noelle johnson az plant lady

I love winters in the desert. It’s a time when activity in the garden slows down and we can sit back and ponder what plans (if any) we have for this new year.

As I sit in my office looking outdoors at my winter garden, I see birds visiting my feeders and the stark winter beauty of my trees.

And, I am excited about what 2024 will bring – both professionally and in the landscape areas around my home.

While the colder temperatures mean less work in the garden, there are some projects that should be done in winter:

Winter Garden Tasks

  • Prune deciduous trees, if needed. This includes ash, Chinese elm, desert willow, and pistache trees.
  • Cut back roses if you haven’t already, and add new bare-root roses. Check out my Growing Roses in the Desert, online class for guidance on rose care in a hot, dry climate.
  • Be sure that you aren’t over-watering your plants. They need far less water in winter than in other times of year. Visit Water Use It Wisely for scheduling info.
  • Winter is also a good time to add new plants. This gives plants time to grow a good root system before the heat of summer arrives. I’ve added several new plants this month, including passion flower vine and tangerine crossvine.

I encourage you to take advantage of this season to enjoy the beauty of your garden with a warm cup of coffee or tea.

The outdoors is an excellent stress reliever, and I am going to take the time this year to just sit and enjoy it – imperfections and all.

How about you?

 It’s about to get really cold…

Desert Southwest

Well, cold in this area of the desert southwest.  Temperatures are predicted to dip into the 20s for a few days, which is quite cold for zone 9a.

As a result, I am being asked by quite a few people about what they should do to prepare their semi-tropical plants for the cold temperatures.

semi-tropical plants

The best thing you can do is to cover your frost-tender plants.  This helps to trap the heat that rises from the ground, which raises the temperature by a few degrees around your plants.

Earlier this week, I wrote about how to protect your plants during a normal winter freeze (30 degrees and above).  You do have the choice to protect your plants or not.  I mentioned that I only protect my high-profile Lantana near my front entry.

But, when temperatures are forecast to fall into the 20s for a few days, I start pulling out all my old linens, including my kid’s old character bed sheets…

semi-tropical plants

I cover most of my semi-tropical plants, including my other lantana, young citrus tree, yellow bells, bougainvillea and pink trumpet vine.

The reason for this is that I don’t want my plants killed to the ground by the frost, which can happen when temperatures dip into the 20s for a few days.

You see, frost damage can be cumulative with each additional night of freezing temps, creating more damage to plants.

So, if you have frost cloth – use it.  If you don’t, then start raiding your linen closet and pull out towels, sheets, tablecloths, etc.  Believe it or not, even newspapers can provide some protection.  Just anchor it down with rocks to keep it from blowing away.  (I once used canned foods from my pantry to anchor frost blankets 😉

What you shouldn’t use is plastic.

Also, if you want to protect your plants – you have to do better than this person did…

semi-tropical plants

What they ended up with was plants with green areas, surrounded by brown, crispy frost-damaged growth.  You need to cover the entire plant with no gaps.

Watering your plants at dusk also helps because water releases heat into the night.

semi-tropical plants

If you have columnar cacti, then protect the ends using styrofoam cups.

Young citrus trees should also be protected.  

semi-tropical plants

If freezing temperatures persist, you can keep the coverings such as towels, sheets, and blankets on your plants for at least a week. If freezing temperatures last longer, uncover plants for a few hours during the middle of the day when temps are over 45 degrees to allow them to get needed sunlight. *If you use frost cloth, it is permeable and doesn’t need to be removed.

So what do you do if you don’t protect your plants and they look like this afterward?

semi-tropical plants

Relax, first of all.  More than likely, it is still alive at the base and will grow back once spring arrives.

Whatever you do, DON’T prune them now!  That can damage or even kill your plant.  I know it is ugly, but it is only until spring when you can prune all the frost-damaged foliage away.

**Even if you protect your plants from frost, there can still be some frost damage that occurs.  It all depends on the severity and duration of the cold.  But covering them increases the chance that they will recover once temperatures warm up in spring.

Cold Weather in the Desert ? Are You Kidding ?

Noelle shopping for plants at nursery

Thoughtful Gardening Gifts: Ten Must-Have Items

I love to spend time out in the garden, but it may surprise you to learn that I don’t have a garden shed full of tools, fertilizer, and other gardening items.

