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Desert Gardening: In Sync with the Seasons

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Get in tune with your desert garden by learning which types of plants will thrive when planted in spring, and which ones you should save for fall.

Havardia pallens complements a desert garden setting.
A butterfly feeds on a penstemon flower.

By Scott Calhoun

Springtime gardeners, filled with a pent-up desire to plant, tend to think of this season as the best time to put any plant in the ground. But the truth is, some plants have a much easier time getting established when planted later in the year. Working with nature and the seasons will save you the labor of replacing dead plants and give you more time to enjoy your garden.

Chihuahuan desert plants, such as the tenaza (Havardia pallens), are warm-season growers and appreciate a full summer season to get established. Those are good choices for spring planting.

Although most penstemons bloom in spring, that’s the wrong time to plant them—they are cool-season growers best planted in fall. Most penstemons are short-lived perennials, so if you plant one in spring, save the seeds, which will be ripe by late May, in case the plant doesn't make it through the summer.

This aloe variegata, as all aloes, should take partial shade.

Like penstemons, aloes generally are cool-season growers and grow well over the winter months, blooming in spring. If you plant aloes in late spring or summer, make sure to give them at least partial shade.

Salvia coccinea thrives with ample moisture.

Heat-and moisture-lovers, such as tropical sage (Salvia coccinea), thrive over the summer if they get ample moisture.

Dioon edules put out new fronds during the warm season.

Cycads, such as this dioon, also are excellent for planting in spring or summer after the last chance of frost is past. They react well to hot days and warm nights and will put out new fronds in the warm season. Generally they react well to at least part shade.