Gardening
in Tucson, Phoenix,
and Southern California

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Selecting Plants for the Garden

Turpentine Bush

• Avoid water-hungry plants. The desert southwest receives limited rain and has endured many years of drought. Plants with low water needs require less maintenance.

• Plants that do well in desert southwest gardens are not only drought tolerant but also heat tolerant. Some native plants grow only in shaded canyons where they avoid full sun conditions. Part shade lowers the water needs of many plants in our extreme summer heat.

• For the mountains, select plants that accept pH 7.0 (neutral) soil. In valleys, select plants that accept pH 7.5 - 8.0 (alkaline) soil. Acid-loving plants will require heavy soil modification and periodic soil maintenance to survive. Water supplies are also slightly alkaline, putting further stress on acid-loving plants.

• Choose desert-compatible plants that desperately hungry wild critters dislike. These drought resistant plants are less tasty to wildlife and often grow back quickly when nibbled.

• Because climate change is producing greater temperature extremes, consider choosing plants that will survive in a hardiness zone one less and one greater than yours. For example, if you live in USDA zone 9a, plants with a hardiness range from zone 8a to 10a will more likely survive long-term.


USDA Hardiness Zone Maps


Sunset Climate Zone Maps





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Ericameria laricifolia:
Turpentine Bush in October