Full Disclosure: I USED to! As a garden influencer, companies send me their newest tools and fertilizers in hopes that I will recommend them to my followers. As a result, my garage was overflowing with so much stuff!

Simplifying the Essentials: Gardening Gifts That Made the Cut

And you know what? I found that I only need a few must-have items that make great gardening gifts. As a result, my shed is much cleaner with only my go-to items that I use in the garden.

With the holidays fast approaching, I’m here to help you make your gift list easier with seven items that I use for my own desert garden. Perhaps you’ll find some helpful gift ideas or items to add to your own wish list!

*Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

My Book, Dry Climate Gardening

I wrote this book for the desert gardener in mind as an all-inclusive guide. Gardening in the desert is different than other regions and it’s easy to get overwhelmed if you don’t know the right way. In Dry Climate Gardening, I break down what you need to know in easy-to-understand steps. And you’ll enjoy a beautiful garden that thrives in a hot, arid climate.

Garden Gloves That Combine Comfort and Functionality

blue garden gloves (gardening gifts )

I often use my bare hands when I work in the vegetable garden and with my container plants. Most garden gloves are bulky garden gloves that make it hard to handle smaller planting tasks. That’s why I love my new Foxglove Original Garden Gloves. They keep my hands clean yet allow me to ‘feel’ what I’m doing when I handle plants or plant seeds. Of course, I love that they come in gorgeous colors – I have a pair of periwinkle blue.

Conquer Weeds with Ease: The CobraHead Hand Weeder

Hand Weeding Tool ( gardening gifts)

Got weeds? Okay, who doesn’t? Three years ago, I was introduced to the CobraHead Hand Weeder and I love it! This tool is unique as it’s easy to use and works well at removing weeds. The handle is made from recycled plastic, and the blade is made of forged steel. Its curved shape is ergonomic, and it really does make weed removal so much easier. I use it for weeds that sprout up in the garden as well as in my vegetable garden. There are several sizes – I use the ‘mini’ and the long-handled ones.

Pocket-Sized Pruners for Precision: Dramm Compact Hand Pruners

Purple Hand Pruners (gardening gifts)

Here is the tool that I use most often in my garden, as it’s always on hand when I need to do smaller pruning tasks. These Compact Hand Pruners FIT IN MY POCKET, which means that I can put them in my back pocket whenever I need to use both hands for other garden tasks. How many times do you lay down hand pruners only to forget where you put them? Dramm makes great garden products, and their hand pruners are sharp and work well for cutting stems up to 1/4″ in diameter. I love that they come in a variety of bright colors – I have the purple ones!

Effortless Clean-Up: The Garden Clean-Up Canvas Tarp

Desert gardening
canvas garden branches ( gardening items )

Here is a new product that I used for the first time this year. I like to prune, but I hate having to clean up afterward. I was asked to test out this Garden Clean-Up Canvas Tarp, and afterward, I was hooked! The tarp is relatively large and sturdy. It lays flat, and you put your garden clippings on it (branches, lawn clippings, etc.). Once you finish, you grasp the corners with their green rubber handles and haul them to the curb (or trash can). I’m not the only one happy it – my husband is too, as he doesn’t have to clean up after me once I’ve finished pruning.

Stylish and Functional Readers for Garden Enthusiasts

Eye Glasses with Flowers (gardening gifts)

Whether I need to read the tiny print on a packet of seeds or identify a bug, I rely on my readers. I can’t see much without them. So, if I have to wear glasses, I want them to be colorful or have a pretty floral pattern. I love these Classic Floral Readers, which come in three pairs cause, let’s face it – they can be misplaced. I love the compliments that I get on my glasses, and I’m sure you’ll love these, too.

Versatile Hand Transplanter and Shovel: Ergonomic Aluminum Hand Tool

Hand Shovel Green Handle (gardening items)

My mother introduced me to this useful tool on my shelf several years ago. Soon after, I ditched all my other hand shovels because this one was far superior. The narrow shape of this Ergonomic Alumunium Hand Transplanter/Shovel makes it great for adding flowering annuals into pots. I also use it in my vegetable garden for transplants, as well as creating furrows for seeds. Another bonus is that its handle is comfortable on your wrist and comes in other bright colors – I have a blue one.

