By: Teo Spengler
If you need to soften a stone wall, cover an unpleasant view, or provide shade in an arbor planting, vines can be the answer. Vines can do any and all of these tasks as well as adding vertical interest, color, and fragrance to a backyard.
Vines for Southwest states must be able to grow happily through the dry, hot summers of the region. If you are wondering about Southwest region vines, read on for information on options to choose from.
About Southwestern Vines
Vines are useful and attractive additions to any backyard. Vines in the Southwest can help you beat the heat that comes with the region’s bright sunshine and dry summers. A vine covering an arbor provides quick, attractive shade in patios. Even vines growing near a wall or window can keep the indoor temperatures a little lower.
Many vines can be grown successfully in the southwestern United States. Before selecting particular southwestern vines, figure out what your landscape requires and the type of structure to be covered.
Vine species are often divided into categories based on their manner of climbing. These include:
- Twining vines: Tendril climbing vines that wrap slender side shoots around their support.
- Self-climbing vines: Attach themselves to surfaces by means of adhesive discs on rootlets.
- Shrub vines: Clamber over a support and do not have any specialized means of climbing.
Vines for Southwest States
You won’t find just a few vines for Southwestern states. Many species of vines for this region thrive in the heat. If you are looking for twining or tendril climbing vines with lovely flowers, here are a couple to consider:
- Baja passion vine (Passiflora foetida): This vine has showy flowers and rapid vine growth. It is a heat lover with huge exotic blossoms, pale pink with central crown segments of blue and purple. The passion vine covers a ten foot (3 m.) square wall with flowers from early summer into fall.
- Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens): Carolina jessamine uses twining stems to pull itself up to 15 feet (4.5 m.) height. You’ll have the green, glossy foliage year-round with this evergreen beauty, but the fragrant yellow flowers appear only in late winter when there is little other color.
- Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata “Tangerine Beauty”): Few vines in the Southwest will outclimb this crossvine. It can climb 30 feet (9 m.) high, pulling itself up using branched tendrils with adhesive pads. Vigorous and fast growing, this evergreen vine acts fast to cover a fence with attractive foliage and attractive tangerine flowers.
- Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea spp.): If you prefer a clamoring vine that has no specialized means of climbing, bougainvillea is one to consider. It’s a very common vine in the Southwest and never fails to astonish with its spectacular scarlet color. The color doesn’t come from the small flowers but from large showy bracts surrounding the flowers that offer stunning, glowing color from early summer through fall. To get bougainvillea to cover a structure like a fence, you’ll have to tie up its thorny branches.
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USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Maps by Region
The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone map is a widely used reference that helps gardeners and other growers to choose plants that are suitable for their local climate. Each zone is defined by the average minimum annual temperature in other words, how cold it gets in a typical year. The term hardiness refers to a plant's likeliness to survive the coldest time of year. For example, if a plant is said to be "hardy to zone 5," it means it can likely survive in temperatures down to -20 degrees F, the minimum annual temperature in zone-5 climates.
Hardiness zones, commonly called growing zones or planting zones, are intended to be taken as advice, not gospel. What matters most is the precise microclimate where a plant resides. For example, even if you live in zone 5, there may be areas on your property that stay warmer than the average zone-5 location, so that it might be possible to grow a zone-6 plant in these warmer areas. Ultimately, the plants will tell you what works and what doesn't, and you never know until you try.
Much like bamboo, vines are often accused of being unruly, but you can easily grow well-behaved vines in your garden.
Choose sprawling vines that have long runners, like coral honeysuckle or Carolina jessamine. You can easily train these up trellises or supports, but they won't grow out of control. Mandevilla and gloriosa lily are beautiful twining vines that also work well.
Avoid clinging vines with adhesive rootlets like English ivy and Virginia creeper, since these grow aggressively up trees and walls and can cause damage. Beware of vines with thorns or milky sap, since these can complicate pruning.
No matter what vines you plant, prune them periodically to help keep them in bounds. A good rule of thumb is to never let them grow taller than your ladder.
