Who doesn’t like Queen’s Wreath Vine? I have a renewed appreciation for my Queen’s Wreath Vine, also known as Antigonon leptopus. In the garden during the summer months it is fabulous. Now, I realize that there are some who do enjoy the satisfaction of working hard with their plants. The last thing I want to do is have to fuss over a plant in the middle of the summer heat so that it will look beautiful for me. I would much rather enjoy the ‘natural beauty’ of my summer plants looking through the windows from the comfort of my air-conditioned home.

Embracing the Beauty of Queen’s Wreath Vine

Earlier this summer, I wrote about one of my favorite ‘natural beauties’ in the garden, Yellow Bells.  Today, I would like to introduce you to one of my favorite summer vines. It is a wonderful example of fabulous vine that is a ‘natural beauty.’

Queen's Wreath vine pink flowers

Queen’s Wreath vines grace the Arizona State University campus.

The Natural Charm of Queen’s Wreath Vine

Queen Wreath Vine (Antigonon leptopus) is a colorful asset to my gardenThis ‘natural beauty’ is a vine that is native to Mexico and Central America. The vibrant vine graces your garden with stunning pink sprays of flowers that last from spring until the first frost. While it can be invasive in tropical areas, it’s easily managed in the desert climate.

Queen's Wreath Vine heart-shaped leaves

In our desert climate, they do require supplemental water, but no fertilizer is needed.  Bees are attracted to the beautiful flowers, and I love the pretty heart-shaped leaves. 

Queen’s Wreath is a robust vine.  It can endure in full sun including areas of reflected heat.  It will also grow in light shade although flowering will be reduced. The only maintenance required in my garden is pruning it back in winter once it dies back after the first frost. The roots are hardy to 20 degrees F, and in the spring, it quickly grows back with a trellis, fence or an arbor for support.

Queens Wreath vine growing on a wall

 A wall of Queen’s Wreath Vine at ASU

The only consistent maintenance required in my garden is pruning it back in winter once it dies back after the first frost.  However the roots are hardy to 20 degrees F, and in the spring, it quickly grows back with a trellis, fence or an arbor for support. See more in the mini-guide below

HOW TO GROW QUEEN’S WREATH VINE: A Mini-Guide

Step 1: Choosing the Ideal Location

Queens wreath vine pink flowers

To successfully cultivate Queen’s Wreath Vine, select a sunny spot in your garden where it can bask in plenty of sunlight. While it can tolerate light shade, it thrives when exposed to full sun, making it an ideal choice for areas with reflected heat.

Step 2: Preparing the Soil

Ensure the soil is well-draining to prevent waterlogged roots. Queen’s Wreath Vine thrives in various soil types but benefits from enriched soil containing organic matter.

Step 3: Planting the Vine

Plant your Queen’s Wreath Vine near a trellis, fence, or arbor to provide the necessary support for its growth. Dig a hole deep enough to comfortably accommodate its root system.

Step 4: Proper Watering

While Queen’s Wreath Vine becomes drought-tolerant once established, it appreciates supplemental watering, especially during dry spells. Water deeply to encourage robust root development, but make sure the plant has good drainage.

Step 5: Pruning and Maintenance

In winter, after the first frost, prune any dead or overgrown branches to promote vigorous spring growth. Minimal maintenance will keep your Queen’s Wreath Vine flourishing year after year.

By following these steps, you can enjoy the ‘natural beauty’ of Queen’s Wreath Vine in your own garden without the fuss, and revel in its stunning pink displays throughout the year.

My first experience with queen’s wreath was in our first home in Phoenix, where there was a support made up of twine tied between two palm trees. We had no idea why it was there, but it sure looked ugly. Well, before we had time to remove the twine, beautiful, light green, heart-shaped leaves began climbing up the support and quickly covered it. Gorgeous sprays of pink flowers rapidly followed, which was a pleasant surprise.  

What natural beauties are enjoying in your garden this month?  

I will be sharing another favorite ‘natural beauty’ from my garden soon.