Houseplant Book as Gardening Gift: Create a Garden Indoors

houseplant book

Houseplants bring joy to your indoor spaces. It doesn’t matter how hot it gets outside as they enjoy the air-conditioned comforts of your home. There are so many different houseplants in all shapes and sizes. To get the most joy from your indoor garden, Plantopedia will guide you in the selection and how to care for your houseplants. A bonus is that it makes a beautiful coffee table book, you’ll want to display.

Vegetable Garden Garden Pest Handbook

vegetable garden book

I enjoy growing vegetables in my garden, but I don’t like it when pests cause problems. The Vegetable Garden Pest Handbook will guide you to help identify what unwelcome pests are eating your vegetables and how to treat them naturally. The author, Susan Mulvihill, has years of experience growing vegetables and has invaluable tips to share. I also recommend checking out her second book, The Vegetable Garden Problem Solver Handbook, which covers plant disease and other common problems and their solutions in the vegetable garden.

My Stylish and Functional Travel Companion: Baggallini Crossbody Purse with RFID

travel purse

I love to travel, and much of that involves garden travel. One of my go-to items that I bring with me is my Baggallini Journey Crossbody Purse. I like to carry a smaller purse when I’m on the road, and this one has served me well during many travels! Despite its compact size, I’m amazed at how much it fits – a phone, sunglasses, reading glasses, chapstick, tissues, a pen, business cards, and a granola bar. I like that it has slots for my driver’s license and debit/credit cards as well as a zipper pouch for money – it rids you of the need to bring a separate wallet. This is a well-made product, and I am a huge fan of Baggallini products! It comes in a variety of colors.

Explore More Gardening Gifts

I hope that my must-have list inspires you. I use all of these products and highly recommend them. Hopefully, you will find inspiration as to what to gift to yourself or buy for friends and family.

**Need MORE ideas? Check out my store page on Amazon where I have more garden-themed items for you or a loved one!

Exploring the Largest Therapeutic Garden in Arizona

Discover Arizona’s Largest Therapeutic Garden in Bisbee. Explore healing outdoor spaces and inclusivity at this remarkable resource and heal your soul. On a recent visit to southeastern Arizona, I was invited to visit a special garden in Bisbee, a small community with a big heart.

The Significance of the Founder’s Garden

My husband and I visit Bisbee every spring and enjoy walking through the older part of town with its historic buildings and exploring the mining history.

therapeutic garden Arizona touching the plants

A Healing Oasis in the Desert

During this visit, I was to speak about gardening to a community group and was given the opportunity to tour a recently completed garden. It gave me so much joy.

The Largest Therapeutic Garden in Arizona

So what is so special about this garden? Well, it is the largest therapeutic garden in Arizona. Its goal is to “serve as a space for our community partners—including hospitals, nonprofits, and other organizations—to incorporate into their services plans for individual and group therapy, day programs serving individuals with additional needs, and other forms of healing.”

Designing a Healing Outdoor Space

The garden is a 3.5-acre outdoor space designed by Norris Design of Tucson and was completed two years ago. That was plenty of time for the plants to become established and to get a feel of what the garden will look like as it continues to fill in.

We toured the garden with the CEO of Premier Alliances, and the history of its humble beginnings was fascinating to learn about.

therapeutic garden Arizona sculpture and water fountains
A water feature that is safe to touch and feel while visitors enjoy the sound of water.

Promoting Healing and Inclusivity

In 1962, a group of mothers came together to find and create learning opportunities for their children with disabilities. Back then, few resources were available, so the women took matters into their own hands. They initially raised money by selling homemade cakes.

Over the years, the group evolved into Premier Alliances, which serves people with disabilities in southeastern Arizona. I love how the CEO, John Charley, refers to people with special needs as “People with additional needs.”

therapeutic garden Arizona giant braille sculpture
A with raised dots (Braille) for the sight-impaired.

Inclusivity Through Design

Throughout the garden are wide, winding paths taking visitors along landscape beds with plants that invite you to touch and feel.

