My journey to a desert garden includes a few bumps. I am a fan of native plants only because I’ve tried some that aren’t native and I’ve been disappointed in the results. One reason I’ve killed so many plants is my elevation is higher than the central Phoenix valley and retailers sell plants that can’t tolerate frost. Here is a sampling of the plants I’ve killed and the reasons why.
I had three Palo blancos that reached 12 feet tall when an extended (4 nights) of frost killed them. I decided not to try again because it is too hard to cover a large wispy tree to prevent frost damage. If you live somewhere without frost, these trees are lovely in groves.
This ferny African tree dies to the ground at every frost. My husband wanted one badly enough to plant three before giving up. If you don’t mind it dying back and regrowing to look like a bush, you can try it.
I have four yellow bells bushes that repeatedly die to the ground after frost and then regrow. I like them enough to allow them to stay in the ground. If one ever doesn’t regrow I won’t replant it.
We found hibiscus bushes on sale in the fall and planted three. The frost killed two of the three that winter. I cover the remaining one during frost, but it still dies back nearly to the ground.
I love the bright pink flowers but after my bougainvillea died to the ground two winters in a row, I didn’t want to continually retrain it every year. I also had it planted with low water plants and it needed extra watering, which I had to do by hand.
I tried a couple of lantana, but when they died to the ground the first winter I decided I didn’t want to bother with them. They are overused anyway. Another thing I didn’t like about lantana–they were always covered in tiny white flies.
I over-watered one prickly pear that I transplanted. It had three arms that fell off the mother plant. I put each in pots and started new prickly pear. I didn’t feel bad about this one because I got three plants instead of one.