Tag Archive for: low desert

Where do your plants get their water from?  

If you are like most people who live in the desert Southwest, your answer may be drip irrigation, a rain barrel and/or rainfall.  

But, what if you didn’t have drip irrigation or don’t want to install one?  Is it possible to have an attractive, established landscape that can survive on only regular rainfall in the desert?  

The answer is yes!

Drought Tolerant Landscape Irrigated by Rain

Drought Tolerant Landscape Irrigated by Rain

Last week, I was asked to help a client with her landscape.    

Now unlike most of my clients, she had no irrigation.  Any new plants had to be able to survive on the average 9 inches of rain that fall each year.  

Drought Tolerant Landscape Irrigated by Rain

Drought Tolerant Landscape Irrigated by Rain

Her existing landscape receives no supplemental irrigation and is filled with succulent plants such as agave, desert spoon, golden barrel cacti, mesquite, Mexican fence post cacti, ocotillo, prickly pear and red yucca.

Drought Tolerant Landscape Irrigated by Rain

Native desert shrubs like brittlebush, bursage and creosote filled out the rest of the landscape.  

My client was happy with how her front yard looked, but wanted some help with the backyard.  

Drought Tolerant Landscape Irrigated by Rain

The backyard was filled with cholla and saguaro.  

My goal was to add a few of the client’s favorite desert plants as well as include a few more for a welcome splash of green and colorful flowers.

Drought Tolerant Landscape Irrigated by Rain

Drought Tolerant Landscape Irrigated by Rain

I added some Argentine giant(Echinopsis candicans) cacti, which she loved.  

In addition, I also included chuparosa(Justicia californica) in areas that received filtered shade where their blooms will add welcome color.  Pink fairy duster(Calliandra eriophylla) was suggested for bare areas, intermixed with brittlebush(Encelia farinosa) for late winter to early spring color.  

I also recommended that the volunteers from several agave growing in front including cuttings from her prickly pear be utilized in the backyard as well.

All of these plants can survive on regular rainfall once established.  

Note the two underlined words above, which are important.  If rainfall amounts are lower than average, plants may need supplemental irrigation.

In addition, many of the new plants will need irrigation until they become established and grow a sufficient root system – this can take a year or even two.    

It should also be stated at this point, that fall is the best time to plant so that the new plants have time to establish a good root system before the heat arrives the following year.  

So, how often do you need to water new plants until they become established?  

If planted in fall, water native, desert shrubs deeply (1 1/2 ft.) every week for the first month.  Then every 2 weeks for the rest of the first year.   

For the cacti and succulents, water once a month for the first year, skipping the winter months.     

Thereafter, both types of plants, including other desert natives, should be able to survive on natural rainfall.  

If rainfall is absent, water once a month.   So, you may be wondering what is the best way to water without a drip irrigation system. Here is an easy way to water your plants by creating a DIY drip irrigation system.

portable drip irrigation

Yes, that is a milk jug.  You can use them to create portable drip irrigation that you can move from plant to plant.  The water is released slowly allowing it to permeate deep into the soil.  

You can learn how to make your own here.  

I am so glad that September is finally here!

Oh, I realize that it is still hot, but if you look carefully, there are signs that summer is beginning to wane.  The days are becoming shorter and you can see lengthening shadows at days end.

Fall is a busy time in the garden if you live in the desert Southwest, because that is the best time to add new plants to the garden.

Are you wondering what to do in your garden this month?  Here is my latest garden article from Houzz.com

Southwest Gardener’s September Checklist


General contractors, home builders, and more ∨

From Shabby Chic home décor to contemporary furniture and decorative mirrors, browse thousands of decorating ideas to inspire your next home project.
From wall paper to stencils for walls, upholstery fabrics to room dividers, design doesn’t stop at construction.

What are your plans for the garden this month?

**There is still time to enter the giveaway for a fabulous book, “Gardening for the Birds: How to Create a Bird-Friendly Backyard”.

I’ll announce the winner tomorrow!

August has arrived, which means that my kids have started school and peace has descended on my house 🙂

Soon fall will be here, which is a very busy time in the Southwest garden because it is the best time of year to add new plants to the garden.

But in the meantime, there are still tasks that need to be done this month in the garden.