Now, you may think that I am talking about soft, cuddly puppies finding a new home.  But, I am actually talking about my agave pups.  The word ‘pups’ refers to the small agave offsets that sometimes form from the adult agave.

Agave americana surrounded by her 'pups'.

 Agave americana surrounded by her ‘pups’.

Some agave species produce quite a few pups, while other species rarely do.  I do try to stay from agave species like Agave americana because they produce so many pups that it becomes quite a maintenance chore to constantly remove them all.  But that being said, I have many friends and clients who just love this particular agave.

Well, the day finally came in my garden for my agave pups to move away from their childhood home.

Agave americana surrounded by her 'pups'.

Can you see them?  There are 4 in the picture above.  Three are quite small still, but more then ready to leave their mother, my Agave parryi.  I am actually quite excited to be getting pups from this agave because in my experience, they do not produce many pups.  It may be that this one has because it does receive overspray from my lawn sprinklers.

Okay, this may seem obvious, but you would be amazed at how many people just start digging in the middle of their gravel (granite) without clearing it away first.  Believe me…you want to clear it away first or else you will be left with a mixture of rock and soil mixed together.

agave pups

Aren’t they cute in a prickly sort of way?  They really are quite tiny.

agave pups

I carefully removed the soil around the pups, leading to the mother plant because the pups are still attached to her by a thick, fleshy root.  You can see that the pups are beginning to form their own roots, branching out to the side.

Just cut the root connecting the pup to the adult agave….that’s it.  It is really very easy.

Now, this same adult agave also has another pup, which has grown much closer to home then these tiny pups.

agave pups

This one did not want to leave home, even though it was quite grown up.  When the pups are growing right up alongside the adult plant, just insert a shovel and push down firmly, cutting the connecting root.  **Sometimes you have to be a bit forceful in getting some pups to leave home  😉

agave pups

I was able to harvest 5 pups.  I was so happy and had fun selecting where I wanted to put them in my garden.

Before you plant them, you need to put them in a dry, shady spot for 4 – 7 days so that the cuts have a chance to dry first.  This helps to prevent rot when they are planted.  Don’t worry about them surviving without water for a few days….they have plenty stored inside – they are succulents after all.

Once you have planted them, they will need supplemental water to help them establish and grow roots.  Agave do best when given supplemental water, even when mature.  Most are connected to my drip irrigation system.  The others receive overspray from my sprinklers, which is enough for them.

If you haven’t noticed this before, I am not a perfect gardener and am likely to tell people, “Do as I say, not as I do”.  But, I do not profess to be a perfectionist and so I will show you one of my larger agave, whose pups should have left home long ago…

agave

This is my Smooth Leaf Agave (Agave desmettiana).  I love this type of agave.  It is medium size, and the sides of the leaves do not have thorns.  The thorns on the tips can easily be cut off if desired for a more pedestrian friendly agave.

As you can see from the photo above, the pups are quite large and should have been kicked out long ago.  So, I brought in the muscle (my husband) to help get them out.

Because the pups were growing close to the parent plant, a shovel had to be used to separate them.

agave

Agave desmettiana is known for producing offsets (pups), but in my experience, there are not too many.

Actually, the adult agave below was grown from a pup.

agave

A proud parent and her 8 offspring.  I planted a few and gave some to my mother, Pastor Farmer, of Double S Farms.

There were times when I worked on golf courses that my budget was tight, so I would ask residents to bring their agave pups to me so that we could use them in landscape areas around the courses.  The residents were very generous and after a while, we had more then we knew what to do with.  So, if you have some agave pups, plant one in a pretty container and give to a friend or donate them to your city, church or other organization.

**My son continues to do better each day.  We did have a little bit of a setback on Saturday, but yesterday and today, he is feeling much better.  Thank you again for your support and prayers!

Vibrant blooms, Annual Vinca

Vibrant blooms, Annual Vinca (Catharanthus roseus)

One of my favorite summer annuals is vinca.

Vibrant blooms

Stop by any nursery this time of year, and you will find flats full of their vibrant blooms, and there are many different colors available.