Over the years, the group evolved into Premier Alliances, which serves people with disabilities in southeastern Arizona. I love how the CEO, John Charley, refers to people with special needs as “People with additional needs.”

The plants are drought and desert-adapted to handle the cold(er) winters of the high desert and hot summers. Many of the plants are found in low and mid-altitude gardens as well. All are meant as a therapeutic garden in Arizona.

therapeutic garden Arizona nurseries
New greenhouses are ready for growing projects.

Personal Perspective on Therapeutic Gardens

Gardens can be places of calm and healing. Unfortunately, not all gardens are accessible to people who may have limitations. It’s easy for people without special needs to be unaware of the obstacles that stand in the way of enjoying every day experiences, like parks or gardens.

As a parent of a daughter with “additional needs,” I know how important spaces like therapeutic gardens are and their function within the community. 

The therapeutic effects of gardens are for everyone – they reduce stress and enable you to enjoy nature.

therapeutic garden Arizona landscape
A river rock dry bed helps channel water during rain storms. Firecracker and Parry’s penstemon add welcome spring color.

Visiting Founder’s Garden in Bisbee

I encourage you to learn more about the Founder’s Garden in Bisbee and its resources. The garden is open to people with extra needs and the general public, Monday through Friday.

therapeutic garden Arizona  wide walkways
The entrance to Founder’s Garden

Click here to learn more about their mission and how you can visit the garden.

side yard art at Shawna Coronado garden

Elevate Your Side Yard with Creative Solutions

Side yard art in the form of a garden? Yes please! Do you have a side garden or perhaps an empty stretch of landscape along the side of your house?

Many of my clients do, and they desire something attractive to look at when they look outside their windows. Because let’s face it – staring at a bare block wall is boring!

1. Outdoor Side Yard Art: Adding Colorful Flair to Your Walls

It could be that your side yard is narrow or super shady, which makes growing plants difficult.

Well, I’m here to share ample inspiration for your side yard with three ideas for you to consider.

side yard art with canvas art


Bring Your Garden Views Up to Eye Level

Imagine being able to add colorful art to your outdoor walls!

My friend Shawna Coronado has done that in her side garden with colorful prints specifically made to handle the outdoors. If you have boring walls and no space to add plants, an all-weather canvas is an excellent option for adding colorful interest. Or perhaps as a backdrop for lower-growing plants.

Make Side Yard Art Creative

I love visiting her garden and how she uses her artist’s eye to create vibrant vignettes throughout her backyard. Shawna is a noted gardener and author who moved from Chicago to the deserts of Arizona several years ago. I’ve had the privilege to witness how she has embraced desert gardening, and she brings her unique style to her outdoor space.

side yard art with ceramic fish and seashells


2. Maximizing Space with Artful Raised Beds

Shawna loves plants as much as I do and has added galvanized steel raised beds along her entire side yard. The beds are powdered coated with a nice sage-green color which blends well with the desert garden palette.

A combination of succulents, perennials, and vegetables make their home in her raised beds. The narrow space can limit the sunlight plants receive for many side yards when planted in the ground. Using raised beds increases the amount of sunlight they receive.

I love this combination of agave, aloe, mangave, prickly pear, and yucca, which is low water and attractive. Ceramic garden fish appear to swim among underwater plants – I love whimsy like this in the garden!

Shawna Coronado's side yard art garden


3. Expanding Possibilities in Wide Side Yards

side yard art with cactus view

Reimagine your side yard as a canvas of possibilities. If you have a spacious side yard, seize the opportunity to transform it into a flourishing garden oasis with side yard art. Consider the practical elegance of raised beds lining both sides of this often-underutilized space, allowing you to make the most of your gardening potential.

With raised beds, you can cultivate a variety of herbs, vegetables, and flowers, turning your previously overlooked area into a vibrant green haven. But don’t stop there; infuse personality and charm with whimsical garden art, injecting life and creativity into every corner.

Your side yard has the potential to become a harmonious blend of artistry and agriculture, a true testament to the transformative power of outdoor spaces.

Click here to learn more about Shawna’s side garden gallery and where to purchase canvas prints, raised beds, and ceramic fish.

