Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
October, 2009
Regional Report

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Globe mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) is available in a variety of flower colors, including pink, rose, red, lavender, white, and orange.

Wildflower Sowing Season

Temperatures have been so unseasonably hot in Phoenix that it seems more like summer than fall's wildflower sowing season. Don't let that stop you. It's time to dig out those little envelopes and paper bags of seeds you saved last spring or buy some fresh packets and get sowing.

Wildflowers are easy to grow. You simply recreate conditions where the seeds would naturally germinate. Remember that nobody is out in the natural desert tilling the soil, adding amendments, and covering the seeds!

 Wildflowers are a snap to maintain because they're so well adapted to desert conditions of alkaline soil, intense sun, and limited rainfall. They thrive with minimal input from the gardener, so they are a good choice for novices or gardeners with limited time.

What to Plant
For loads of color, sow blanketflower, desert bluebells, desert lupine, desert marigold, fleabane, globe mallow, Mexican gold poppy, Mexican hat, various penstemon, and red flax.

Sowing Seeds
Choose a location that receives full sun eight hours daily. If you have gravel mulch, simply broadcast the seeds over the mulch. Little niches among the rocks provide protective spaces with extra moisture or humidity to encourage seeds to germinate and grow.

If sowing on soil, rake lightly first, loosening soil no deeper than an inch. This limits the amount of weed seeds brought to the surface. 

Broadcast the seeds, then make good contact between soil and seeds by walking across it or pressing with the back of a rack. Cover seeds with no more than 1/16 inch of soil.

Water regularly to keep the area moist for four to six weeks, which allows seeds to germinate and seedlings to establish. When seedlings reach 1 to 2 inches, gradually taper off watering to every couple weeks. If rains are frequent, you can reduce your watering. Be diligent about pulling weeds because they compete with your wildflowers for water and nutrients.

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