Which Plants Can I Grow In Phoenix?
Phoenix, similar to much of Arizona, is known for its hot desert climate. Beyond that, Phoenix is filled with wonder, from the great hiking in the South Mountain Regional Park to the amazing southwestern culture and cuisine.
With its very hot summers and quick winters, growing in Phoenix requires plants that can stand up to the weather. In fact, Phoenix gets the most sunshine of any major city in the world. The heat in the city has only risen, partially because of the urban streets and sidewalks that hold in so much of the day’s heat. Rain can be scarce, and snow is incredibly rare. With all of that being true, Phoenix also has an extremely structurally diverse native plant population. From the giant saguaro cactus to the red yucca, the biodiversity is amazing for the conditions!
Which Plants Grow Well in Phoenix?
Growing in Phoenix is extremely challenging. The extreme heat paired with the drought-like conditions means that you must pick your plants carefully, and often must baby the ones that aren’t native to the area. Finding plants that can stand up to very little water, hot soil, and strong sun rays are what will thrive in your yard in Phoenix. Picking out the perfect additions that meet your aesthetic needs can be hard, but with a little extra watering and care, you can make miracles happen! Most importantly, learn about your soil, common pests in the area, and ways you can protect your plants from that harsh sun to expand the range of plants you can pick from while setting them up for success!
Best Landscaping Plants in Phoenix
Choosing landscaping plants for your Phoenix garden can be difficult. That hot sun can easily burn the leaves of more delicate plants, meaning that you need some extremely hardy options unless you will be putting in extra work! One popular plant that is hardy to the area is the Snake plant, which has many varieties! The Laurentii Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’), for example, is one of the most common and is extremely durable. Native to South Africa, these plants prefer medium light but can survive higher and lower levels as well. They can go quite a while without water and don’t mind low humidity situations. Snake plants can be grown indoors or outdoors, and have many aesthetic options to choose from, such as the Zeylanica Snake Plant with its dark and light green colors, or the Sansevieria Moonshine which is a lighter green shade. These plants even come in shorter varieties, including the Zeylanica Superba and the Futura Superba!
Another option for landscaping is decorative grasses. There are many varieties of grass-like plants you can consider, and quite a few of them are hardy to drought and heat! For example, the Jack Spratt New Zealand Flax (Phormium tenax “Jack Spratt”) has stunning burgundy-bronze sword-like leaves, tolerates high levels of light, and only needs medium levels of water. These grasses are great for filler and edging. Another option is the Cordyline Australis Red Sensation (Cordyline ‘Purple Sensation’). The leaves on this plant have dark stripes of pinks and scarlets, making it a striking decorative addition to your landscaping design! This Cordyline can handle aggressive light, only needs medium amounts of water, but does prefer a more humid environment, something that can be more difficult to achieve in Phoenix.
Which Plants are Native to Phoenix?
There are so many beautiful plants that grow natively in Phoenix despite its harsh environment, and they all are crucial to the ecosystem! When you pick local native plants for your yard, you are providing vital food and shelter for local wildlife such as butterflies, bees, and birds. These plants help your biodiversity and support neighborhood pollinators, but also are proven to be hardy to your local conditions. To learn more about the specific varieties that are local to your area, talk to your neighborhood nursery - they are experts on native plants, and even may be able to point you in the direction of endangered or critical plant options!
The White Desert Plumbago (Plumbago Scadens) show off beautiful white blooms and can help fill in your areas of partial shade. They are gorgeous perennials that will trellis up your porch railings and fences, creating a beautiful natural decor for your space! Their green leaves add color to a yard even when the white flowers aren’t present. Another amazing native flowering plant is the Desert Fairy Duster (Calliandra Eriophylla), which has truly an ethereal aesthetic! This plant blooms most of the year, and sometimes even all year! The flowers are made up of spikey stamens that look like small puffs, with red near the base, white up most of the stamen, and then light pink tips, making them look like something straight out of a fairytale. These plants are great for pollinators like hummingbirds, and love the hot scorching sun!!
