The Q&A Archives: Unusual growing situation

Question: Hello,
I have what I think is a fairly unique growing situation- from what I've seen of most plants/tree classifications. I live in the Phoenix area here in AZ. I have a yard with two large, mature Austrian Pine trees in front. They provide a huge amount of shade. They are being trimmed, so that shade may become slightly more sparse, but nevertheless the entire front of the house and yard will continue to be in shade for most of the day (the house faces south). I have been told that the shed needles create an acidic soil condition- although the natural soil conditions here are alkaline(?).
Also, my lot receives flood irrigation (bi-monthly during the summer). The front yard receives a fair amount of this water, so the soil isn't entirely dry- unlike normal soil conditions here.

What flowering shrubs/perennials would work best in this situation?
Can I grow ferns against the foundation successfully?
Is there a species of ornamenta grass that would be happy here?

Thanks you so much!!

Answer: In this age of drought tolerant plants and water conservation, what you describe sounds like an unusual growing situation, but it's really quite common in some of the more established housing developments, especially near downtown Mesa. All yards there are irrigated by flooding and berms were actually built into the yards to hold the irrigation water. In fact, most of the established citrus groves are watered in exactly the same way. So, take advantage of the situation and enjoy a lush, green landscape.

Even though the soil is acidic and moisture abundant, ferns might still struggle because of the dry air inherent to the desert. You might try a single plant to see if evaporation of the residual water will provide enough humidity to make it happy. Summerwinds Nursery has a nice selection of ferns. Ornamental grasses typically like full sun exposure and there are many to choose from. Japanese Bloodgrass is very popular, as is Oat grass and Rattlesnake grass. Again, Summerwinds is a great place to visit, admire plants, and choose those that appeal to you. The staff there is quite helpful.

Best wishes with your landscape!

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