Bulb-type plants that do well in the Southwest include bearded iris, Dutch iris, ranunculus, freesia, rain lily, daylily, tritonia, and spider lily (Lycoris). None of these plants need prechilling, so you can plant them directly into the soil now. Before planting, improve the bed with a 4-6-inch layer of compost, as bulb plants prefer a more organic soil than most desert soils offer. Mix bone meal or a fertilizer high in phosphorous in the bottom of the planting hole to promote bloom.
Yes, autumn leaves do fall in the desert! Rake them up and put them in the compost pile. Dried leaves are easy to stockpile in plastic garbage bags for later use as mulch in the garden. Or you can save them for compost when you have more nitrogen-filled grass clippings to go with their high carbon content. Don't waste this great organic amendment by sending leaves to the landfill!
Plant Cool-Season Vegetables and Flowers
Cool-season planting can continue with a vast array of colorful flowers and tasty vegetables, either as seeds or transplants. For flowers, consider planting calendula, bachelor button, nasturtium, stock, poppy, snapdragon, sweet pea, pansy, and Johnny-jump-up. For vegetables, plant a big mixed salad of all types of lettuce greens, carrots, radishes, and green onions.
Prepare Christmas Cactus
Christmas cacti need a period of darkness to bloom in December. If you saved plants from last year, give them bright light during the day and total darkness for 12 to 14 hours at night to help set buds. Put them in a closet or put a cardboard box over them to keep out any light. During the day put them in a brightly lit room. Keep the temperature between 60F and 70F and do not fertilize. After buds set, the plants can be brought into ordinary light and should bloom in a few weeks.
Fall Rose Care
Roses are showing off their second bloom period now. Water slowly and deeply as needed to penetrate the entire root area. Don't overwater, especially if winter rains have begun. Fertilize for the last time this year with a balanced, slow-release product. Rose shows are held by garden clubs in November, so take a friend and enjoy!