Prickly pear

Prickly pear

The next time you find yourself grumbling about having to prune your trees and shrubs – just be thankful that you don’t have to prune cacti at the Desert Botanical Garden.

While I have never had to prune a large bed of cacti, I have backed into cholla and other types of cacti early in my career. I’ve even had a piece stuck on the back of my leg – ouch!

I admit to being a bit clumsy and not always hyper-aware of my surroundings. Years ago, when I had a landscape crew, they would always be warning me about plant holes and prickly plants that I didn’t spot right away.

More recently, I was visiting a client and backed my heel into her golden barrel cactus. Several years later, despite my doctor trying to get it out, a piece of that thorn is still stuck in my heel. It doesn’t hurt anymore, and I just have a tiny bump on my heel as a memento.

 Prickly pear

However, some types of cacti, such as prickly pear and cholla, need to be pruned from time to time in a landscape setting.

Prickly pear can grow very large and spread. If you don’t have enough room, you may find yourself having to prune it back. When pruning prickly pears, make your pruning cuts where the individual pads meet. I like to use long-handled loppers, which work well and don’t require getting too close.

 Prickly pear

Cholla tend to drop segments on the ground, which is how they propagate.  The segments will root in ideal conditions and grow a new cholla.

In a managed landscape, it is a good idea to clean the fallen pieces of cholla to help keep people from inadvertently getting it stuck to their shoes.

**Have you ever wondered why cacti have thorns?  I wrote about the surprising reasons that cacti are prickly and some tips for pulling out cactus spines if you get stuck…

“Why Do Cactus Have Spines”

Have you ever gotten pricked by a cactus?  

Do you like shopping for plants?  I do.  In fact, I often find myself tempted to buy more plants than I have space for.

10 Things To Know Before Buying Plants

Southwest Nursery

Sometimes, I have come home with a plant I bought on impulse, unable to resist its lovely flowers.

It may surprise you to find out that there are potential pitfalls to avoid when shopping at the nursery, such as unhealthy plants, not allowing for enough room in the garden for plants, and buying plants that may be ill-suited to your area.

10 Things To Know Before Buying Plants

Before you head out to the nursery to add plants to your garden, I invite you to learn some helpful tips to make it a rewarding visit—from recognizing the signs of unhealthy plants to why smaller may be better and why it’s better to pass over a plant in full bloom for one that isn’t. I promise that following even one of these tips will save you from buyer’s remorse and an empty wallet.

My ten favorite tips for plant buying are included in my article on Houzz.com. I hope you find it helpful!

 
 
 

Planning a Beautiful Garden and Saving Money

Gather Flower Seeds, Red globe mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua)

Gather Flower Seeds, Red globe mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua)

Did you know that some flowering desert perennials can be grown easily from seed? Many of the plants in my garden are volunteers that grew from seed from established plants.

I have several ‘parental’ plants in my front garden, along with their babies that have come up on their own with no assistance from me.

Gather Flower Seeds , Pink globe mallow 

Pink globe mallow 

My favorite perennials that grow from seed are my colorful globe mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua).  The most common color seen in globe mallow is orange. However, they also come in other colors, such as red, pink, and white. You can purchase the less common color varieties, but they can be hard to find at your local nursery.

White globe mallow

White globe mallow

When I first designed my garden, I bought pink, red, and white globe mallows. These plants are now over 17 years old and produce a large number of seeds once flowering has ceased.  Because these colors can be hard to find, people ask me to sell them seeds that I harvest each year from my colorful perennials.

Light pink globe mallow

Light pink globe mallow

Harvesting seeds from spent flowers is easy to do. Once the flowers begin to fade in spring, I look for tiny, dried-out seed pods, which is where the seeds are contained. I then pick them off and place them in a little bag.  It’s important to keep the colors separate, so if someone wants red globe mallow, they won’t be growing pink or white ones.

gopher plant and angelita daisy in desert garden

Groundcovers like gopher plants (Euphorbia rigida) and angelita daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis) come up from seed in my front yard. I pull out the ones I don’t want and allow the others to remain.

Desert marigold (Baileya multiradiata), firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatonii), and verbena (Glandularia spp.)

Desert marigold (Baileya multiradiata), firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatonii), and verbena (Glandularia spp.)

There are other desert perennials that come up easily in the desert garden from seed, such as desert marigold (Baileya multiradiata), firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatonii), and verbena (Glandularia spp.).

