block off of the main street…

World's Largest Rosebush museum

At first glance, you would never know that a famous plant resides beyond the front door of this historic inn that is now a museum. However, it is in the backyard of this building, the “Rose Tree Inn”, which lies the “World’s Largest Rosebush“.

Due to my love of roses, and having heard of this famous rosebush I am excited to see it in person.

World's Largest Rosebush museum

As you walk into the little museum, you feel as if you have stepped back into time within its rose-scented interior. As I venture toward the back where the rosebush is, my first impression is of a beautifully shaded patio area.

rosebush create dappled shade.

Over the patio, the outer branches of the rosebush create dappled shade.

As you make your way toward the main part of the rose bush, the sheer enormity of its size begins to be evident.  

twisted trunk of the rosebush.

In the center of the branches, you can see the large, twisted trunk of the rosebush.

It is really hard to get the scale of how big it is from pictures – but look at how small the door looks off to the right side.

World's Largest Rosebush museum

Now, see how big it looks with me next to it in the picture, above. Note – I am fairly tall at 5’9″.

shady underneath World's Largest Rosebush

The trunk is approximately 12-feet around and very shaggy with strips bark falling off. It definitely looks old.

This photo is taken with a flash, which lights up the area considerably. In actuality, it is very shady underneath.

rose bush story

Even when you stand right next to it, you can’t quite believe the enormous size.

This rosebush is not only the world’s largest – but it is also very old. For that reason, the history of the rosebush and how it came to be in Tombstone is quite interesting.

World's Largest Rosebush museum

History

Then the rose came from Scotland in 1887, which makes it over 130 years old. A young Scottish immigrant and her husband moved to Tombstone in 1885.  Her family sent their homesick daughter a box filled with cuttings of her favorite rosebush from home.

She gave one of the cuttings to her friend, Amelia Adamson. Together they planted the rosebush in back of Amelia’s boarding house where it has obviously flourished in its new surroundings.

Years later, the rosebush began to get attention with its large size. Consequently, it was declared the world’s largest in the 1930’s.

Now, the Tombstone rosebush reaches over 8,000 square feet!  

 view of the rosebush

To get an overall view of the rosebush, you walk to the other side where there are steps to climb. Because the only part you see underneath the patio are its branches, the view from above is quite different. As a result, you have a clear view of the lacy foliage and flowers in the spring.

World's Largest Rosebush museum

Can you imagine how beautiful this would look in bloom? It is said that roses absolutely cover the entire upper part of the rosebush with fragrant, white flowers…

 Lady Bank's rose

This is a close-up of the flowers from a different Lady Bank’s rose.

World's Largest Rosebush museum

As you can imagine, holding up a rosebush this large isn’t easy. Therefore, metal rods form a checkerboard pattern that are large wooden posts hold up.

 bird's nest on World's Largest Rosebush

I spot a bird’s nest within the branches.

After I finish with my photos, I stroll back into the museum where I notice row of small rose bushes.

cutting for sale of World's Largest Rosebush

Above them is this sign…

World's Largest Rosebush museum

Well, I don’t describe myself as an ‘impulse buyer’,  I just have to buy a cutting from this historic plant.

World's Largest Rosebush

I do have a good spot for it where it can grow up on the wall in my side yard. Because it can’t climb without support, I will provide a trellis for it to grow up on.  Lady Bank’s roses also make great ground covers.

Although this rosebush was an impulse buy, it requires less maintenance than more traditional roses. I certainly can’t wait to grow a piece of the world’s largest rosebush!

Colorful Plants, Spiky Pots, Snakes, Roses and the Prom!

David Austin Roses

I adore roses. For those who have followed me for a while, this comes as no surprise. I’ve grown roses for almost thirty years, and they are the one plant responsible for inspiring me to get my degree in Horticulture. 

So, why am I taking out a rose? Have I gone crazy? 

Olivia Rose

‘Olivia Rose’

Let me give you a little background. For the past few years, I have grown new rose varieties in my Arizona garden, given to me by David Austin Roses to see how they perform in the low desert regions of Arizona and each year, and I report which varieties do well. These types of roses are easy to grow, have a beautiful old-fashioned flower shape, and are highly fragrant. Once people grow a David Austin rose, they seldom go back to other kinds.

This year, I am working on a project, with the assistance of the folks at David Austin Roses, which spans two rose gardens, located in very different climates. The first garden is mine, located in Arizona, and the second belongs to my daughter, who lives in northern Michigan. The project consists of each of us growing two identical varieties of roses and a different one that is reported to do better in our respective climates.

