Southwestern Deserts

June, 2007
Regional Report

Move Houseplants

Although many houseplants thrive outdoors, desert summer sun is usually too intense and may burn their foliage. If you can't move outdoor houseplants into a shady, protected location on a patio or beneath eaves, it's better to bring them indoors for the summer. Inspect leaves carefully, top and bottom, to make sure insects aren't coming along for the ride. If your houseplants are already indoors, rotate them one-quarter turn weekly so they don't stretch towards the light.

Increase Watering

Adjust irrigation timers to run more frequently now that summer temperatures have arrived. How often to water depends on many factors, including plant type, maturity, weather, soil type, and your particular microclimate. Desert-adapted plants require less frequent watering than nonnatives. New transplants require more frequent watering than established plants. Watch your plants for signs of stress, such as yellowing and wilting, or shriveling for cacti and other succulents. Your goal is to water deeply each time, and as infrequently as possible. Water should soak 1 foot deep for shallow-rooted annuals, perennials, and succulents; 2 feet deep for shrubs; and 3 feet deep for trees.

Fertilize Container Cacti

Cacti in the ground typically don't need fertilizer, but a mild feeding for container cacti will help them maintain vigor. Use a product formulated for cacti or a fertilizer with very low percentages of NPK, such as 5-5-5. Organic fertilizers are a good choice, as they release nutrients slowly with little chance of burning roots.

Sow Sunflowers

Sow hybrids in garden soil improved with plenty of organic matter and mulched to retain moisture. Native sunflowers are not as fussy about soil. Allow seeds to dry on the plant. What the birds don't eat will likely self-sow from year to year. Maximillian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani) are tall, impressive perennial sunflowers that will spread over time. They are often seen growing in rows along sidewalks of older properties around the Southwest. Foliage dies back in winter, but reappears the following year.

Save Dried Leaves

Acacia trees, among others, are dropping old leaves as new growth pushes out. Rake it up for the compost pile or to use as mulch. Dried leaves are easy to stockpile (in an out-of-the-way pile or in garbage bags) for later use.

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