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Gardening in the Southwest

Red Bird of Paradise

Red Bird of Paradise
Photo: Missouri Botanical Garden

Since hot, dry summers are your forte as gardeners, your psyches will be infinitely less stressed than some. Not so your plants, however; the complete absence of fall and winter rain in, say, Scotsdale, Ariz., now means almost no residual soil moisture. Here it is only May, and already even the toughest of native plants are looking a bit shriveled!

For you Inner Mountain West gardeners, the word from that undaunted Colorado gardener, Lauren Springer, is this: Keep your mature trees watered and let the lawn go. Lauren even cautions against doing any spring planting, suggesting, instead, to wait till July, when El Niņo just might bring rain.

Hot Tip
You know all those adapted desert plants you normally don't water? Get to work, 'cause they need your help. Give your big sajuaros, ocotillos and other key landscape plants a really big soak. That'll get them through the summer just fine.

Talking Plants for the Southwest
Here's a couple of survivors hand-picked by the DoD and desert landscape expert Mary Irish, author of Agaves, Yuccas and Related Plants: A Gardener's Guide (Timber Press). Each plant can go in the ground today, use very little supplemental water after planting, and provide you with high performance all summer:

Yellow Bells (Pecoma stans)
Red Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima)
Oleander (Nerium oleander)
Blue Hesper Palm (Brahea armata)
Spider Lilies (Hymenocallis)

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