As the days get shorter and the nights get colder, it’s time consider a winter gardening plan. I plant landscapes all year but gardens planted in September, October and November have the greatest success and the lowest rates of plant loss. The warm days, still climbing close to 90, and the cool nights help the plants grow at night and transpire in at night. So, if you still have some planting goals for the fall season don’t hesitate.

The cool mornings we have been enjoying remind me that we should prepare for the coming winter. Many of our Phoenix plantings take a hard hit in the winter. Personally, I like it when plants like lantana and yellow dot freeze back—it prevents them from getting too large and unmanageable. No one likes a monstrous lantana with 18” of dead wood under the flowers. If you want to prevent or limit die back cover tender plants when we get freeze warnings in the winter.

If your large bushes seem out of control trim them now. Just consider that they will send out new growth on those recently cut stems and that tender growth may die back on those cold Phoenix nights. If your bushes just need a little maintenance prune, or you are considering cutting back rulellia or an overgrown bouganvillea wait until we pass the chance of frost in February. You can cut these plants back now but you won’t see new growth until the days start getting longer so you’ll be looking at a scalped landscape for longer.

Consider fertilizing November. Most of the desert plants don’t require the extra nutrients (since they thrive in the rocky soil) but tender plants like roses, hibiscus and gardenia can use the extra nutrients of a decent compost or high quality organic fertilizer. Stay away from anything with a large percentage of nitrogen (the first number listed on the package) as it may cause excessive grow that will suffer in the colder days ahead.


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The days might still be scorching but fall it just around the corner! The cooler days and nights make fall and winter the perfect time to plant in Phoenix. In fact, the nighttime temperatures matter far more than people think. When we look at the weather we focus on the highs but when looking at your planting schedule consider all the weather variables, highs, lows, humdity and cloud cover. All of these factors contribute to the evapotranspiration rate. Basically, the amount of water lost over time to evaporation and transpiration. Haven’t heard of transpiration? It’s the rate at which plant loose water. I like to describe it as plant sweat. Evaporation, of course, is the water that turns into the gas in the sun/heat. A higher evapotranspiration rate places more stress on plants and they require extra water to keep their cells hydrated.

When we plant in the summer (and we do!) we have to ensure that the new plants with their small root systems are getting adequate water because they are loosing so much in the scorching heat. So we water them a lot. It is also much harder for the plants to recover from the initial plating shock. In the summer our plants are struggling to stay alive they don’t have extra energy for growing roots, leaves, or branches. Once they’ve been in for a few years, their root system in extensive and can help them withstand periods of stress but new plants are one stressful event away from death until they start to grow new roots and leaves. If you plant in the summer consider hiring an experienced landscaper or gardener who can explain your new plantings water needs and provide realistic expectations.

All that said, summer is almost over! In many places that’s a bad thing, not in Phoenix. Even though our high temetures are still above 100 our nights are falling into the 80’s. This means that our plants finally have the energy to grow. Those summer plantings your landscaper has been telling you look ‘fine’ for two months? They finally have the energy reserves to grow! Sure they are hot for a few hours in the middle of the day (aren’t we all) but during the night and the cool mornings they are busy making roots and leaves. They’ll be thriving by spring.

Those cooler nights will also help anything you plant now. They will recover from planting stress faster than your summer plantings and will have the energy needed to grow before the shorter days and colder temperatures of winter slow growth again. If you want a lush, beautiful garden quickly and with very little stress (to you are or the plants) fall is the time to plant. Start thinking about your landscape design in August or September so that you’re ready to take advantage of the cooler fall nights and get a beautiful garden.

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