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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Friday - May 25, 2012

From: Tucson, AZ
Region: Southwest
Topic: Planting, Privacy Screening, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Shade trees for Tucson AZ
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I need to plant some "fast growing" trees or shrubs on my southwest yard in order to reduce the heat in my bedroom. What do you suggest? I live in Tucson, Arizona. Thank you in advance. I'm melting,

ANSWER:

You need to realize that even "fast growing" plants are going to take several years to do any good. Lots of people think that putting in plants is cheaper, or even free when they are looking for some sort of sound or light barrier. However, if you consider the cost of the plant (which has the cost of growing it for several years and transportation factored in), the cost for planting (money to a landscaper, liniment for your back), watering, fertilizing, fighting off pests, etc. you might find something quicker will not be as expensive as you first thought. We will, of course, recommend some trees and shrubs, which will grow to a good height, and be more dense to provide shade, all native to Pima County.

But since you are melting now, and we recommend that you wait at least until November through January to plant woody plants, you might want to consider some alternatives. If you go ahead and plant the shrubs or trees now, in Arizona, you can almost expect them to experience transplant shock and die, or at least  be severely slowed in their growth. Blinds or lined drapes inside, and/or a trellis outside, close to the window, with a fast-growing vine can be good interim or permanent solutions. Follow each plant link to our webpage on that plant to learn about growing conditions, sunlight tolerance, water needs, projected heights, etc. This search turned out to be quite a challenge, there were no shrubs that were native to Pima County. In fact, this was also a problem with the selection of trees; the ones that were native to Arizona just couldn't seem to get down to the southern border of Arizona with Mexico. Those drapes are looking better all the time.

Plants for a sunscreen in Arizona:

Acacia farnesiana (Huisache)

Acer glabrum var. neomexicanum (New mexico maple)

Cercocarpus montanus var. glaber (Birch-leaf mountain-mahogany)

Juniperus deppeana (Alligator juniper)

Olneya tesota (Desert ironwood)

 

From the Image Gallery


New mexico maple
Acer glabrum var. neomexicanum

Smooth mountain mahogany
Cercocarpus montanus var. glaber

Desert ironwood
Olneya tesota

Huisache
Vachellia farnesiana

Alligator juniper
Juniperus deppeana

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