So, how do you grow these drought-tolerant perennials from seed? Surprisingly, it’s not hard to do, and if you go into a lot of trouble and fuss over them, they probably won’t grow. So, starting them in little pots and transplanting them isn’t the best way to go about it. Instead, sprinkle the seed throughout the landscape, allowing some to fall a foot away from a drip emitter or near rocks. You want to mirror the natural conditions where they sow their seed in nature. Warning: this only works in areas where pre-emergent herbicides are NOT used. 

Growing these perennials from seed is very inexpensive, but some patience is needed while you wait for them to sprout.  Not all will come up, but those that do will add beauty to your garden, and before you know it, you may be harvesting seed to share with your friends.

What type of plants have you come up in your garden from seed?

Budget Gardening

Budget Gardening

For those of us who love succulents, there is a price to pay. These water-wise plants often cost a lot of money. If you have a bottomless wallet, that may not be a problem, but for those of us who live on a budget and want to include these lovely plants in our landscapes, it can be a problem.

succulent plant

Thankfully, there is something that you can do in many cases to turn one succulent plant into several. I’ll show you how I did this when I bought a ‘Blue Elf’ aloe, which I had wanted for a long time.

‘Blue Elf’ aloe is a more compact aloe that is quite popular. Like most aloes, it does best in bright shade or filtered sunlight. Orange flowers appear in later winter and last into spring, adding a welcome splash of color to winter gardens.

Desert Botanical Garden

I visited the Desert Botanical Garden’s fall plant sale the other day and had a list of plants I wanted in my garden. One of my must haves was three ‘Blue Elf’ aloe plants. The holes were already dug, and all I needed were my little aloes.

Budget Gardening

Budget Gardening

The problem was that initially, I could only find 3-gallon specimens for $30 and not the smaller 1-gallon I was hoping to find. Later, I did see them in the 1-gallon size for $20 apiece. Ouch! So, what was I to do? I certainly didn’t want to spend $60 for three 1-gallon plants.

Budget Gardening

I went back to look at those in the 3-gallon containers and noted that there were at least three good-sized clumps of aloe, which was all I needed. So I bought it and took it home.

Budget Gardening

Using a sharp hand shovel, I cut through the root ball, isolating each clump.

Budget Gardening

Out came several nice-sized aloes, ready to be planted. 

Budget Gardening

I planted them in my pre-dug holes, where they will root nicely with some supplemental water.

It turns out that there weren’t just three but five clumps of ‘Blue Elf’ aloe, so I found two more areas to plant them. 

So, instead of paying $60 for three 1-gallons, I got 5 ‘Blue Elf’ aloe for $6 each, which, for succulents, is a great deal!

Another type of succulent where you can sometimes find ‘extra’ plants in a nursery container is agave.

Budget Gardening

At the same plant sale, many different species of agave were on display, ready to be purchased. While not all types of agave make ‘babies’ (pups), a lot of them do. Can you spot the two agave containers in the photo above where there is more than one agave growing?

The next time you are shopping for aloe or agave for your garden, take a close look at them in their nursery containers – you may find two or more plants for the price of one. How cool is that?

Succulents, More Than Just Drought Tolerant

desert garden with flowering plants
Backyard desert landscape with low-water plants.

Did you know that what you plant today has short-term and long-term benefits? It’s true. As water resources become even more precious, planting wisely is more important than ever. You will enjoy the immediate effects of lowering your outdoor water use while enjoying the knowledge that you are creating a sustainable outdoor space for the future.

Another benefit is that low-water plants are beautiful and increase your outdoor enjoyment.

So, let’s discuss four ways of “planting ahead” to ensure that your desert landscape is resilient for years to come.

shady tree over seating area in backyard
Outdoor seating area underneath the shade of a ‘Desert Museum’ palo verde tree.

Plant More Shade

The benefits of shade in the garden cannot be overstated; trees are a great way to achieve that. Trees offer a welcome respite from the hot desert sun while adding beauty to the landscape. Additionally, trees reduce outdoor temperatures underneath their branches, and when placed on the west, east, or south side of your home, will save money on energy bills.

Native and desert-adapted trees don’t use much water, and plants grown under the branches of trees use less water than those planted in full sun.

Look at the areas around your home and see if there are areas where shade be added. If you have a narrow space where trees won’t fit, consider using tall shrubs such as hop bush (Dodonaea viscosa) to provide shade.

 

purple flowering shrub
‘Rio Bravo’ Texas Sage (Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Rio Bravo’).

Plant More Color

People are naturally drawn to color, and you can improve your home’s curb appeal by adding colorful plants. Desert dwellers have many flowering plants to choose from – from groundcovers, shrubs, and vines. Additionally, we have a year-round growing climate so you can always have something in bloom outdoors.

