Planting Trees and Shrubs

birdlady_in_mesa(z9 AZ)January 1, 2013

This most excellent information is provide by one of our members- Cathy, screen name AZTreelvr. Cathy is an expert here in Arizona and has created this faq to help people understand how to determine where to plant and how to plant and care for newly planted perennial, shrubs and trees here in the Arizona desert. I am sure this FAQ will be well read, by newbies to our desert environment, as well as those that have lived here for years. Our gratitude Cathy- for saving us headaches and heartaches!

The techniques for planting here in the Southwest may be a little different for those of you new to the area. They also differ depending on whether you are planting annuals/vegetables (which is different from the information below) or perennial groundcovers, shrubs and trees. Year-round planting in the desert is possible. The ideal planting time is from September to April. Throughout the cooler months roots can grow, allowing the plants to establish before summer heat.

Perennial Plant Selection and Placement First, look at the area where you plan on putting the new addition. Make sure the amount of sunlight the planting site receives matches the amount the plant requires. Whether the exposure is full sun, partial shade, or full shade will determine which plants can successfully grow there. The reflected heat from walls may be too extreme for many plants, even some desert natives. Likewise, cold air collects in low areas of your yard. Frost-sensitive plants may be damaged in these locations.

Another important factor to consider is the eventual height and width of the plant. Visualize what the scene will be in 10 - 15 years. Many trees grow to overpower or even endanger the homes they are near. Many shrubs that are placed too close to foundations rub against the exterior walls and cause structural damage. Placing the right plant in the right place will prevent continual maintenance or replacement.

Remember that trees and shrubs can take years to develop into the specimens you see in photographs, and there are some species and varieties that grow faster than others. However, a larger specimen does not always guarantee a faster growing plant. Generally a smaller plant will outgrow one from a larger container within a short time span. Plants that grow too quickly may have weak wood making them vulnerable to wind or storm damage.

Soils in the Southwest are typically alkaline (salty) with a pH of near 8 with a high clay content. The low humidity levels and high air temperatures cause soils here to evaporate rapidly. Look for plants that can tolerate these soil conditions and temperature extremes.

Look for all of the above information on the plant tag or in a resource like the Sunset Western Garden Guide or in the FREE booklet - Landscape Plants for the Arizona Desert.

The University of Arizona provides research-based, non-biased information with no commercial interest (they arent trying to sell you something). A few years ago the U of A...

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