Noelle Johnson author Dry Climate Gardening Book

A Long-Awaited Gardening Book Birthday: Turning 18 Months of Dreams into Reality

Today – the big gardening book birthday – was a day long in coming…

In many ways, it was like a very long pregnancy. 18 months to be exact since my initial discussion with my editor about writing a book on desert gardening.

The journey from idea to book is filled with varying emotions. From excitement, stress, and impatience, to today when I feel pure happiness.

Writing a book is not easy. My reason for doing so is to inspire and guide people who live in dry climates. I want you to create and maintain an outdoor space that brings both joy and beauty.

Empowering Dry Climate Dwellers: Tips, Strategies, and More in ‘Dry Climate Gardening’

Within the pages of Dry Climate Gardening, I help you with specific garden and landscape strategies. I help with plant choice, planting tips, watering strategies, pest control, design inspiration, and lists of my favorite plants.

Wherever you are in your garden journey, I hope you will find help and ideas for your landscape. The truth is that you can have an attractive garden despite living in an arid region.

Dry Climate Gardening: Creating Beautiful, Sustainable Gardens in Low-Water Conditions is available now. Find the book everywhere books are sold. Click here to order yours and celebrate my gardening book birthday with me!

Purple lilac vine in the garden

Purple lilac vine

Discovering the Beauty of the Purple Lilac Vine (Hardenbergia violacea)

In the midst of a colorless winter garden, a burst of vibrant beauty can be a delightful surprise. Explore the wonders of this wonderful purple vine, a lesser-known gem that thrives in the desert garden.

Embracing the Lilac Vine’s Versatility

Welcome to the world of the purple lilac vine (Hardenbergia violacea), an Australian native cherished for its unique charm. While it’s not a true lilac, it serves as a wonderful substitute in regions like the low desert where traditional lilacs struggle to grow. Regular irrigation is important.

A Versatile Beauty

This versatile vine can be employed in various ways in your desert southwest garden. Traditionally used as a vine, it can also shine as a ground cover, as my experience from over 20 years ago demonstrated. Its adaptability is one of its key strengths.

Blooming in the Heart of Winter

One of the most remarkable attributes of the lilac vine is its winter bloom. In zone 9 gardens, February brings forth a profusion of gorgeous purple flowers, adding a touch of elegance when little else is in bloom.

Purple lilac vine in full bloom

Isn’t it beautiful?

This Australian native is known by different common names with lilac vine (Hardenbergia violacea) being commonly used in our area of the Southwest.

It is not actually a lilac, but because we cannot grow lilacs in the low desert, this is a wonderful substitute.

Purple lilac vine flowers up close

My first experience using Purple Lilac was over 20 years ago when I used it in a feature area on one of the golf courses I worked for.

Although traditionally used as a vine, I used it as a ground cover; believe it or not, it did beautifully.

One of the best attributes of this vine is that it blooms during the winter month of February in our zone 9 gardens.

Now be honest, there is not much going on in your garden in winter, is there? Wouldn’t it be great to have gorgeous purple flowers blooming when little else is?

Purple lilac vine on a fence

Reasons to Welcome this Winter Vine

Here are more reasons to consider introducing this lovely vine into your garden:

  • Winter Blossoms: Brighten up your garden during the colder months.
  • Year-Round Attractiveness: Even when not in bloom, the vine boasts appealing foliage.
  • Low Maintenance: Minimal care required; occasional pruning for size control and little need for supplemental fertilizer.
  • Vertical Growth: It thrives when provided with a trellis or support structure.
  • Ideal Placement: East or south-facing areas are especially suitable for this vine.
  • Hardiness: Hardy to USDA Zone 9, it withstands typical winter temperatures but may suffer frost damage in the upper 20s°F.

Under normal winter temperatures, it doesn’t suffer frost damage.

Purple Lilac Vine Has Useful Appeal

The vine isn’t just about looks. It can serve as a decorative asset, transforming bare walls and concealing unattractive views with its lush foliage and vibrant blooms.

Purple lilac vine leaf view

When people ask me if I recommend a particular plant, I tell them that the highest recommendation that I can give is is if I have that plant growing in my garden.

I do not have the patience to grow a plant that struggles and/or takes too much maintenance.  It also has to look beautiful most of the year.