David Austin Roses

Before planting new roses, I had to get my rose garden ready for new roses, which meant that one had to go. And so, I asked my husband to dig out one of the roses from the garden.

David Austin Roses

The rose bush I chose to remove didn’t do very well and only looks nice three months of the year, while those remaining do much better. So, the decision was easy.

David Austin Roses

Soon that garden was ready, and the roses arrived from David Austin. I always experience a feeling akin to Christmas morning whenever new roses come in the mail.

David Austin Roses

It never ceases to amaze me how something so beautiful has such a humble beginning.

David Austin Roses

I soaked the roses for 24 hours and then planted them. Two months later, they are covered in buds, and I can’t wait for them to open.

David Austin Roses

As for my daughter’s garden, she isn’t quite ready to be planting any roses as it is sitting under a layer of snow so she will be planting hers in a month or so.

I’ll keep you updated throughout the rose project and highlighting the differences and similarities of growing roses in a hot and cold climate. 

Next, I will share with you the varieties growing in my garden along with pictures of their first blooms. Have you ever grown David Austin roses?

Goodbye to the Godfather of English Roses

Javelina stepping out of an arroyo

Javelina stepping out of an arroyo

Yesterday, I had a rather unexpected encounter with a javelina while taking pictures of a landscape. I think he was as surprised as I was to see him and he retreated back to his arroyo after a couple of minutes. That meeting inspired me to write this post and how they affect the desert garden – primarily what types of plants they like to eat.  

Javelina travel through arroyos (washes)

Javelina travel through arroyos (washes)

To state that I was surprised to come so close to a javelina is an understatement. In the over twenty years that I’ve worked in desert gardens, I seldom see these pig-like mammals as they usually sleep through the day underneath mesquite or other desert trees.

Javelina resemblance to a boar

Often referred to as ‘wild pigs’ due to their resemblance to a boar, they aren’t pigs, but are a peccary, which is a medium-sized mammal with hooves. Javelina are found throughout the Southwest, but their range also extends to Central and South America. In urban settings, you’ll find them in more naturalized areas.

Javelina in the Desert Garden

They frequently travel in herds, although I only saw these two adults on this day. While it can be enjoyable to view them from afar (don’t get too close as they can be dangerous), dealing with the damage that they cause to gardens isn’t fun.

Javelina love to eat the pretty things we plant in our desert landscapes such as flowering annuals, and they don’t stop there. The spines on your prized cactus won’t deter a hungry javelina – they go right in and munch on the base of a prized columnar cactus as well as the pads of prickly pear cactus.

When surveying the damage that they cause to the garden, what makes it worse, is that javelina frequently don’t eat what they dig up.

Javelina in the Desert Garden

My relationship with javelina is a long one, which began by working to keep them away from the thirty-six tee boxes that I had to plant with flowering annuals seasonally. Not surprisingly, they were drawn to these colorful islands and would dislodge the plants by rooting them up with their snouts before eating them.

My crew and I had some mixed success with spraying squirrel repellent every few days on the petunias, but it was a lot of work and not foolproof.

Javelina in the Desert Garden

Javelina will zero in on popular potted annuals such as pansies, petunias, snapdragons, which are like candy to them. While geraniums aren’t their favorite potted flower, they will eat them too if hungry enough.

If you want pretty containers filled with flowers and live in a neighborhood where javelina are present, you’ll need to place the pots in an enclosed area or courtyard where they can’t reach. 

Bacopa

Bacopa

Lavender

Lavender

There are some flowering plants that they usually stay away from and these include Bacopa and Lavender, which can be used in containers.

 citrus fruit

Depending on the time of year, a javelina’s diet changes, based on what is available. In winter, citrus they will grab citrus fruit off of the tree.

mesquite

In summer, mesquite seedpods are one of their favorite foods.

A Cereus peruvianus cactus that has some bites taken out of its base by javelina

A Cereus peruvianus cactus that has some bites taken out of its base by javelina.

A fairly common sight is a columnar cactus with some bites taken out of its base, where javelina are present. In most cases, the damage is largely cosmetic and the cactus will be fine. However, to prevent further damage, you can surround the base of the cactus with a wire mesh cage.

javelina

While there is no guarantee that javelina won’t eat the plants in your desert garden from time to time, there are some plants that are less palatable to them than others. Here a helpful link for javelina resistant plants, but I must tell you that if a javelina is hungry enough, it will eat the plants on this list – I know this from personal experience. 

The only foolproof way to keep them away from eating your plants is to keep them out with a fence or wall.

Do you have javelina where you live? What type of plants do you notice them eating? Any plants that they seem to leave alone?