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Monday, November 5, 2018

Use Orchid Tree in Mojave Desert Landscapes

Q. I bought an Anacacho Orchid Tree at the Springs Preserve plant sale. Everyone tells me it needs rapidly drained soil, so I will use cactus soil. Should I put a couple inches of compost on top to enrich it? 

A. Interesting plant you bought. Not used much in the Las Vegas area because it’s not available but more popular in Arizona and Texas. Native to the Chihuahuan Desert. It’s a good choice for a desert landscape here.I don't have a picture of one but you can look at it if you click on the post below.

            It’s a small tree, roundish up to about 12 feet but can get 20 feet tall if well-managed and planted in rich, moist soils.
            Drainage is correct. The soil must have good drainage so with no drainage problems in your soils it should be fine. Avoid layering soil. This impedes drainage. A cactus soil is not necessary but amended soil throughout the planting hole will provide enough good drainage.
            Mix maybe 20% compost with the soil used for backfilling around the roots or use a ready-made soil mix. It is native to the Chihuahuan Desert which has more organics in the soil than soils in the Mojave Desert. Compost amendments improve drainage through the soil. Rich compost provides fertilizer. With a rich compost, no need to fertilize for about two years.
            Make sure the soil at the bottom of the planting hole drains water. That’s important. The hole should drain water overnight or sooner after filling it. If not, plant it on a mound.
            Avoid extremely hot locations in the landscape such as South facing exposures near hot, radiating walls. The southern exposure is okay but don’t put it close to a hot wall. This plant grows in desert canyons in the wild. What does that tell you? Deep watering, open spaces surrounded by desert soils and rock and possible protection from late afternoon sun.  
            Most cold winters it should be deciduous in Las Vegas unlike places with warmer winters. Not terribly pretty during the winter months but it should give you good floral displays if pruned during the winter and not during the months.

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