My brown thumb.

Desert Living Series:
From brown to green:  A lesson in desert gardening.

Ocotillo and Red Bird of Paradise (has not bloomed yet)
Ocotillo and red bird of paradise (has not bloomed yet)

Some individuals are great gardeners. Either they were born with a green thumb or they’ve learned enough about gardening to be successful at it. My idea of gardening is digging a hole and planting a shrub or flower in it; then I just expect it to survive. I have learned over the years to make sure there’s some kind of irrigation in place, as otherwise the plants won’t survive.

Most indoor plants I have though, don’t make it past a few weeks. I just can’t remember to water them on a regular basis, so I’ve given up on indoor plants altogether. Why spend the money if I can’t keep them alive? I guess I have a brown thumb since everything I plant turns brown eventually.

Here in the desert, gardening requires a lot more thought.  With the summer heat and arid conditions it is important to select drought resistant plants for your landscaping. I did a little research and discovered xeriscape gardening and its benefits.  If I was going to be good at any type of gardening, this was sure to be it.  Maybe these plants would survive my brown thumb!

Xeriscape Benefits

-Requires less water
-Less maintenance
-No fertilizers or pesticides
-Plants are drought resistant (very hardy)

My first attempts at gardening in the desert left me with one bougainvillea.  All the other plants I tried didn’t survive my first summer in the desert.  Since then, the plants I’ve been successful with are bougainvillea, ocotillo, verbena (or lantana) and red bird of paradise.  The kangaroo paw I planted does not look too good, but I’m hoping it comes back.  I’m not sure if it is the heat or the water (too much or lack thereof)?

The Canary Palm is not looking too good. It has been planted about 1 week now.
The canary palm is not looking too good. It has been planted about one week now.

I’m now trying my luck with two canary palms that I brought in from Escondido, CA.  These palms sprout up all over my parent’s ranch.  Will they survive the transition from Escondido to Indio, CA? One is planted in my front courtyard and the other I’m going to plant in the back. They are looking shocky, so I need to get that second one in the ground fast!

The courtyard garden is still a work in progress. Once some of the plants grow, the garden will have more shape!

I’ve created a water fountain from an old well pump.  I bought a liner for the barrel and a water fountain pump from Home Depot.  It took a few minutes to set up and voila, a water element in the front courtyard.  It was cheaper to make than a regular fountain and looks much more authentic.  The old well pump is one of several that were laying around my parent’s ranch, so I brought it out to the desert and added it here.  The little horse with the wind mill shown in the top picture is another relic I picked up at their ranch.  With the addition of some river rocks and other stones I was able to create a nice water element.  My friend who does feng shui garden design suggested a water element in this area as it falls into my “career” area.  I’ll write another post about feng shui gardening when I have more time.

If any of you have tips on what plants have done well for you here in the desert that are easy to maintain, please let me know.  Any gardening tips are very much appreciated. Especially if you have any tips on how to revive a canary palm!

You might also like these DesertUSA articles:

Gardening for Wildlife

Gardening the Desert of Southern New Mexico

How to Attract Hummingbirds to Your Garden

3 thoughts on “My brown thumb.”

  1. Desert Home and Gardener

    A few years ago, I purchased my first home, with 5 acres, near 29 Palms,CA. I don’t know if the land has ever been grated or landscaped. I’m working on the grating and I’d like to plan things out. I’ve called several landscaping companies and the prices were way too much, so I’m doing it myself. However, I think I’m asking too much from the desert. This is what I’m hoping to achieve. Approx 1 acre used for whole garden, year round edible garden, drought resistant plants/trees, no automatic water sprinkler system (I don’t want water running when I’m away), I may leave 1 – 1 1/2 weeks at a time, fruits & vegetables need to be low sugar/low carbohydrate. I’d appreciate any info on what plants grow well and when especially for this area. I’ve purchased a lot of books and I’m trying to cross reference things, Wow!!!

  2. You should try planting pomegranate. They are unbelievably resistant once they’ve taken ahold of their new home and also bear fruit that you can eat. If they have water they are constantly blooming nice red flowers too.

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