Euphorbias are known to be the titans of texture, and are both elegant and tough. Heat and drought tolerance are their best attributes. This highly diverse group, often called “spurge,” comprises around five thousand species. They range from hardy, leafy perennials and sculptural succulents to tropical variations. Their blooms are tiny and distinctly un-flowery looking, arranged in distinctive patterns that are surrounded by colorful leaves called “bracts,” such as those in poinsettias. Most euphorbias have a milky sap that runs throughout the plant that is poisonous and a skin irritant. However, this toxic element has an added benefit — it acts as a deterrent, especially to hungry javelinas. Wear gloves when handling euphorbias or quickly wash the sap from your skin. To propagate, take cuttings from the parent plant. Rinse the sap with water to stop the flow. Let it dry several days to allow callus to form before planting.
Sow seeds of cantaloupe, corn, green beans, summer squash, native melons, Armenian cucumber and okra.
Plant warm-season color annuals such as cosmos, hollyhock, marigold, salvia, sunflower, zinnia, gaillardia, gomphrena, coreopsis, vinca and gazania.
Water turf efficiently by soaking 8-10 inches deep to moisten the Bermuda grass root zone. Bedding plants will need water more often this month.
Transplant herbs such as basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary and thyme.
Plant desert-adapted plants this month. The roots readily expand in the heated soil.
The first fig crop starts ripening this month. Fruit matures only on the tree, so keep birds away by covering with netting.
Feed cacti and succulents during the warm months. Apply a fertilizer formulated specifically for cacti and succulents every month.
Apply fertilizer twice monthly to vegetables. Do not add to dry soil.
Cut back on fertilizing roses to encourage plants to slow down for the summer.
Apply pre-emergent to avoid weeds when the monsoons arrive.
Prune back mature bougainvillea, lantana and hibiscus to stimulate blooms.
Cut back spring bloomers such as brittle bush, penstemon and salvia. Prune young trees early in the summer to slow growth and correct structure.
Cover vegetables with 50-70 percent shade cloth to reduce temperatures, prevent sunscald and increase blossom set for better fruit production.
Cover citrus trunks to prevent sunburn damage.
Drape plants with netting or shade cloth to protect from birds and insects.
Vines add an interesting vertical element to your landscape. They can act as a divider, barrier or privacy screen. Climbing over an arbor, they also create shade. Vines have a wide variety of leaf shapes and textures. Many have bright flowers that add color and aroma — all these benefits without taking up much ground space! There are four main types: self-climbing (which attach to masonry, like creeping fig), non-climbing shrub vines (need support, such as bougainvillea), twining (stems twist for support, i.e., honeysuckle) and tendril-climbing (tendrils act as support, like passion flower). Vines are said to sleep the first year, creep the second year and leap the third year.
Clockwise from above: Passion Flower, Orange Trumpet, Honeysuckle, Bougainvillea, Creeping Fig.
Planting Plant color annuals such as pansies, petunias, larkspur and primrose. Plant warm-season flowering bulbs such as canna, dahlia, daylily and gladiolus.
Set out warm-season annuals such as cosmos, four o’clock, globe amaranth, gloriosa daisy, lisianthus, marigold, portulaca, vinca, zinnia, celosia, salvia, sunflower, gaillardia, beans, okra, cucumber, peanut, pumpkin, melon and squash.
Plant seedlings of pepper, tomatoes, squash, eggplant and green onion. Sow seeds for warm-season flowers such as hollyhock, salvia, sunflowers, tithonia and zinnia in garden beds.
Look for new growth on native and desert-adapted plants.
Prune winter-damaged plant parts. Allow flower stalks on spring bulbs to brown and die back naturally. When spent, clip off at the base.
Watch for iron deficiency on citrus, pyracantha, gardenia, nandina and bottlebrush. Look for yellow leaves with green veins, which signal gardeners to apply chelated iron according to package directions.
Always water before and after applying any fertilizer.
Feed Bermuda grass with high nitrogen fertilizer.
Feed roses every two weeks or use a slow-release fertilizer for longer season intervals during spring’s peak bloom.
Reap flower seeds. Allow wildflowers and cool-season annual flowers to dry and scatter seed; or collect dry seed and store to sow next fall.
Adjust drip-irrigation systems to accommodate new plants and the warming temperatures.
Plant red bird of paradise, ageratum, eupatorium, passion vine, desert hackberry and datura to attract butterflies.
Plant container-grown roses. Plant new citrus and protect trunks from sunburn.
Plant desert landscape shrubs, cacti and succulents so that the roots reestablish before the summer heat.
The secret to producing good tomatoes and peppers in the desert is to get them planted early. Set out six-inch transplants of peppers and tomatoes between mid-February and mid- March. Cover plants if late frost is predicted. Early planting encourages fruit set. This occurs when night temperatures are above 55 degrees and daytime temperatures do not exceed 90 degrees. After 90 degrees, pollen is no longer viable and fruit set stops. Choose varieties that produce fruit in less than 70 days. Cherry tomato varieties and Early Girl are good examples of short-season cultivars. Peppers and tomatoes are heavy feeders, so add organic food monthly. Water deeply every three to four days, and add mulch to retain soil moisture. Grow basil next to peppers and tomatoes to help to repel garden pests.
Plant color annuals such as pansies, petunias, larkspur, primrose, poppy, stock, violas, alyssum, snapdragon and marigolds. Plant native or desert-adapted plants such as desert marigold, penstemon, sage and evening primrose, which are hardy enough to withstand the cold nights but benefit from extra time in the ground to establish roots. Start a new crop of cool-season vegetables, such as root vegetables, peas, leafy greens, kale and bunching onions.
Fertilize citrus, lawns, grapes and deciduous trees. Citrus fertilizers are formulated especially to provide a source of nitrogen. Fertilize roses with a slow-release fertilizer containing nitrogen and phosphorous around mid-month to encourage blooms by April. Fertilize non-native plants just as they begin active growth. Wait to fertilize tender tropicals until danger of frost is over. Natives generally do not need fertilizer.
Tomatoes must be transplanted early enough to develop roots, flower and set fruit before hot weather arrives. Plant mid-month but watch for frost and cover for protection until mid-March.
Water citrus deeply every three weeks. Watch shallow-rooted newly planted annuals, which can quickly dry out with spring winds. Adjust watering schedule according to winter rains.
Continue to harvest citrus. However, Valencia oranges are just starting to sweeten and grapefruit continues to sweeten for several months.
Wait until new shoots emerge on frost-damaged plants. Cut back ornamental grasses.