“Back Home” Gardens Turn Into Desert Surprises

Did you grow up in the desert? I didn’t and a huge number of people I have met over the last 20 years are not from the dry, hot climate we have come to love. We came from ‘up north’, ‘back east’ or ‘out west.’ We may have gardened easily in these regions with ample rain, plenty of sun, simple conditions. Except maybe for deer, that is.

Many transplanted gardeners yearn for their gardens from back home. Often we think – it’s just not possible to create the bountiful and joyful garden that we had in our milder climates; at least in the summer. Now, faced with the challenges of the desert, we might give up and not even bother once we see the thermometer hitting the 95o mark.

Don’t Let Your Pots Go Empty All Summer

Today I want to give you permission to try something different. I want your pots to not only survive the desert heat but have gardens that thrive all summer long.  Like something that you loved back home.

The opening photo is a bed of coleus. These wonderful, colorful leafy plants are being hybridized to handle increasingly hot climates. Some even can take a moderate amount of sun. I suggest you plant them when the nights are still slightly cool in order to become established before the heat sets in and be sure to choose a location that gets morning sun only and then providing them with ample water.

 

Coleus in Full Sun Desert PotThis second picture of coleus IS in full sun in the higher elevations of the mid-desert. Imagine how this mound of plantings shade its  soil maintaining a cooler temperature for its roots.

The pot is about 28” in diameter and holds an abundant volume of soil that will insulate the roots. It is amazing that even in this all-day sun setting, it thrived!

In the low desert such as Palm Springs and Phoenix, I would advise you to place this pot where it will be in the shade by 10am.

In the high desert, plant coleus after all danger of frost is past and feel free to place in sunny locations.

 

Bed Of Marigolds

Use the principles listed in the previous paragraph and the tips below to tempt fate with plants that you would love to try again. Don’t spend your entire savings on your first attempt though, work with only a few plants at a time. For instance, in this next photo is a bed of Marigolds. Experts have said; ‘Do not endeavor to grow Marigolds all summer in the desert.’

This photo was taken in Tucson, Arizona in August a few years back. The bed was planted with 4 inch transplants in the early spring in full sun. As the sun made its northern journey across the horizon, the bed was positioned so it was tucked into shade from the short wall behind it. With plenty of water and good air circulation, the marigolds thrived.

 

4 Tips to Stretch your “Back Home” plants into the Desert

  1. Choose some of your most resilient favorites.
  2. Plant early in the summer season. Best to plant in pots before the night temperatures consistently reach the 70’s.
  3. Provide consistent and abundant water. (except succulents such as those that come from California)
  4. Start small and gain experience.

Success takes three elements; the right spot with the right conditions, your love for the plants and a little amount of luck.

What plants from “back home” have you succeeded in planting, stretching the limits of your desert garden?

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4 comments on ““Back Home” Gardens Turn Into Desert Surprises

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Nancy Sellers on April 4, 2017 5:55 am

Any similar advice for snowbirds who own homes here but are only present to watch and water November through April? I have been emptying my pots before leaving – what a waste of soil! Is there anything that will survive the summer withOUT being attached to a water tap? (I think I know the sad answer.) Thanks for all you do for us!

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Marylee Pangman on June 2, 2017 11:20 am

Nancy – the best you can do is put the pots into the shade and maybe have someone water them twice a month.

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Janet Walkup on April 5, 2017 7:18 am

Just wanted you to know that I bought another copy of your WONDERFUL book…a gift to a friend who is new to Tucson & loves to garden. She will appreciate your expert advice!! Hugs, Janet

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Marylee Pangman on June 2, 2017 11:18 am

That’s great Janet!! I so appreciate you. If you haven’t already, maybe you can leave a review on Amazon?
Thank you!!!

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