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Thursday, September 26, 2019

Holly and Caroline Cherry Burning Up as a Screen in Full Sun

Q. I planted hollies and Carolina cherry as an evergreen visual screen between our house and our neighbor’s house. The hollies burnt to a crisp and the Carolina cherries look bad. I need evergreens that can withstand full sun all day and give me privacy. Does something like this exist?

Carolina cherry laurel with yellowing leaves when planted in full sun and in our desert soils

A. Both of these plants will grow in our climate but not in the locations and perform in our desert the way you want or for that purpose. They are not desert plants. They can handle our desert soils and climate but they must be planted in protected locations with relief from afternoon sun to thrive. That’s why they are burning up.

Carolina cherry laurel planted in rock mulch starting to yellow. If it is planted well it will take about five years before this happens in our soils and extremes.

            A privacy hedge should be evergreen and retain leaves through the winter. If it’s a warm winter, they may stay evergreen. Some evergreen plants drop their leaves in the winter and become deciduous if it gets too cold. Colder temperatures than this, they will freeze back. Accepting this should get you through most winters here without being too upset.
            Do your homework on these and shop around because not all of these will be available from local nurseries. Non-desert plants should be watered more often than true desert plants. This means they should be on the same valve as other non-desert plants.
            Some of the best reviews of these plants are from Arizona State University in the Phoenix area but Phoenix has warmer temperatures than we do. So be careful of winter freezing temperatures. In the Las Vegas Valley, aim for winter temperatures in the low 20s for long-term sustainability and expect that they may not be evergreen or may have some dieback during very cold winters.
            Here are some true desert plants you might consider for that purpose. They can handle full sun in harsh locations. They are true desert plants originating from our Southwestern deserts and include hopseed bush, Arizona rosewood, creosote bush, jojoba, yellow bells, and little leaf cordia. Even though they are desert plants, I would still amend the soil with a decent compost at the time of planting and plant them wet. Just because they are desert plants doesn’t mean they don’t like a little TLC.
            Don’t forget standard oleander. It’s not a desert plant but can handle extreme desert conditions like ours. This means they should be on the same irrigation valve with other non-desert plants.

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