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Newb here, what to plant in Sonoran desert?

Posted: Fri Aug 06, 2010 3:49 am
by crunky
Hi folks, I'm pretty new to gardening. I live in the southwestern United States, southern Arizona. A few weeks ago my sister tried planting lantanas in our front yard. They didn't last long and wilted fast, they're dead now.

I want to try to fix up the plots in the front yard for her. The 2 plots are about 2'x10' each, give or take. I think they are mostly just filled with sand and fill dirt. she did put in potting soil around each lantana when she planted them. I think a combination of bad soil, not enough water, and it being hotter than #$%@ outside did them in.

I'm looking for suggestions on what to plant here, now that fall is coming up. I'd like something kind of bushy, and I also want to inter plant herbs with them.... So please give me some ideas. Thanks in advance.

EDIT: Sorry, I forgot to ad, the front yard faces south, but receives a good amount of sun.

Posted: Fri Aug 06, 2010 5:59 am
by BewilderedGreenyO.o
Dessert Cassia- Cassia nemophila Walp is a nice bushy shrub... gorgeous with yellow blooms. [url][/url] One catches my eye every time I drive by it.

I also suggest you take a close look at Bromeliads... though some aren't good for desert growth there are some that are like Puya alpestris, Hechtia gayii and Dyckia fosteriana. These are gorgeous bushy type plants that I have grown to love.

I'm sure there are plenty of others out there and many will come up on google just by typing in "Desert Plants"

I hope you can find one that suits you :) Take care!

Posted: Fri Aug 06, 2010 6:53 am
by Kisal
I don't know what "plantanas" are, and I couldn't find anything about them on Google. I wanted to know whether they were native plants in your area. In order to suggest specific plants to you, we need more information, such as whether you intend to irrigate your property, or are you wanting to xeriscape it, using plants that can survive heat and drought, and which prefer lean, alkaline soils?

One resource that could help you is the Sunset Western Garden Book. Go to your nearest public library and check out a copy. If you find it helpful, you may want to purchase a copy. I think I have 4 or 5 different editions of it around my house, and I find them to be very valuable help in my gardening. :)

Posted: Fri Aug 06, 2010 7:26 am
by crunky
Oooops, sorry. I don't know why i keep calling them plantanas.... LANTANA is what I mean. Sorry for the confusion.

Posted: Fri Aug 06, 2010 7:43 am
by BewilderedGreenyO.o
Hmm thats strange I've been told lantanas could withstand pretty much anything... :? Some places actually refer to them as a weed because they grow rapidly where nothing else will...I'm befuddled.

Posted: Fri Aug 06, 2010 11:46 am
by rainbowgardener
You've gotten some good advice... The Sunset Western garden book and the general idea of looking for native desert plants, that are adapted to your area. The school of landscaping based on using desert-adapted plants is called Xeriscaping (where the xeri refers to dry). If you google that or look for books on it, you will find tons of info.

For a few specific suggestions:

chamiso is a common desert shrub, 3-6 feet semi-evergreen and very tough and hardy.

Scarlet bouvardia (aka Firecracker bush, Trompetilla) 2-4 ft. shrub with shiny, oval, dark-green leaves and bugle-shaped red flowers, 2 in. long, the rim flaring into four segments. The flowers are arranged in clusters at the ends of the numerous erect branches. A shrub with brilliant scarlet, tubular flowers in loose clusters at ends of numerous erect branches.

The spectacular red corolla attracts, and provides nectar for, hummingbirds. The Spanish name, Trompetilla, which means little trumpet, refers to the corollas shape. is the site of the LadyBird Johnson Wildflower Center at U Tex. It has a native plants database. Put in your state, what you are looking for (eg. shrub, herb, tree, etc) and your conditions (sun, part sun, shade, wet or dry soil) and it will give you an extensive list of native plants meeting those requirements.

There are many varieties of cholla, a beautiful cactus. The teddy bear cholla (aka cane cactus) is one with gorgeous reddish-purple large showy flowers

My sister lives in New Mexico. When I visit her out there one of the plants I love the most is the ocotillo. It isn't exactly a shrub, but a clump of long stems, each with a brilliant red flower spike on top. Sometimes you see them a few feet tall and sometimes they get up to 20 feet tall, but very striking in the landscape.

Those are just a few of my favorites of the 49 plants that popped up when I put Arizona, shrub, part sun, and dry soil into the searchable database.

Posted: Fri Aug 06, 2010 6:52 pm
by cynthia_h
BewilderedGreenyO.o wrote:Hmm thats strange I've been told lantanas could withstand pretty much anything... :?
Lantanas *will* withstand incredible amounts of hot, dry weather. After they're established. The first year they're in the ground, though, they're just as susceptible to heat as any other new plant and need shade protection, water, etc.

In fact, almost all the xeriscaping I've seen in the Bay Area (warmer areas thereof) is similar: the first year, water like any new landscape. In the second, third, and later years is when the plants "show their stuff" and make you glad to have planted them.

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9