Monday, December 19, 2011

Holiday Plants for Tucson

Can the "Nochebuena" or Pointsettia be grown in Tucson?
I'd like to mention several plants that stand out during this time of year in Tucson whether they be placed into pots or in the landscape.  I'll hear Tucsonans talking about several of them as the year goes on.  So let's begin this fun look into several of these "holiday-ish" plants for our area.    The first one I'd like to start with is the Pointsettia.  We consumers love this plant and will purchase it in great numbers.  A wonderful supplier here is Green Things.  Okay okay....none of this is new.  Why would I bring this plant up?  Well because many Tucsonans ask the question, "Can we place this plant into our landscape after the holidays?"  A complicated question.  If the plant has a great root system and wasn't just placed into a pot for the holiday time period.....then yes BUT!........there are a couple things you should know about as I have tried this experiment myself.  "Have I seen this plant in Tucson growing in the landscape?"  Yes BUT here are the things to keep in mind.  This plant is SUPER sensitive to frost and it will be killed, roots and all, if bitten by damaging temps.  It does like water, but if you water it too much, you'll kill it from rot.  The roots do not like sitting in water at all.  This plant is wild in Mexico and is quite stunning.  However, the temps there are milder and the plant thrives on moderate rainfall without the severe freezes like Tucson gets.  I have seen several healthy and large plants in Tucson that are grown in planters and protected from the intense sun by a building or a large trees afternoon shade. The owners say they are a bit fussy but worth the effort. So blankets and heaters have been used.  It should get some morning sun but protected from extreme hot summer afternoon sun.  Both Pointsettias were placed in enclosed planter areas that were protected from frost biting temps and kept warm by outside trees and shrubs.  It never hurts to experiment.
Arizona Madrone(I took this photo in Madera Canyon last year)
A couple plants that naturally create a nice holiday feel in our own gardens are the berry producing ones.  In Madera Canyon, you'll find the Arizona Madrone.  Here in Tucson, the Pyracantha offers hues of reds, oranges or yellows.  The color will depend on the variety growing in the landscape.
Pic taken from my neighbor's yard
And what about those desert plants in our landscape that really don't stand out for the holidays?  Take your agave or cactus, like the above pic, and add some color to the tips.  Many folks around here put lights(mostly white) around their Saguaro cactus. I don't know, but I think it's kinda fun to see the agave like this.  The point here is to be creative:) I'll show you some fun ways to dress up your desert plants this week:)
Pic courtesy of Wiki
People love bulbs and there are all kinds to place in pots around our homes and gardens.  But it's during this time of year that the infamous Amaryllis catches our eyes with its' brilliant colors of reds and pinks. Interestingly enough, I placed this bulb into my garden after its' bloom was done just to see what it would do....and it grew lovely green leaves throughout the year in the garden. However, you need a substantial amount of chill and rest for it to bloom again. But the leaves were nice.
Photo courtesy of Wiki
Finally, I'd like to end with Desert Mistletoe.  Newcomers are always shocked by the idea that the desert has mistletoe!!!  We do.....and a lot! It's a parasitic plant that lives in many of our native trees like mesquite or palo verdes.  To the human eye, it looks like a bird's nest because it clumps inside the tree's branches. It's mistletoe and that's what it does.  There are A LOT of thorns so don't even try and attempt to grab a piece for that smooch under the doorway. You'll draw blood! While it's a cousin of the full and velvety leafed Christmas mistletoe, our variety here is stringy with brittle jointed stems.  Birds will eat the berries on this plant.  So keep your eyes open for this plant around our beautiful desert. And that's my holiday report for today:)
Close up of Desert Mistletoe thanks to my friend and special guest photographer

Casey Scheidegger! (You are awesome:)



  1. What a fun decoration on your neighbor's agave!

  2. I always wondered about the Pointsettia. Love your cactus decoration...thanks for stopping by. Brie.

  3. ha ha the agave!
    I just broke down and bought pointsettias
    Merry Christmas...and I am praying for snow for you....

  4. Thank you Suz! I am hoping we get a beautiful snow storm....just not during our flight:) We certainly have been getting a lot of rain here in Tucson!

    Brie, it's a fun experiment. The Pointsettia for me is a 50/50, but by May, I seem to lose the battle:) The temps get too hot and the leaves fry:)

    Thérèse-Have you tried this at your own place? When do you head back to France? What city will you be living in?

  5. oh my gosh! that cactus with the bulbs on it is priceless!!!


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