Vibrant blooms

From purples and pinks to bright reds.

Vibrant blooms

Vinca works excellent in containers or when planted in the ground.  They prefer well-drained soil in a warm, sunny area.

This warm-season annual enjoys regular watering and does best with some fertilizer, but don’t overdo it.  I usually apply a slow-release fertilizer when planting and follow up with monthly applications of a liquid fertilizer such as Miracle-Gro.  If you want to go organic, then you can just use a mixture of good potting soil mixed with compost.  

Vibrant blooms

Now some of you may have had the experience of growing beautiful vinca one year and the next year; you have a terrible time with them. Shortly after planting you notice your vinca beginning to wilt, and no amount of water seems to help.

Vibrant blooms

Has this happened to you? Extra water will not help because the vinca is suffering from a case of ‘Vinca Wilt’.  This is not the scientific term, but for those of you who like long scientific names, your vinca is likely the victim of a Phytophthora fungus, which affects the roots, preventing them from absorbing water – hence the dried out look of the vinca.  

This fungus lives in the soil and infects the roots, causing them to rot. It loves moist conditions, and so more water hastens the demise of vinca.  

So, what can you do? The fungal spores can last for months or even years in the soil. You can usually rely on one good year of vinca growth, but then the spores start to multiply, and by the next year, they begin to affect your new plants.

Vibrant blooms

I recommend using vinca for one year and then use something different the next three years. Of course, you can remove all the soil from your containers and sterilize the inside with a bleach water mixture and then add new soil, which can work for a few containers at home, but it is not cost-effective in a larger setting.  For me, it is not worth it either, because there are so many other beautiful summer annuals that you can use. 

I hope this solves any mystery surrounding vinca.  They are beautiful and well worth growing – for a year at least.

One the most frequent comments that I receive from readers is that some of the plants that grow in the desert are so strange and unusual.  This is especially true for those of us who are not desert natives.  

Although I have lived here in the desert for over 24 years, I still find many of the plants unique and strange to my eyes.  

unique plants

As promised, this is a continuation of our visit to “The Living Desert” in Palm Desert, California.  Yesterday we looked at many of the beautiful flowering plants.  Today, I thought we would focus on some of the unusual yet beautiful plants that we saw.

unique plants

While we were walking, my sister (Daisy Mom) asked me if I knew what all the plants were.  The horticulturist in me would have loved to have said yes, but that would have been a lie.  Many of the plants we saw were collected from dry regions from around the world, including parts of Africa.  

The truth is is that you do not need to know a plant’s name to be able to enjoy it’s beauty, like the one above.

Kokerboom

  Kokerboom (Aloe dichotoma)

Would you believe that the plant above is an aloe?

unique plants

Here is a beautiful aloe flower that we encountered.

Mexican Blue Fan Palm

 Mexican Blue Fan Palm (Brahea armata) This is a slow growing palm and this is a very tall specimen.  My nephew is 6 ft. tall.

My nephew (Monkey Boy) was a great companion.  Many times when I went to venture off of the main path, he offered to come along with me and was always excited about what strange plants we would find.   How many teenage boys would offer to hang out with their aunt?  I am truly blessed.

unique plants

A collection of various kinds of columnar cacti that are native to Baja California were very interesting to see.

unique plants

The cacti in the middle looks like the tentacles of a squid reaching out to catch something.

unique plants

Brightly colored barrel cactus.

Mr. Green Jeans

 My son idolizes his older cousin Mr. Green Jeans.

I enjoy spending time with my oldest nephew, Mr. Green Jeans, who also loves to take photographs as much as I do.  We were constantly walking behind everyone because we were so busy taking pictures of the beauty surrounding us.

 Prickly Pear

  Beavertail Prickly Pear (Opuntia basilaris) starting to form flower buds. In April they produce beautiful magenta flowers. 

A Boojum Tree

 A Boojum Tree (Fouquieria columnaris)

The Boojum tree is closely related to the Ocotillo, which is not a type of cactus as many people believe.

