Mind the Freeze Warnings in the Desert
Last year I found one of my favorite plants, Elephant Food (Portulacaria afra). It has reddish brown stems and the leaves are a beautiful emerald green. When grown to a full bush they will grow to about 8-12 feet. BUT, they do not tolerate a freeze. This I found out the hard way.
When I purchased these from the local nursery I explained that I did not live in Tucson proper but a bit higher. Elephant Food will do just fine with a little cold, they said. Not to worry they said. This past winter was cold for the area (cold is a relevant term of course). According to my backyard weather station we went down to 25 overnight about 5 times. The Elephant Food kicked the bucket. It did look pretty good right after it was planted (to the right of the aloe).
This winter taught me that there were a number of plants that I thought would be fine with a little bit of cold. Aloe do not like the cold, and neither do mangave. The fairy dusters were a mixed bag (three died and two are hanging on by a leaf). I dug up the aloe and mangave before they were a complete loss, but I really didn’t want a house full of plants for the winter.
Now that it is April the temperatures with start to climb and I can put everything back outside. Well, after tomorrow night…it’s supposed to go down to 35 overnight. That’s cold for these parts!