Arizona garden

By Jamie Thompson

You can create a beautiful yard this spring and summer that's easy to manage with low-maintenance plants designed for local south central Arizona conditions. Spring and early summer, when the weather's hot and sunny, are ideal times for your vegetables and flowers to thrive. Other plants may only tolerate Arizona summers, but the following choices love the heat and sun. Just keep them well-mulched and watered!

Flowers and ornamental plants that thrive here

Blooming plants can brighten shady garden areas and provide lush foliage during hot summers. In dense-to-medium shade, plant begonias, coleus and impatiens. In light shade with partial sun, plant ageratum, Canterbury bells, lobelia, nicotiana and salvias. To attract butterflies to your garden, plant asters, lantanas, buddleias (butterfly bush), marigolds, sweet Williams, tithonias (Mexican sunflower), zinnias and other daisy-like flowers.

If you love mums like most of us do, support the plants’ stems growing closely in beds with chicken wire. Just unroll the coil of wire to the length of the bed and suspend it with stakes one foot above the soil. The stems will grow up through the holes and support themselves to their full height without toppling over. The benefits of setting up a wire support system is easier than staking each plant and selective cutting of blossoms is easier with fast and easy clean-up.

Blooming shrubs that need only a little water when they're mature include: abelia, bottlebrush, broom, ceanothus, cotoneaster, crape myrtle, grevillea, oleander, rockrose (cistus) and strawberry bush. For delightful fragrances in your planting beds, some of the most aromatic choices are citrus, gardenia, jasmine, mock orange, and roses.

Best fruits and vegetables for our climate

We’re lucky to have so many choices: lima and snap beans, beets, carrots, celery, chard, chicory, chives, corn, cucumbers, eggplants, leeks, warm-season lettuces, melons, okras, green onions, peanuts, peppers, pumpkins, soybeans, warm-season spinaches, squashes, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes. Note that Celebrity tomatoes bear all their fruits within a couple of weeks but Sungold cherry tomatoes will bear over a long period, perhaps the entire summer. When planting citrus and other tender trees, keep soil well mulched to hold in moisture with less watering. However, too little water may result in stunted growth and reduced fruiting.

More great ideas

We all lead busy lives, so it's no surprise that people sometimes feel that they don’t have enough time for gardening. However, there are lots of things you can do to make life easier for yourself in the garden. No time for lengthy gardening tasks? These low-maintenance ideas are just what you need!

  • Prune tips of azaleas, carnations, chrysanthemums, fuchsias, geraniums, impatiens, lavender, marguerites, marigolds, petunias, rhododendrons, rosemary, sedums and zinnias to gently shape the plants and encourage them to bush out.
  • If you're a fan of flowers, but don't have time for tons of weeding and pest control, then opt for a wilder touch for your low-maintenance garden. Raised borders can look beautiful filled with a jumble of hardy meadow blooms and grasses. Plus, pollinators will love it.
  • Plant a handful of easy-care perennials such as echinacea, salvias and achillea, and all you'll need to do is cut them back at the end of the flowering season. Alternatively, simply scatter handfuls of meadow-mix annuals into a wilder patch of your plot, for a colorful summer display.

Pick drought-tolerant plants

A plant that's happy because it's planted in conditions that suit it perfectly will need far less care than one that's struggling to thrive in a less-than-ideal situation. Try alpines and succulents for low-maintenance appeal. Establishing what sort of soil, you have before you choose plants is vital (remember that even in the same garden, this can vary from one bed or border to another).

Shrubs

Of all the plants that you to think about including in your low maintenance garden ideas, shrubs are the ones you are more likely to be able to put in and pretty much forget about. Hydrangeas love partial shade but need some sun. Once they're established, shrubs will usually only need watering in the very driest of summers, if at all. Other than that, an occasional light pruning will be all that's required. For amazing summer fragrances in a sunny part of the garden, you can't beat Philadelphus Belle Etoile, while hydrangeas (now very popular again) are perfect for shady spots. For super-size flowers that last right through summer, go for Annabelle.

Birds and bugs

If you like to provide birds with nesting materials, stay away from fabric, yarn and similar materials in your garden, which hold moisture and can increase respiratory diseases in baby birds. Instead, provide straw, hair, and other non-absorbent materials when needed in the garden. Keep ants off of your hummingbird feeder by spreading olive oil on the tip that dispenses the sweet water. The ants will stay away, but birds will still come! Finally, don’t worry about a few aphids; they won't hurt your plants. Large infestations can be dislodged by spraying forceful jets of water (place your hand behind the bloom to support it as you spray). Use can also use insecticidal soaps or stronger sprays.