So if you ask me if I truly like this vine, I answer by saying that I have four growing in my backyard 🙂

Sourcing Your Purple Lilac Vine

While some may struggle to find this vine in local nurseries, fret not. Most nurseries typically stock them when they’re in full flower during the winter. It’s important to note that while the flowers resemble lilacs, they may not be strongly fragrant. However, their sheer beauty makes up for any lack of fragrance.

Discover the magic of this wonderful vine and infuse your winter garden with a burst of captivating color and charm. Happy gardening!

  

purple lilac vine at the garden center

I have picked up a new hobby, which was a bit accidental – birding!

As a horticulturist, birds go along with gardening, and I’ve always enjoyed them. One of my most requested speaking topics is about gardening for birds. However, I have begun to dive deeply into the fascinating birding world.

Birding is Fun with my Family

It may surprise you that the Southwest is one of the top bird-watching destinations. I am fortunate that there is a lovely riparian preserve a few miles from my home where you can see many different species of birds.

It turns out my two sisters also enjoy birding, so the other day, we met up early to go for a morning walk and explore the birds at the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch, in Gilbert, Arizona.

This photo is of me and my sister Jennifer, who is a year younger than me. She is also the invaluable assistant to ‘AZ Plant Lady’ who would be nothing without her 🙂

It was a cold morning, but the birds were out, and so were we ready with our binoculars. The trails are level and circle eight different ponds. Trees and shrubs are allowed to grow in their natural shapes, providing plenty of shelter for birds, but we could see many in the trees and on the water.

We spotted the red of a Northern cardinal. I am always excited when I see one of these colorful birds because we don’t get many of them.

His mate was close by. Northern cardinals don’t migrate but stay in place all year.

We also spotted the orange breast of a robin but didn’t get a good photo of it.

An Anna’s hummingbird perched on the leafless branch of a shrub. His feathers are puffed up to help keep him warm. I am so grateful that we enjoy hummingbirds in our region all year. While we walked, we could hear hummingbirds everywhere.

From the tiny to the large, Canada geese gently honked as they saw us approach, hoping for food. We saw many other types of water birds, including pelicans – imagine pelicans in the desert! They leave in the summer.

A tiny verdin was busy eating tiny insects in a palo verde branch. I have a nesting pair of verdin in my own garden, and I love to watch their antics as they perch on my flowering shrubs. Verdins are just a little larger than hummingbirds.   

A roadrunner was out for a morning walk, but earlier, we spotted it in a tree. Roadrunners are fun to watch, especially when they catch small lizards.

A curved bill thrasher was enjoying the morning with his mate. I have a pair that visits my bird feeder at home. I like their golden eyes.

My youngest sister, Grace, is a professional photographer and took all these amazing photos. She kindly let me share them with you! You can see more of her stunning photos on her Instagram account, The Reluctant Birder.

I can hardly wait for another ‘sister’ birding walk!

I encourage you to observe the birds who visit your garden or go to some natural areas to view our feathered friends.

backyard desert garden with fall-blooming plants

Embracing the Desert Garden in Fall

Fall is my favorite time of year in the desert garden for two main reasons.

First, fall signals the beginning of the holiday season. And yes, I am one of those people who decorate for Christmas early. Thanksgiving dinner at my house is celebrated with a fully decorated tree in the background.

The Revival of the Desert Garden

Secondly, autumn marks a magical transformation in my garden, as it awakens from the trials of summer. It’s no secret that the scorching heat of the summer months can be taxing on our cherished green companions. However, the arrival of fall ushers in a series of remarkable changes that breathe new life into our botanical friends.

Lush and Vibrant

As keen observers of nature, we’ve likely noticed the remarkable resurgence of our plants during this season. The foliage appears lusher, the blooms more vibrant, and the overall health of our garden seems to rebound. It’s a phenomenon so profound that many desert gardeners affectionately dub autumn as the “second spring.”

This resurgence is no mere coincidence but rather a result of nature’s resilience and adaptation. As temperatures dip and daylight hours become more moderate, our plants find relief from the summer’s harsh extremes. They eagerly embrace this milder environment, seizing the opportunity to flourish once again.

