Fall is planting time in the desert, and if you are new to the Tucson and Green Valley areas, you may be wondering just exactly when fall arrives in the desert.
That’s a tricky one, because fall for many parts of the country is September. However, here, September is very hot, often returning to triple digit temperatures after the summer rains depart.
Ideal planting time, therefore, is October to early November. But not for all plants. Desert natives are planted during that time, but other plants, including cactus and succulents, should be planted in the spring.
Anything that goes dormant during the winter months, such as Lantana, Bougainvillea, Queen’s Wreath, should NOT be planted in the fall. These plants often do not survive the winter when planted at this time, since a hard freeze before their roots are established can lead to plant death. Ironically, nurseries will put these plants on sale in late summer, leading you to believe it’s time to plant.
Lantana should be planted in the spring, preferably after the last frost, which for Tucson is about April 1st, and in Green Valley about April 7th. There are two varieties of Lantana, although many colors available. The bush lantana grows quite large, up to 4 feet or more, whereas trailing lantana stays short, about 18 inches, spreading to about 3 feet.
Succulents should be planted in the spring, usually once the nights have warmed up. This means May or early June. Avoid planting succulents in the fall, since you might lose them to root rot. Also make sure you are buying a species hardy for this area. Not all succulent species grow here, and often nurseries sell plants meant to keep indoors.
Cactus should be planted in the spring, usually once the nights have warmed up. This means May or early June. Avoid planting cactus and succulents in the fall, since you might lose them to root rot. Also make sure you are buying a species hardy for this area. Not all cactus species grow here, and many times nurseries sell plants meant to keep indoors.
Velvet mesquite is a native tree perfect for providing filtered shade. This is a large tree, and needs lots of room to grow, sometimes up to 40 feet. They prefer fall planting, and will establish quicker if watered daily for the first week, then back off to every other day for the next week, every two days for the week after that, until you are irrigating once a week. Back off to twice a month through December and January.
Another great native tree to plant in the fall is the kidneywood. This is a slow growing, small tree, perfect for patios and small spaces. The kidneywood has white flowers in the summer that smell like vanilla. This may be a difficult plant to find, especially at a regular nursery. Try Desert Survivor’s in Tucson, since they are most likely to have this tree in stock.