Winter Gardening for the Southwest

Gardening in the winter in the United States is tough given the chill in the air in many areas of the country, but in certain geographical locations, maintaining a lush and beautiful garden is still possible during this time of year. In the southwestern states in particular, enjoying a garden filled with bountiful plants, fruits, vegetables, and flowers is more than possible—it’s encouraged! Below, learn what the recipe to success in your garden is at this time of year if you reside in a southwestern state.

What to Plant

There are certain plants that are more likely to flourish during these slightly chillier months of the year, including herbs, flowers, and produce.

Herbs

In most southwestern locations, herbs are sure to grow well during the winter months. These plants include chives, cilantro, dill, and parsley. It's also the perfect chance to transplant oregano, rosemary, sage, or thyme from inside to outdoors, allowing for further growth. The winter is also a good time to start a basil plant inside to keep warm until closer to the spring, when it can be moved outside.

Fruit and Citrus Plants

A trio of citrus trees in black plastic pots against a pink stucco wall in the southwest in winter.

Fruit and citrus plants flourish during the cooler months in the southwest. Those that are known to do well in the southwest’s winter climate and conditions are bare-root apples, berries, sweet cherries, and other stone fruit like apricots, nectarines, plums, and peaches.

As far as citrus fruits go, trees of these varieties make for great garden additions, although you may want to wait until February or early March after the lowest temperatures of the season have departed. Until then, store them in a protected area free of frost.

Vegetables

There are a variety of vegetables that are known to flourish in the winter months in southwestern states. Those that do best are radishes, leafy greens, turnips, carrots, and beets. These should be planted directly in an outdoor garden and they will begin to grow. Just as with the basil plant, there are certain vegetables that are best to plant indoors in the winter months in order to prepare for outdoor growth come spring. These include cucumber, melon, pepper, and squash selections.

Flowers

Finally, there are many species of flowers that will provide a beautiful and colorful garden at this time of year in the southwestern states. For best results, desert marigold, tufted evening primrose, and autumn sage are all solid picks. Also consider low-growing varieties of flowers like rosemary and trailing indigo bush to make your garden full and lush. If you have any houseplants that consist of pansies, petunias, or violas, they will make great transplants to put outside during the winter months.

Winter Garden Maintenance

Along with knowing what to plant, it’s important to know how to maintain your garden during this time of year.

Fertilization

Fertilization of your winter garden differs from plant to plant. For instance, use a high-nitrogen fertilizer for citrus trees. In contrast, fruits and most flowers will thrive with the use of a complete fertilizer. These plants should be watered thoroughly before fertilization as well as after to ensure that it is soaked up well. Fruit plants should receive a balanced fertilizer after being thoroughly watered. After fertilization, repeat the watering process.

Pruning

Someone pruning a branch in a southwest garden.

Prune your winter garden to success! Decrease wooded areas around your garden to increase growth rates and always prune trees and shrubs well to ensure that they stay well-shaped. Additionally, resist the urge to prune off frosted branches of plants, trees, and even flowers and leave them until nearly spring to protect the rest of the plant from further frost damage.

Don’t sell your gardening year short in the southwestern states because of the erroneous assumption that winter gardening is off limits. There are many plants, trees, fruits, vegetables, and herbs to be planted and enjoyed during these months, so feel free to winterize your garden today.