Evaluate Your Site’s Potential

Decide What Kind of Garden You’d Like to Have
Design
  • Native trees, shrubs, and flowers.
  • Native and non-native cold-hardy and drought-resistant trees, shrubs, and flowers including herbs.
  • Native or non-native turf.
  • Showy garden ornamentals.
  • Vegetables and fruit.
Determine Which Plants Will Likely Succeed
  • As a clue to what will thrive in your habitat, see Natural Plant Communities and/or just look around to see what naturally grows in your neighborhood. Are you among ponderosas or pinyons and junipers or in a grassy area? Also observe what plants do well in neighboring gardens, bearing in mind any differences between those and your own gardens exposure to sun, wind, shade, moisture, and soil.
  • NOTE: “Day zone” refers to the number of hours in a day during the growing season. If you’re planning to grow food (especially onions), be aware that Flagstaff lies where North America’s intermediate and short-day zones overlap one another.
  • See The Arboretum at Flagstaff’s online Resources: Gardening Information for seasonal advice about gardening. Scroll down the page and click to download the Special Plants List, which is organized by the type of plant and its purpose in your landscape (whether for shady areas, to attract butterflies, etc.).  Also click on the Arboretum page to download the draft of Native Plants for Northern Arizona Landscapes, which is organized by habitat type including high-elevation forest, ponderosa forest, pinyon-juniper woodland, and grassland.
  • Search for details about specific plants in The Arboretum at Flagstaff’s online Plant Search Database.
  • Search for plant descriptions with photographs and recommended growing conditions using Flagstaff Native Plant and Seed’s illustrated online database: Native Plants for the Flagstaff Area.
Notes on Growing Conditions
  • LIGHT   Growers usually provide advice about whether a plant does best in full sun, shade, or sun/shade (a combination of both). Consult the Exposure page and use the sketch you created of your site to determine which side of your house is best for each kind of plant.
  • TEMPERATURES AND GROWING SEASON    Growers also provide advice about the range of temperatures a plant will tolerate. The local growing season averages 103 days. Some plants can tolerate a late frost but others may be damaged or killed. Consult the Temperature Maps under Climate and the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map for average temperatures around your habitat.
  • Remember that the Flagstaff area’s rugged landscape creates many microclimates: small pockets that may be warmer or colder than what is shown on these maps. Consider using a simple max-min thermometer to verify the temperatures on these maps for your particular habitat.
  • MOISTURE   See the Precipitation Maps under Climate for the average amount of moisture in your area. Decide which plants are good choices based on how much time and expense will be needed to keep them watered until the summer rains begin in mid-July. Group plants with similar moisture requirements together. Put moisture-loving plants where they will receive less direct sun and wind. Consider where your outdoor faucets are. See Conserve Water under Advice for ideas on how to use water efficiently.
  • WIND   Most plants with large, soft, dark green leaves do not tolerate wind, but there are exceptions. Consult the Wind maps, then look around your neighborhood and ask other gardeners to learn which plants are likely to succeed in the windy places in your garden.
  • DESIGN  Think about how to arrange the plants in each part of your garden. Consider color and shape as well as access so that you’ll be to maintain the garden easily throughout the year. Try to visualize how much space perennials, shrubs, and trees will need as they grow larger. See Design Your Garden for suggestions.
  • LOOK AHEAD   The Flagstaff area’s erratic weather can be kind to plantings one year but show no mercy the next. If unsure whether a plant will succeed in the spot you’ve chosen for it, consider choosing another location for it or select a different plant.

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