Ocotillo

 Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens)

This beautiful specimen of an Ocotillo towered above my husband and son.  This time of year, Ocotillo are leafing out and beginning to produce their orange colored flowers. 

California Fan Palms

 California Fan Palms (Washingtonia filifera)

California Fan Palms, not surprisingly are native to this area of the desert.  They had very old and beautiful palms that dwarfed my nephew and daughter as they walked by.

unique plants

Not surprisingly, there are those plants that you would do well to keep your distance from.

My nephew

  My nephew (Monkey Boy) and my daughter taking a break.

I realize that it may look as if my daughter has a rattlesnake around her neck….and she does.  But, she didn’t pick it up out of the desert…it is a plastic one.  She has an affinity for toy snakes.  We are not sure why, but I am happy to give her all of the toy snakes she wants if it keeps her from wanting a real one.

Chainfruit Cholla

Chainfruit Cholla

We had a wonderful day.  I believe that my sister thought that we would spend 2 – 3 hours walking around.  But it was 5 hours before we finally headed back to our cars.  The fault lies with me….I had such a great time enjoying all of the beautiful plants and taking 500+ pictures.  My entire family was so patient and understanding, although next time I may need to bring my own car so I can stay late.

Soon, I will post about what we saw up above and was easily missed if we had just kept our eyes to the ground.

“Plant As I Say…..NOT As I Do”

landscape boulders

 When I say rocks in the garden, I mean large rocks….boulders to be exact.

landscape boulders

Boulders enhance the beauty of the plants surrounding them.

Lantana

I love how they look as they gradually become surrounded by a flowering groundcover such as Lantana or Verbena.

Agave

Succulents such as Agave always look great when placed next to a boulder.

newly planted landscape

Boulders are strategically placed in this newly planted landscape.  Note the agave and Angelita Daisy planted by the two large boulders.

Boulders actually look great when placed together and I often place them together when designing a landscape.

landscape boulders

I visited this landscape installation with a friend of mine that was in progress a few years ago.  I really like how the designer placed boulders around and in the swimming pool.

landscape

Some useful to keep in mind when using boulders in your landscape:

– Bury them so that the bottom third is in the ground.  This helps to make their placement appear more natural.  DO NOT just place a boulder on top of the soil and leave it.

– For larger plants such as shrubs or trees, be sure to select larger boulders – 2′ x 3′ x3′ at the very least.  If you- Don’t worry if the boulders look too large at first before you install them.  I remember receiving a call from my mother-in-law the day the boulders were delivered for the landscape that I had designed for them.  She said that they were way too large.  But, you need to take into account that you will be burying 1/3 of the total height of the boulder and they will look just the right size once in the ground.

– Boulders look great when incorporated in mounding (contouring).  I usually place the boulder just inside of the edge of a mound, making sure that you fill in the area around it.

– Boulders can also be placed in brick or concrete boulders, which adds interest.

– You can select your own boulders, which I recommend before buying.  Don’t be tempted to purchase smaller boulders…they can get lost in the landscape.

– Don’t worry if the boulders look too large at first before you install them.  I remember receiving a call from my mother-in-law the day the boulders were delivered for the landscape that I had designed for them.  She said that they were way too large.  But, you need to take into account that you will be burying 1/3 of the total height of the boulder and they will look just the right size once in the ground.

landscape boulders

I love the boulders in this newly installed landscape.  There is a variety of shapes and sizes that add texture.  The plants are quite small in comparison, but they will grow larger.

If you are going to include boulders in your landscape, please plant something next to them.  Plants make the boulders look great and vice-versa.  Some of my favorite plants to include next to boulders include:

Penstemon

Lantana

Angelita Daisy 

Blackfoot Daisy

Gaura

Salvia species

Dalea species

Agave

Dasylirion species

Barrel Cactus

Mammillaria species

Lastly, boulders look wonderful in the landscape and guess what my favorite part is?   They don’t need any pruning or water to look great…the ultimate in having a beautiful low-maintenance garden.

