Homeowners need to do a little homework to get the most out of their shopping trip to a nursery. Professionals at your nursery have the know-how to help you plant and maintain a lovely, drought-tolerant yard, but they can best help if you come prepared. Arizona Nursery Association polled its members to determine what professionals need from you so they can help you find the right tree, shrub or vine. Be ready to answer these eight questions to get the most value from your visit.
1. Do you have a picture? Take photos of your yard – or parts of your yard – where you need the new trees or plants. Bring photos of other landscapes you’d like to replicate in your yard. Be prepared to pull up photos of plants you’ve admired on an online plant guide, such as the AMWUA plant pages. This helps you share your vision and expectations.
2. What kind of irrigation system do you have? Let the nursery pro know that you have a drought-tolerant yard. This helps you choose new plants that will survive on the same irrigation system set to water other cactus, succulents and drought-tolerant shrubs and vines. You don’t want to invest in a plant that requires flood irrigation when you have a drip system. If you do have a small patch of grass, you don’t want to plant a drought-tolerant tree among the sprinklers. It may not survive.
3. Where is the sun and shade? Make a study of how the sun hits your yard at different times of day and year, and in particular the space where you want the new plants. Notice if there is a tree or wall nearby that shade the space part of the day or part of the year. This helps a nursery pro know if you need a plant that will thrive in full summer sun or if you can create a succulent garden that needs partial sun all year.
4. How close is your pool?
All trees and plants shed leaves and pods and twigs, but some shed a great deal less than others. Asking for pool-friendly trees and plants can make your decisions easier.
5. How do you like your color?
Most homeowners like color in their yards. Let your nursery pro know if you prefer low-maintenance color, such as brilliant yellow Golden Barrels (Echinocactus grusonii) and bright red Mexican Fire Barrels (Ferocactus pilosus), or if you are looking for blooming trees, shrubs and vines.
6. How much space do you have – exactly? Look around the space you want to plant. Measure the space – big or small – in feet and inches and don’t forget to look up for wires or neighboring trees. Finding the right plant for the right space prevents a lot of trimming and replanting. It’s best to know if the plant is close to a fence or wall or toward the middle of the yard with room to spread.
7. What will the HOA say? Most Homeowners Associations understand a drought-tolerant landscape that includes trees is important in an arid urban environment, but it’s best to know the rules before investing.
8. What is your budget? Landscaping is always an investment. It saves time to know how much you want to spend before going to the nursery. This helps you find the most shade or color for your money.
There is no better time to plant than right now. If you need a little guidance, your city is still offering free landscape classes and it’s beautiful weather for a pre-fall check to find and fix leaks in your irrigation system.
To help you locate the best low-water-use plants for your landscape, here are a number of upcoming plant sales around Arizona:
- SEPT 29-30: Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Fall Plant Sale (Tucson)
- OCT 12-28 Boyce Thompson Arboretum Fall Plant Sale (Superior)
- OCT 13-14: Tohono Chul Fall Plant Sale (Tucson)
- OCT 19-21: Desert Botanical Garden Fall Plant Sale (Phoenix)
- OCT 27: UofA Master Gardener Fall Festival and Plant Sale (Phoenix, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m., Metro Tech High School, 1900 W. Thomas Road, Phoenix)
- Nov. 3: AZ Rare Fruit Growers Plant Sale. 8 a.m. to Noon at Mesa Community College next to the Rose Garden.
- Local Nurseries – Your local nursery will often have fall promotions. Find your closest local nursery by visiting the Arizona Nursery Association’s Plant Something website.
This article originally appeared on April 2, 2018, and is being reprinted with permission. Warren Tenney is the executive director of Arizona Municipal Water Users Association (AMWUA), one of 20 Water – Use It Wisely partners to offer water-saving advice and programs.