To maximize the color impact of plants, group the same plants together in threes or fives instead of just one. Place colorful plants in high-visibility areas such as against a wall, the corners of your property, and near the front entry where they are sure to be seen.

Avoid the biggest color mistake and stop excessively pruning flowering plants into unnatural shapes. Most flowering shrubs need pruning once a year or less.

 

flowering shrubs growing in containers
Vibrant pots filled with Baja fairy duster (Calliandra californica), ‘Blue Bells’ emu (Eremophila hygrophana), Mexican honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera), and mealy cup sage (Salvia farinacea) attract pollinators under the filtered shade of a palo verde tree.

Plant More Wildlife

Our gardens can help benefit wildlife by providing food and shelter. A bonus is that you get to view them up close! The easiest way to invite wildlife such as birds, bees, and butterflies is to incorporate plants they are attracted to.

Trees, shrubs, and even cacti can provide shelter, while the blooms from certain plants will provide nectar and seeds. One easy way to encourage pollinators to visit your garden is to replace thirsty flowering annuals in containers and plant flowering shrubs instead. The shrubs will use less water while still providing you with color. 

Baja fairy duster (Calliandra californica) is one of my favorite choices for attracting pollinators such as butterflies, hummingbirds, and larger bird species are attracted to the seeds.

 

colorful ground covers
A front yard that had the lawn removed. Flowering groundcovers such as gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida), trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis), and angelita daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis) add beauty for much less water.

Plant More Water Saving

Plants don’t use the same amount of water – some need more, while others do fine receiving less while still looking great. You don’t need a yard filled with thirsty plants because many beautiful plants use less water (and I’m not just speaking of cacti and succulents). 

Switch out high-water-use plants and replace them with those that need less water. Groundcovers are an excellent substitute for a lawn – particularly decorative ones. Many low-growing groundcovers have lush green foliage but require a fraction of the water that a lawn does. While they can’t be walked upon, they make a beautiful addition to the landscape, and many add a colorful element and provide a food source for pollinators. Even better, they require very little maintenance.

Planting ahead involves strategically selecting the plants we choose for our desert landscapes. These four ideas will help you create a beautiful yet sustainable outdoor space that will save water and provide a more sustainable future.

Need help choosing the right low-water plants? I invite you to visit AMWUA:Plants or explore the plants in my award-winning book, Dry Climate Gardening, where you will find useful tools to help you implement these recommendations.

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?

I love to grow vegetables in my backyard. Nothing beats the flavor of vegetables that you grow yourself, and it is fun and rewarding. That is, until you notice unwelcome insect pests causing damage to your edible crops.

In the low to mid-desert regions, we are fortunate to be able to grow vegetables and herbs throughout the entire year. But that also means that we need to be on the lookout for unwelcome visitors. 

Recognizing what insects are eating our plants and how best to get rid of them can be one of the hardest parts of growing vegetables. However, there is help!

Susan Mulvihill is the expert you’ve been looking for to help you to prevent and treat insect pests. And she does this by guiding you toward using effective yet natural methods.

In her book, The Vegetable Garden Pest Handbook, she helps you to identify the most common insect pests in her “Pest Profile” section along with photos of the bug and the type of damage they cause. This is incredibly helpful to help you know what is causing the problem so you can select the best treatment.

The author specifies effective natural solutions to prevent and minimize insect infestations, which are clearly set out in her book. From attracting birds and pollinators that eat bugs to the best organic products to get rid of insect pests. The book provides guidance as to products such as Bt, insecticidal soap, neem oil, pyrethrins, plus much more, and which works best against specific pests.

DIY control methods are a great way to minimize unwelcome visitors to your garden. I’ve used beer traps for slugs, insect hotels, and sticky traps in my own garden. Susan includes these methods as well as many others to help you minimize and prevent the problems damaging insects can cause to your edible crops.

Vegetable gardening is fun to do, especially with the expert guidance you’ll find in this wonderful book. If you have a vegetable garden, you need this book!

 

However, insect pests are just one problem that can affect edible crops. Plant disease, animals, weather, and other issues can cause problems as well. So, Susan has written a second book to help you address these factors, The Vegetable Garden Problem Solver Handbook.

I’ve grown vegetables for years and have faced issues with insect pests, disease, and weather-related issues. I wish I would have had these books back then, which would have made my efforts much easier.

The good news is that you can make vegetable gardening easier for yourself with the excellent guidance in these books!

