Phoenix Gardening Tip: It’s Freezing!

Freezing in Phoenix Desert GardensWell, I’m hoping your desert gardens survived the Phoenix Freeze of 2013.  I’m also hoping it’s the last one we have for the season!

If you didn’t cover your plants, you probably have some freeze damage, particularly if you live in the outlying areas of Phoenix.  But before you run to your desert gardens with a pruning tool in hand (the crazed look is a dead giveaway), STOP!

For most plants, you’ll want to wait until any threat of frost has passed — typically early to mid-March in Phoenix — before heading out to prune away the freeze damage and to do any corrective pruning.  Some plants — such as Bougainvillea, Tecoma stans, and other xeriscape plants — can be cut back to 8-12″ and they’ll grow back beautifully.

(If you do cut back a frozen bougainvillea or Tecoma stans that had leaf tier damage, let Kelly Young at the U of A Cooperative Extension office know how it fares.  She is studying whether the pests will be killed off by frost or pruning so that they can figure out some controls for the problem.  Oh, and dispose of those infected plants in the trash, not your compost bin.)

If you had tender, non-native plants that froze, they’re likely excellent candidates for your compost bin.  I have a couple of tropicals in containers that were shocked by the non-tropical conditions.  They probably won’t return.

By the way, the photo is of my Callaeum macropterum (Yellow Orchid Vine).  I finally covered it on the last night of the freeze, so it fared pretty well.  But in the Year of the Three Freezes (2010-2011), it froze nearly to the ground.  I just cut it back in the early spring and it really flourished!

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