Nurturing the Garden

In the desert, autumn isn’t just a season of change; it’s a reaffirmation of the enduring partnership between gardeners and the natural world. It reminds us that, even in the harshest of climates, with patience and understanding, we can create and nurture thriving gardens that mirror the vitality and resilience of the desert itself.

Foliage Rejuvenation and Vibrant Blooms in Your Garden

Here are some of the differences you may see in your plants this time of year:

  1. Darker foliage has replaced the sun-bleached appearance of some plants due to less intense sunlight.
  2. Flowering increases and the blooms may also appear more intense in color due to less intensity from the sun.
  3. Some plants only bloom in fall, like black dalea (Dalea frutescens), cascalote (Caesalpinia cacalaco), and my favorite pink muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris).

Showcasing the Fall Garden

In the section of my backyard, pictured above, pink muhly and white trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis ‘Alba’) look especially vibrant in fall.

Pink trumpet vine (Podranea ricasoliana) dominates the back corner and blooms in spring and fall. I always know when cooler temps are on their way when they begin to bloom in September.

However, as autumn transitions into winter, the blooms in this area will slow and fade. A few hardy blooms may remain, but overall, the plants will slow down in their growth and flowering. The exception is my angelita daisies (Tetraneuris acaulis) which will bloom off and on through winter.

Discovering the Delights of Your Desert Garden

In the desert southwest landscape, where scorching sun and minimal rainfall summers challenge even the greenest thumbs, cultivating a thriving fall water-saving garden becomes a true art. Through careful planning and sustainable practices, enthusiasts uncover the secrets of nurturing vibrant cacti, resilient succulents, and colorful desert blooms.

What a joy to learn the delicate balance of conserving water while creating an oasis of life. Beyond the satisfaction of tending to nature’s wonders, desert gardening in the southwest unveils the beauty of resilient, sustainable, and breathtakingly unique landscapes. I invite you to take a walk through your garden and note the changes to your plants. This is a happy time of year in the garden!

Understanding the Mystery of Dead Plants

I’m pretty sure I know the answer to the dead plant mystery.

We have all likely experienced the death of a plant in our garden, and even though I am a horticulturist, I’m not immune.

Sometimes, plants die in my garden too.

The Perplexing Case of ‘Blue Bells’ Emu Bush

Here is a photo of my recently deceased ‘Blue Bells’ emu bush.

I was surprised to see that it had ‘kicked the bucket’ as its nearby neighbors were flourishing. Dead plants can tell a story.

So, the question I have to ask myself is, why did it die?


How to Figure Out Why a Plant Died in Your Garden

To determine why a plant died, here are some things to ascertain…

1. Recent Planting and Transplant Shock:

Was it planted recently? If so, it may not have had enough time to grow enough roots to survive summer. Transplant shock is a real thing.

2. Watering Issues Are a Concern:

Did it get enough water? Was the drip emitter plugged or broken? Sometimes we need to better educate ourselves on water irrigation.

3. Sun Exposure Extremes:

Was it planted in the wrong exposure? In other words, did it get too much sun or not enough? Both of these things can cause dead plants.

4. Climate Compatibility Can Cause Dead Plants:

Does the plant do well in our hot, desert climate? Or will it end up a dead plant because it is not built for the desert climate.

5. Pest Problems:

Were there any pest problems, such as ants around the roots or other unwelcome bugs? This can weaken the plant.

6. Overall Landscape Health:

Are identical plants in your landscape struggling too? If so, they might all be struggling due to a similar issue.

7. Soil Conditions are Important:

Is there a problem with the soil? Groupings of dead plants can sometimes indicate poor soil conditions.


Using these questions as guidelines, you’ll likely have the answer to why a plant has died.

However, in my case, the plant was a few years old, always did well, and the ‘Blue Bells’ nearby were thriving.

So, why did it die?

I don’t know…

Sometimes plants die, and we don’t know why. I realize this can be hard to accept without having the answer.

That is what happens in nature – things die, and we don’t always have the answers as to why.

In my particular case, I am replanting a new “Blue Bells” because I know it grows well for me in this spot. I ensured there were no unwelcome bugs in the soil and amended the soil with 1 part compost mixed with 1 part existing soil to give it a little ‘boost.’ You might find a different plant that works well for your garden.

I hope my new plant is happy…