“How much water do my plants need?”
I am often asked this question by desert dwellers and my answer is always, “That depends.”
- Type of soil (clay, sand, combination)
- What kind of plant (native plants, higher water use flowering shrubs and ground covers, succulents, etc.)
- Recommended depth of water
- Desert region (low-desert, mid-altitude, high desert)
- Efficiency of irrigation system
- Water pressure (can vary between neighborhoods)
Let’s look into the variables a little more closely to help you determine what yours are:
Soil – Clay soils hold onto water longer than sandy soil. They take longer for water to permeate to the recommended depth. The result? Clay soils need irrigation less often than sandy ones but need to be watered for a longer length of time. Phoenix area soil tends to have more clay in them while those in the Palm Springs area are sandy.
Plants – Native or desert-adapted plants need less frequent irrigation versus those that come from tropical climates. Cacti and other succulents do well with infrequent irrigation.
Water Depth – Trees need to be watered deeply while ground covers and succulents do fine at a more shallow depth – shrubs fall in between the two.
Desert Region – Where you live in the desert matters when it comes to water and your plants. The differences include rainfall amounts, when the rain falls, high and low temps, and more. Residents of low-desert cities like Palm Springs and Phoenix need to add water to their plants more often than those who live in higher elevation regions such as Tucson.
Irrigation System – The older your irrigation system, the less efficient it is. This is due to mineral build-up within the system, which affects the amount of water that comes out. Also, old drip irrigation systems tend to accumulate leaks. The average lifespan for a drip irrigation system is 10-15 years.
Yes, it does take a little work to figure out how much and often to water your plants, but these guides are incredibly helpful and will guide you along the way.