Despite the preconceptions of many homeowners, our desert region has some great plants for the cool season.
Fruit trees. Pomegranates and figs are easy to grow and do exceptionally well in our region. Both produce profound yellow fall foliage that often hangs on the tree through December. Pomegranates, like the plant in the photos above and right, are accentuated by golden fall foliage.
Figs, such as ‘Peter’s Honey’, have bright foliage in late fall. Growing them on a trellis will produce enjoyable winter branches. Also consider citrus varieties — with evergreen leaves and fall/winter/spring fruit production — for late-season flair.
Shade trees. A couple of shade trees come to mind which produce outstanding fall color in desert gardens. Both are broad leafed and are popular choices among East Valley residents.
For golden yellow color, consider Arizona ash (Fraxinus velutina). One of the few large deciduous native shade trees in the Southwest, it grows 30–50 feet high, with its canopy measuring 30–40 feet. A riparian species in the desert, it requires less irrigation than other shade trees of comparable size.
For orange/red foliage the Chinese pistache (Pistacia chinensis) comes through in great style. A broadly spreading deciduous shade tree growing to 30–50 feet high and wide, it has among the most brilliant fall color of any tree cultivated in our desert region. Look for selections such as ‘Sarah’s Radiance’, which has more intense red fall color, or ‘Red Push’, whose new leaves emerge red.
Succulents. The giant hesperaloe plant looks great all winter and remains vibrant during the cool season, when many flowering plants go dormant. The tall bloom stalks also are attract a variety of birds and other wildlife. Other succulents to consider for winter interest include cold-hardy agave and prickly pear. ♥♥♥