Trees and Shrubs
A garden that gets full sun is ideal for crape myrtles, a family of flowering trees and shrubs that thrive in USDA zones 6 through 10, with average minimum temperatures of -10 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. They do best in soil that is well-drained and has a pH range of 5.5 to 7.5. Fertilize once or twice a year in early spring, using a 4:1:1 or 2:1:1 fertilizer with nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
"Angelica Blue" juniper features bright blue, evergreen foliage that gives contrasting color and texture to the southwestern-facing gardens of USDA zones 4 through 11, with average lows of -30 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer. This groundcover shrub grows to heights of 3 to 5 feet and spreads of 5 to 10 feet. It grows quickly and needs infrequent watering once plants are established.
What Are The Best Types of Trees To Grow In The Southwest?
Tree of Southwest, Palo Blanco (Acacia willardiana)
Today’s post is written by guest blogger, Emily, who writes about sustainable gardening.
Getting to landscape your own yard is exciting, and it can prove to be really fun! You can decorate your yard with the plants you love in whatever way you want them to look. There’s no end to all the ways that plants can bring life and beauty to your backyard, but what types of plants you have to choose from can be narrowed down because of where you live.
Even beginner gardeners know that plants are affected by the amount of sunlight and kinds of temperatures they deal with on a regular basis. Some plants do better in warmer climates than others. If you live in the southwest, you know that hot, dry weather is something your plants are going to have to be prepared for. Check out some of the best trees you can pick from for your yard that will thrive in the rising temperatures of the southwest.
Your Best Options
This tree list is for those who want to look through a list of potential trees without having to do a bunch of research and get disappointed when they find out that the tree they like won’t work in their yard. Extreme heat doesn’t mean that you’re limited to only a few kinds of trees. You can have large, beautiful trees that have thick foliage and provide lots of shade. You can also have fruit trees if you’re interested in growing your own food. Read on to see which trees might fit with what you’re looking for.
Stately pine trees along a historic Phoenix street
- Aleppo Pine – Choosing to grow the Aleppo pine might be right for you if you’re looking for an ornamental tree. It has a distinct trunk and can grow up to 80 feet tall. This tree is a great addition to a yard that looks like it’s missing some character.
Tree of Southwest, Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis)
- Desert Willow – This tree is distantly related to the Willow tree, but it doesn’t have branches that hang down as far as its cousin’s branches. It’s extremely drought tolerant and loves full sun conditions, much like these smaller stunning desert plants.
Tree of Southwest, Willow Acacia (Acacia salicina)
- Acacia Tree – If you’re looking for a tree that’ll grow quickly, the Acacia might be for you. These trees are bright with green, yellow or white colors and live for around 20-30 years. They’re also known for stabilizing soil with their roots, which is perfect for erosion-prone areas.
Texas Mountain Laurel (Sophora secundiflora)
- Texas Mountain Laurel: A shrub that disguises itself as a tree, the Texas Mountain Laurel is a beautiful plant that provides lots of shade. It can grow to 15 feet high and when in bloom, it’s covered in massive purple flowers. Take note that the seeds it produces are poisonous if ingested, so those with outdoor pets or small children should watch this tree carefully.
- Santa Rosa Plum – Fruit lovers, rejoice! You can still plant a variety of fruit trees in desert climates. The Santa Rosa Plum tree does particularly well in full sun as long as it’s watered regularly. Expect delicious summer fruit after an average full growth cycle of four years.
Tree of Southwest, Grapefruit Tree
- Citrus Trees – Many homeowners choose to grow a variety of citrus trees in the southwest because they do so well. Lemons, oranges, grapefruit and lime trees are especially common in yards since they naturally take to the weather.
Give It Time
Whatever tree you choose will need time to grow to its full maturity. This will be a different length of time depending on what kind of tree you decide to go with. Always talk with local gardeners to make sure you know what you’re getting into. On the other hand, you should also be prepared to make some mistakes! You’ll learn how best to care for your tree with time, so don’t feel like you have to know everything about your type of tree before you plant.
Jump Right Into It
The more you research, the more you may feel overwhelmed. This is normal for beginner gardeners, but learning how to grow your own tree really isn’t that difficult. It’s just a new way of gardening! And don’t think you’re alone. Ask around in your community to see if there are any gardening groups you can join, and if not, you can look online too. There are people ready to help guide you with your gardening passions so you can grow the trees of your dreams, no matter which kind you settle on.
Emily is an avid gardener. She writes in the sustainability field and loves getting to try new composting methods to grow food with less waste. You can read more of her work on her blog, Conservation Folks.
**For more tree profiles that will add beauty to your desert garden, click here for earlier posts where I share some of my favorites.
Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a horticulturist, certified arborist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."