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Southwest Regional Reports

Southwest: January Garden To-Do List

Winter brings cooler nighttime temperatures to the Southwest, so we need to protect our cacti and succulents from frost. Photo: Laurel Startzel

Here in the desert, the weather has cooled off enough to spend all day outside. Whether you spend your time gardening, golfing, relaxing, or all of the above, you can count on temperatures that won’t cause you to break a sweat. Those more comfortable daytime temperatures bring colder nighttime temps too. You may start to notice Styrofoam cups popping up on cacti around town and frost cloths draped over delicate shrubs and succulents. Now is a great time to start watching your gardens a bit more closely to ensure the frost isn’t creeping in and causing damage before it’s too late. Below are some tips on how to protect your gardens from the cooler temperatures, while keeping the interest alive with winter colors and drama.

frost bitten aloe
This aloe succumbed to frostbite, with damage that can be cut back when the weather’s warmer. Photo: Laurel Startzel

Be sure to protect your aloe plants (Aloe spp. and cvs., Zones 8–12) during hard freezes. Even the hardiest species can still take a beating during a cold blast, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. If any of your succulents or cacti do suffer damage from the cold, wait until the weather warms up to cut them back, around late February through early March.

Coral honeysuckle
Coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens, Zones 4–9) is vulnerable to frost damage and should be protected before cold spells. Photo: Jennifer Benner

Keep a close eye on your more delicate shrubs and perennials during a hard freeze. Red bird of paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima, Zones 9–11), bougainvillea (Bougainvillea spp., Zones 9–11), and honeysuckle (Lonicera spp. and cvs., Zones 3–10) are all frost sensitive and should be protected with frost cloth or old sheets during cold spells.

desert globemallow
This desert globemallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua, Zones 8–10) brings a splash of red to a winter garden. Photo: Laurel Startzel

Mallows are a no-nonsense way to bring some color into your winter landscape. Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean your garden should be colorless in the desert. Our mallows are a constant form of orange and silver delight in our gardens.

artificial turf
Now is a good time to consider adding artificial turf to your yard. Photo: Laurel Startzel

Artificial turf is a great way to reduce your water usage and bring year-round green envy to your yard. Turf has come a long way since it was first introduced to residential landscape design. The original turf options were hot to the touch and looked a bit like green moss. Today’s turf options are created to hold their blade form and are engineered to stay cooler.

garden weeds
Stay on top of garden weeds and debris now to save yourself time in the spring. Photo: Rachel Young

January is a great month for a garden clean-up. Take some time to remove fallen leaves and downed branches around your yard and plant beds. Leaving debris around can encourage pests to invade your garden, so it’s best to keep everything tidy. Pull those weeds that may have popped up with recent rains while you’re at it. You’ll thank yourself in the spring.

—Sheila Schultz and Laurel Startzel are a mother-daughter duo who founded Denver Dirty Girls Container Gardening while living in Denver and have continued their business since moving to Tucson, Arizona.

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