 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!

Heat proof garden plans are easy to put together. Forecasts of a heatwave in the desert may seem a rather foreign concept when temperatures in summer are routinely over 100 degrees. However, when temps are predicted to be 110 degrees and over, plants in landscapes that normally handle hot weather without complaint, can suffer.

Mastering the Art of Creating a Heat-Proof Garden

beautiful desert garden

preparation for heat proof garden

Preparation is Key: Heat-Proofing Your Landscape

The best preparation for heat-proofing your landscape begins before summer. Plant fuss free plants that really handle the expected heat well. However, with the imminent arrival of a heatwave, here are two tips that will help your plants survive.

Provide extra water by irrigating shrubs and groundcovers in the early morning hours for an extra 1/2 hour when temperatures are forecast over 115 degrees.

1. Strategic Watering for Extreme Heat

Provide extra water by irrigating shrubs and groundcovers in the early morning hours for an extra 1/2 hour when temperatures are forecast over 115 degrees.

Plants can uptake water more easily in the early morning as opposed to being watered during the day.  During the heat of the day, plants have to devote much of their resources to handle the stress of the heat and cannot uptake water efficiently. Therefore, it’s best to water early in the morning so that they are replenished with water and ready to face the excessive evaporation that will occur with temperatures over 115 degrees.

*It’s important not to overwater plants, so if the heatwave lasts more than three days, skip a day between providing extra water.

shade sheilding for heat proof garden

2. Shielding Plants from Intense Sun during Heatwaves

Provide temporary shade for heat susceptible plants such as hibiscus or roses.

The sun’s intense rays are even more focused during a heatwave and can cause stress to the plant itself, including sunburn damage.  This is especially true for plants that receive hot, western sun or in areas that receive reflected heat.

For shrubs and groundcovers, leaves may wilt and turn brown in response to a heatwave.  Even cactus and other succulents can suffer sunburn or other heat stress, which often reveals itself as yellowing.

Temporary shade can be provided using sections of shade cloth.

lawn chairs placed on top of plants

In a pinch, a lawn chair can work to add a welcome spot of shade for a plant.

Old sheets tied to posts, chairs or trees can also provide temporary shading until the heatwave subsides.

using a garden hose to lightly mist plants

3. Evening Cooling: Misting Your Way to Resilience

Lightly mist plants in the evening to cool them off. A light sprinkle of rain does wonders for cooling things off. However, when monsoon rains aren’t forecast, a light sprinkle of water from your hose can provide temporary cooling for your plants. Additionally, this helps to increase humidity levels, which is helpful to prevent them from our dry climate.

Note, when you do this, the goal isn’t to water the plants at the base, but rather to wet the foliage. Be sure the sun has set before misting your plants as the water can intensify the sun’s rays. I like to use this rain wand to mist my plants – it also is great for container watering.

a heat proof garden

Managing Heat Waves

Heatwaves can be particularly challenging to endure, both for humans and the flora around us. These periods of intense heat and elevated temperatures can induce discomfort and stress for plants, which can ultimately affect their health and vitality.

However, the key to effectively managing heatwaves lies in proactive preparation. Implementing strategic measures in advance can significantly mitigate their adverse effects. One of the most prudent approaches involves thoughtful planning, where the selection of native plants that are adapted to the local climate becomes crucial. Native plants are naturally better equipped to handle extreme heat and drought conditions.

Stay Cool Indoors: Coping Personally in the Heat

When faced with a scorching heat wave, keeping your plants cool is important, but keeping yourself cool is a top priority. Here are four strategies to help you stay refreshed:

  1. Stay Hydrated: Drink ample water throughout the day to keep your body well-hydrated. Proper hydration helps regulate body temperature and prevents heat-related health issues.
  2. Embrace Air Conditioning: Seek refuge in air-conditioned spaces, whether at home, work, or public places like shopping centers or libraries. If AC is unavailable, use fans to circulate air and create a cooling effect.
  3. Dress Wisely: Opt for lightweight, loose-fitting clothing made from breathable materials. Light colors reflect sunlight, reducing heat absorption and allowing your body to release heat more efficiently.
  4. Time Outdoor Activities: Plan outdoor activities during the cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late afternoon. Avoid midday sun, when temperatures peak. If you need to be outside, use hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen to shield yourself from the sun’s direct impact.

In the meantime, my favorite tip to escape the heat is by hibernating indoors as much as possible 🙂

Want to learn more about how to create, grow, and maintain a heat-resilient garden? Check out my new book!