Looking for native cactus or succulents? You have so many options to choose from! A few native varieties include the Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea), the Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens), the Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora), Santa Rita Prickly Pear (Opuntia santa-rita), and Parry’s Agave (Agave parryi). All of these grow natively, and you should be able to source them from your local nurseries! Succulents and cacti are great for the heat and dryness of Phoenix and can add unique architecture and color to your landscaping spaces.
Other Plants that Grow Best in Phoenix
The Mini Schefflera Umbrella Tree (Schefflera arboricola mini) has adorable leaves that mimic an umbrella shape! This plant stays a manageable height of 2 feet, and likes bright, indirect light! It has low water requirements and doesn’t need humidity, making it a great plant for either indoor or outdoor in Phoenix. This plant prefers an east, west, or south facing window if indoors, and likes a full top third of its topsoil to dry out between waterings, making it easy to care for!
Another great option for Phoenix is the Croton Petra (Codiaeum variegatum ‘Petra’). Packed with amazing, vibrant colors that bring a tropical vibe to your space, this plant is a bold addition to any space! It has bright green leaves with yellow veins on the top, while the bottom has striking shades of yellow, red, pink, and orange! This plant loves full sun or afternoon shade, and likes somewhat moist but drained soil. Keep it watered occasionally to keep it happy!
Phoenix Gardening Tips
Creating a flourishing garden in Phoenix is absolutely possible, it just takes some research and effort! Due to the dry spells that occur in the area, you can keep your soil moist through drip irrigation systems that can keep some of your more water hungry plants happy! You can also consider mulch, which helps prevent water from evaporating so quickly from your soil.
Raised beds are a solution for plants that may burn in the hot and dry soil of your yard, providing you more control over the temperature and dampness of the soil. You can place these wherever is appropriate for your garden needs, such as in shade or in full sun! These raised beds can also help make gardening less physically strenuous as they prevent you from needing to bend down or work on your hands and knees.
When Should I Plant My Garden in Phoenix?
Temperatures in Phoenix largely are quite hot during the summer, and the winters are often mild. This leads to a year-round planting zone with a nine month long growing season, making it a great place to grow produce! Usually, you need to be more concerned about protecting plants from the heat than the freezes in the winter, though keeping an eye on those dates is crucial. Often, the first frost in this area is around the middle of December, so keep an eye on when that falls so you can bring in any plants that may suffer during a freeze. There are a few areas of Phoenix that are a bit hotter that sometimes avoid freezes altogether! Keep an eye on your local weather to see what is best for your seasonal crop.
Despite when your freezes usually happen, weather is unpredictable. Often you want to start planting seedlings inside 6-8 weeks before your last frost date, but guessing that time can be difficult. Use local resources and keep a close eye on the weather to try to estimate when it is safe to start your crops! This gives them time to get a head start so that you can potentially have to do multiple harvests, or even enjoy time to plant a whole second crop.
Planting in Zone 9b & 10a
Phoenix is within the USDA Hardiness Zones of 9b and 10a. These Zones are decided based on the minimum average winter temperature of the area, helping you pick plants that can survive your coldest temperatures. 9b falls into a minimum average winter temp of about 25°F to 30°F, while Zone 10a is between 30°F to 35°F. While Zone 9b is more prominent around Phoenix, check to ensure that you aren’t in one of the hot-spots of the city! Winter gardens do really well in these Zones, allowing you to grow produce that does better in the cooler months. Produce that does generally well in these Zones includes Sweet Potatoes, Black Eyed Peas, Peppers, Eggplant, Okra, Parsnips, and Turnips. There are even some great fruit-bearing trees you can grow here, including Pecan Trees, Banana Trees, and Black Walnut Trees.
Mulch in these areas are great for trapping more moisture in the soil, helping to protect some of your plants from drought-like conditions. Using good mulch also will keep the soil cooler in the summer, and warmer during the winter! Drip irrigation systems and raised beds are both great options for expanding your plant selection, as are shade cloths, but be careful as these do block essential sunlight for your plants to grow.