Red Globe Mallow Seeds

Well, here is the post that I have been promising you all winter long.  Are you ready to begin spring pruning?  Okay, let’s get started…..

Those of you who have read my blog for any length of time have come to learn that I absolutely abhor formal pruning of flowering shrubs.  I have posted about it twice and you can read more – Shrubs Aren’t Meant To Be Cupcakes and Read The Label Or You Might End Up With Cupcakes if you like.

First, we will start with the Bad (and ugly) – I am warning you, the following photos are not pretty.  They show the results of formal pruning over time.

Feathery Cassia

Feathery Cassia (Senna artemisiodes) Dead areas are a result of repeated shearing of the shrubs. 

Texas Sage

Texas Sage, sheared repeatedly, resulting in more dead then live wood.

Texas Sage 'Green Cloud'

Texas Sage ‘Green Cloud’ (Leucophyllum frutescens ‘Green Cloud’) Over the years, this flowering shrub had been sheared resulting in dead growth.

The following photos are not necessarily ugly but are examples of formal pruning that leads to the problems pictured above over time as well as higher maintenance.

White Texas Sage shrubs

 White Texas Sage shrubs, pruned as cupcakes.

Chihuahuan Sage

Chihuahuan Sage (Leucophyllum laevigatum) formally pruned and rapidly outgrowing its space.

Dwarf Oleanders

Dwarf Oleanders (Nerium oleander)

As I have mentioned before, I am not against formal pruning when it is done to plants that specially suited to it such as Dwarf Myrtle, Boxwood, and others.  However, formal pruning of flowering shrubs shouldn’t be done for many reasons, including:

– It removes the flower buds, severely curtailing the number of flowers that bloom.

– Causes the shrub to constantly work to replace the leaves that were removed, which causes stress to the shrub and ultimately shortens it’s life.

– Increases the maintenance required because of frequent pruning, which means more material is hauled off to the landfill as well as a higher landscape bill.

– Over time, repeated shearing causes branches to die off due to lack of sunlight reaching the interior of the shrub.

– The shrubs requires more water because it is constantly having to regrow what was removed.

– And lastly, creates a generic looking ‘blob’ in the landscape where a beautifully shaped and flowering shrub should be.

Okay, now some of you may have shrubs that look like some of these.  But, don’t worry…there is hope and the solution is really quite simple. What they need is to be severely pruned back.  This type of pruning is called “Severe Renewal Pruning.”

Now, I do need to warn you…many of us are familiar with the concept that beauty comes at a price.  Well, there is a price to be paid in order for shrubs to look their best and show off their stuff and it requires an Ugly stage. 

  WARNING…the following photos are not pretty.

spring pruning

Severely pruned Texas Sage in spring

spring pruning

Severely pruned Dwarf Oleander

Okay, I warned you….but this is what you want your shrubs to look like after you are done pruning.  I realize that all that is left are bare branches sticking up from the ground…BUT THIS IS GOOD!

Severe pruning like this removes old wood, which become unproductive over the years and does not produce as many leaves or flowers.  It also stimulates new growth in the form of new branches that will produce more leaves and flowers.  It also keeps the size of the shrub in check by reducing the size periodically and decreasing the amount of pruning needed later on.  

Now, this type of pruning does not need to be done each year…I actually recommend doing this every 3 years or so.  

spring pruning

Texas Sage 4 weeks after pruning

I won’t lie and say that the ugly stage disappears right away, but in 4 – 8 weeks, you will rewarded with new growth that will rapidly cover the bare branches.

**There is a chance that your shrubs will not recover from severe pruning.  However, that is usually an indicator that they would not have survived for long if you had done nothing.  So, you really have nothing to lose and everything to gain by pruning your plants this way every few years – you may easily add years on to the life of your shrub and dramatically increase their health and beauty.

Okay, I have covered the bad and ugly.  Now for the good and beautiful…

spring pruning

Texas Sage ‘Green Cloud’ (Leucophyllum frutescens ‘Green Cloud’)

spring pruning

Desert Senna (Senna artemisiodes sturtii)

spring pruning

‘Rio Bravo’ Sage flower

White Cloud' Texas Sage Flower

‘White Cloud’ Texas Sage Flower

These beautiful photos should be reason enough to stop formally pruning your flowering shrubs.  So, put down your hedge pruners.  All you will need in the future are hand-pruners and loppers.