Here is my latest Southwest To Do List from Houzz.com

General contractors, home builders, and more ∨

Hire residential landscape architects to help with all aspects of landscape design, from selecting or designing patio furniture, to siting a detached garage or pergola.
Highlight your home”s architecture with the expert advice of interior design specialists and top home decorators.

hope your week is off to a good start.

There is still time to enter my giveaway for the newest book from Timber Press –

“Miniature Garden Giveaway – Create Your Own Living World”

I realize that it is hard to think of doing anything in the garden, much less step outside with the heat wave that we have been experiencing in the Southwest.

Southwest Garden in July

Southwest Garden in July

The good news is that you can most likely wait to step out into your garden this weekend, once the heat wave breaks.

Check out my latest monthly “To Do” list that I wrote for Houzz.com


Kitchen ideas, bathroom ideas, and more ∨Filter by metro area and choose the right kitchen designer for your kitchen style.
Find curtain panels and plantation shutters for french doors, or kitchen curtains and a curtain rod for your kitchen windows.

I hope you are doing your best staying cool 🙂

Low Desert Gardens, Beavertail Prickly Pear and Globe Mallow

Low Desert Gardens, Beavertail Prickly Pear and Globe Mallow

Right now, I am sitting here in front of my computer, trying to think of an interesting and helpful subject for this post, which will be published tomorrow (Saturday).

Unlike other times when I sit down to write, I don’t have much time to spend on writing today because my youngest daughter, Gracie, needs a little extra TLC.  You see, she had 6 teeth pulled by the oral surgeon.  Right now she is sitting in our family room, with a mouth full of gauze, watching some of her favorite shows – SpongeBob and Phineas & Ferb. 

Low Desert Gardens

Low Desert Gardens

So, as I was trying to figure out what to write about, I realized that I haven’t really put together a monthly “To-Do” list for low-desert gardens for my blog.  The funny thing is, is that I write one for a major online publication every month.  And so, I will borrow some from that along with some ‘extra’ tips thrown in.

So, are you ready?

1. If you haven’t already done so, adjust your irrigation system to make sure that your plants are being watered deeply.  Trees should be watered to a depth of 3 ft, shrubs 18″ – 2 ft. and perennials and groundcovers to at least 1 ft in depth.  May is one of our driest months of the year, so plants do become quite ‘thirsty’.

2. Make sure that your potted plants are shaded for the hot, afternoon sun.  A plant’s root system is actually hotter when planted in a pot then in the ground, and the sun’s heat can actually ‘cook’ the roots of a potted plant.

Citrus Tree

Citrus Tree

3. Apply fertilizer to your Citrus tree if you have not already done so this spring.  Be sure to water your citrus trees before and after applying fertilizer.  Citrus require 3 applications of fertilizer per year – the first in February or March, the second in May and the third in August of September.

4. Prune back any frost-damaged branches from trees and shrubs if they have not leafed out yet.  Chances are that if they have not started producing new growth, then they probably never will.  

'Double Delight' Roses

‘Double Delight’ Roses

5. Apply your last application of fertilizer to your roses this month.  Roses need more water than many of your other plants, so be sure that they are receiving enough water.  Roses slow down in the summer and become somewhat dormant due to the heat, so they should not be fertilized.  You can start fertilizing them again in September.

White Vinca

White Vinca

6. Take out your winter annuals (Petunias, Geraniums, Pansies, Alyssum, Snapdragons, etc.) and replace with summer-loving annuals such as Celosia, Red or Blue Salvia, Vinca or Portulaca.  Believe it or not, Lantana also makes a great container plant.

7. Avoid pruning your Citrus trees and Roses at this time.  Citrus should be pruned in March.  Their bark is extremely susceptible to sunburn, so paint any areas that are exposed to the sun with 2 parts white latex paint mixed with 1 part water OR you can use a paint specially formulated for Citrus.  The upper foliage of Roses does become sunburned in the summer and you may be tempted to remove the sunburned growth, but don’t.  The sunburned, upper foliage actually helps to shield the lower growth from the sun.

Well, I think that is enough to keep you busy for the month of May.  I will post more ‘To-Do’ tips next month.

Right now, I have to go and take the gauze out of Gracie’s mouth 🙂