You may be wondering when should I prune my flowering shrubs?  Well, Texas Sage and all Leucophyllum species can be severely pruned back in March as well as Oleanders.  I do not recommend pruning them back severely in the summer months as they may not be able to grow back while dealing with the stress of the heat.  Alternatively, do not prune in the fall or winter as you will have naked branches for a long, long time and new growth that does appear will be very susceptible to frost.

Cassia species should be pruned back once they have finished flowering, which is usually in late spring. 

When it comes to pruning, a good rule of thumb is to prune less frequently, but when you do, prune back more severely.

Container Garden

Primula

I would like to take you on a visit back to “The Refuge”, which is the home of my younger sister, (Daisy Mom), and her family.  In the past, we have seen the beautiful scenery surrounding their home and who can forget our visit with Mr. Compost.

Container Garden

From left to right – Barrel Cactus, Tomato, Lantana, Fern, Spiky Succulent, Avocado (grown from an Avocado pit), Fern, Pine Tree Sapling, Vinca and another Fern.

Composting, is as you might expect, Mr. Compost’s domain and the vegetable garden is Mr. Green Jean’s.  However, Daisy Mom, reigns supreme over her container garden.

Each time we go over and visit, I just have to step out onto the patio to see what she has growing.  It is always a bright spot of many different and colorful plants, even in the middle of January, when the above photo was taken.  

Container Garden

In the summer, the flowers are all in full bloom and the garden is a favorite cool spot to sit and enjoy being outdoors. 

Rosemary, Avocado and Cactus

Rosemary, Avocado and Cactus

Succulents, herbs, small trees and flowering plants make up her container garden.  You never know what you will find…I mean, who would have thought to plant an avocado pit, instead of throwing it away?  My sister, that’s who :^)

Container Garden

Mr. Green Jeans, helping his mom plant some new flowers.

Occasionally, Mr. Green Jeans, my nephew and resident “Refuge” photographer, can be found taking a break from his vegetable garden and helping his mom plant some new things in her garden.

Yellow Primula.

Yellow Primula.

As you can see from Daisy Mom’s container garden, you don’t have to have a lot of space to create your own container garden.  So, go down to your local nursery, but a few pots, some flowering plants, vegetables or a succulent or two and a bag of potting soil and get started.  

Vinca

Vinca

That is all you need to do to start your own container garden and the beauty of it is is that you can keep building upon it.

Even better, you can ask for some cuttings or seeds from your friends gardens and start them in your garden as well.

Before you know it, you can have a vibrant, beautiful container garden just like Daisy Mom.

Our next post from “The Refuge” will introduce us to Mr. Green Jean’s vegetable garden and you will also get to meet all the residents of “The Refuge” as well. 

Community Center landscape

 Community Center landscape which I was honored to have designed along with renown landscape architect, Carl Johnson.

This past weekend, I participated in a landscape discussion panel as part of a “Living Green in the Desert” seminar.  Attendees were able to submit their questions ahead of time as well as ask their questions directly to us.

Golf Course

Golf Course Feature Area with Bougainvillea, Gold Lantana and Purple Lilac Vine grown as a groundcover (2002).

I was looking forward to being a part of this seminar because I had worked in this community for over 5 years as a horticulturist.  So I arrived early and drove around the community and golf course areas looking at the areas that I had designed and planted over 7 years ago.

Golf Course

Plants that I had set out ready for the crew to come and plant (2005).

I look at the landscape areas as old friends.  Of course, as living things often do, many had changed.  Some areas had matured and the small plants that I had set out had matured into beautiful specimen plants.  Other areas looked a little bare since flowering perennials had not been replaced, but the areas were well-maintained.

Desert Marigold

Desert Marigold, Firecracker Penstemon, Eremophila Valentine and Desert Spoon were planted in this feature area (2002).

There were 3 of us on the desert landscape panel.  Although I knew one of the other participants, I always enjoy the instant camaraderie that occurs between fellow landscape professionals.

We had three different landscape sessions and the focus was on ‘living green’ in the desert landscape but all gardening questions were welcomed. 

Living Green in the Desert Garden

This feature area consists of only succulents such as Soaptree Yucca, Purple Prickly Pear, Desert Spoon, Opuntia robusta, Agave colorata among others.  There is no regular irrigation in this area.  We hand-watered the cactus monthly during the first two summers until they were established.

There were some excellent questions, and I will highlight the most popular ones.

Question #1- When and how do we prune our shrubs.  Are they supposed to look like ‘balls’?

There is an epidemic in the Arizona desert where desert shrubs are pruned into round ball shapes, or as we in the landscape industry refer to as “poodle or cupcake” pruning.  Those of you who have been reading my blog for awhile have seen me get up on my “high-horse” more then once, and rail against this practice.  I will not repeat myself here, but you can read my previous post where I dealt with this unfortunate practice – Shrubs Aren’t Meant To Be Cupcakes. 

Living Green

This was my favorite part of my job; designing new landscapes and seeing it all come together.   Although the plants are very small when first planted, they grow very quickly in our climate.

Question #2 – When should I fertilize my plants?

Actually, most of your arid-adapted plants do not need to be fertilized.  I only fertilize my plants if they show signs of a nutrient deficiency.  We do fertilize our container plantings and fruit trees.  Compost can be applied to all plants as this ‘feeds’ the soil.

Living Green

Purple Trailing Lantana, Mexican Bird-of-Paradise, Parry’s Penstemon, Desert Spoon and Angelita Daisy brighten the entrance to the clubhouse (2005).

Question #3 – Is it possible to have plants in my landscape that do not require any water?

 The answer is yes you can if you use native plants.  But, you will have to water them until they become established.  Keep in mind that all native plants will look much better when watered periodically.  That is what is done to the plants at the Desert Botanical Garden

For excellent guidelines as to how long and often you should water your plants, please check out this excellent site, which has information about irrigating your plants in the Arizona desert, including a schedule you can put in your irrigation controller – Landscape Watering Guide

Living Green

The native plants were watered in this area monthly until they were established.  Periodic water was supplied during the summer months (2005).

Question #4 – Is it possible to have a winter landscape with flowering plants?

The answer is absolutely! Many residents of this community are winter visitors and are away in the summer when most plants are flowering.   You can read more in a previous post of what types of plants flower during the winter months – Colorless Winter Garden…No Way! 

Living Green

This area was planted with Eremophila Valentine and Cassia shrubs.

Question #5 – How often do I need to water my citrus trees?  They are currently being watered twice a week. 

When I am asked to consult with a homeowner regarding their landscape, over 90% are watering their citrus too frequently and not deeply enough.  For example, in the winter months, citrus trees should only be watered once every 3 – 4 weeks.  Many were shocked.  I will cover citrus irrigation in more detail in the future, but there is excellent information which can be found here – Citrus Irrigation Guidelines.

Living Green

One of my favorite views from the golf course.

I had a wonderful day and enjoyed seeing old friends and meeting new ones.  I was able to spend the day doing one of my most favorite things –  help people learn how easy it is to have a beautiful, low-maintenance garden in the desert using plants that thrive in our climate.

Gardening in the desert is not difficult, it is just different….

type of grass

Okay, you were probably thinking that I meant the ‘other’ type of grass.  But the type of grass I am referring to cannot be smoked, (at least I don’t think it can).  ‘Regal Mist’ (Muhlenbergia capillaris ‘Regal Mist’), is a beautiful ornamental grass to include in your landscape.  It is low-maintenance, thrives almost anywhere and has stunning burgundy foliage in late summer and early fall.

type of grass

USES:  This Texas native looks best when planted in groups of at least 3, but I think groups of 5 or 7 are better.  This ornamental grass grows to approximately 3 ft. High and wide.  However, when flowering, add 1 – 2 ft. to their total height.  They can be planted in full sun, areas with reflected heat and even in areas with partial shade.  

type of grass

This ornamental grass is tolerant of most soils.  Regal Mist is a great choice for planting around pools, boulders and in front of walls.  I have planted them around golf courses, and many people would ask me, “What is that plant?  It is beautiful.”  It is evergreen in areas with mild winters, but it is hardy to -10 degrees F (Zone 6).  Frost will turn them light tan in color. 

Regal Mist

 Regal Mist when not in flower

MAINTENANCE:  You can hardly get more low-maintenance then this – prune back severely in the winter, almost to the ground, to remove old foliage and spent flowers.  I do not fertilize Regal Mist, and they look just great.  Although drought tolerant once established, supplemental water is necessary for them is needed for them to look their best and to flower.  Self-seeding is not usually a problem when they are irrigated with drip-irrigation.

type of grass

So, for those of you who are frequently asking me for a beautiful, low-maintenance plant – this is it.  Include a few in your garden, and I promise you will have people asking you, “What is that beautiful grass?”

Skeletons in the Desert

As most would expect, water is considered a precious resource in the desert. But, did you know that there are more plant problems caused due to over-watering then under-watering?  

Believe it or not, it is true. Most people are surprised to hear that up to 70% of residential water usage goes to watering trees and plants in your landscape. This high percentage is because many homeowners over-water their trees and plants.

over watering

 Beavertail Prickly Pear (Opuntia basilaris) and Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua

During college, I was fortunate to intern at the City of Mesa Water Conservation Office. The lessons that I learned there would last a lifetime. Nowadays, when I visit clients to help them with their landscapes, over 90% of the time I find that their irrigation schedule is incorrect – they water too lightly and too often.  

This results in shallow roots and salt build-up in and around the root zone. (If you have seen a white substance around your plants, there is a good chance that it is the salts from the soil. And just an FYI – just like high amounts of salt are not good for us; they are not good for plants either).

Overwatering will weaken your plants, especially during the summer since their roots are close to the surface where they become hot and dry out much more quickly.

over watering

 Trailing Yellow Dot (Wedelia trilobata), Rain Lily (Zephyranthes candida), Desert Spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri)

It’s important to note that plants need to be watered deeply, which does two things. First, it causes the roots to grow deeper into the soil, where it is cooler and stays moister longer. Secondly, it helps to reduce the salts in the soil and keeps them away from the root zone.

Your plants do not need the same amount of irrigation all year. Plants follow the weather- the hotter it is, the more water they need and when temperatures dip, the less that they need.  For example, I water my garden once every 20 days in the winter, (excluding grass and annuals), and it is healthy and looks great.  If you only take one thing from this article, then please let it be this; CHANGE THE WATERING SCHEDULE ON YOUR IRRIGATION CONTROLLER SEASONALLY. 

over watering

Now, you are probably asking “How do I know what schedule my plants and lawn should be on?”  Well, the folks at Water Use It Wisely is coming to your rescue. They have excellent information for the homeowner on the proper irrigation schedule for your plants. You can view it here:  Landscape Watering Guide  

This guide was made for people who reside in the Phoenix metropolitan area. However, people who live in dry climates everywhere will find useful information regarding irrigation, and you can also contact your local extension office for locally published materials. **Most cities have information for their residents regarding watering schedules for their local climate. You can also contact your local cooperative extension office who often have this information as well. 

If you find that you have been over-watering your plants, make sure that when you switch to the correct irrigation schedule, that you gradually change the schedule so that your plants have a chance to adjust

over watering

Make sure you have the correct irrigation schedule which lets you have healthier plants, a lower water bill, and helps conserve water.

**For those of you not familiar with drip irrigation. The primary way the southwest waters their plants. Water is brought to the plant by a series of plastic pipes, tubing & emitters. The emitters drip water slowly to the root zone of the plant, reducing runoff and allowing the water to permeate deeply into the soil, which saves water.