How to handle greenery after a cold spell

Here are some questions that I handled, with frost damage being the prime concern.

Q: When do we prune away the frost damaged plant material?

A: Ideally, wait until new growth emerges from the base of your plants. Even though the damage doesn’t look pretty, the brown leaves provide insulation for any unexpected cold snap. I know it’s difficult, particularly when we have good weather, but don’t be overanxious.

Q: Why are my cactuses turning purple and hovering near the ground?

A: They are responding to the cold snap. The purpling and hovering are their ways of coping with the cold weather. They are OK.

Q: Why don’t my mesquite trees look healthy?

A: Your trees are undergoing a cold dormant period. Native mesquites usually loose their leaves but the Chilean mesquites may keep their leaves when we have warm winters. I find small mesquite leaves are hard to clean up.

Q: Will lilac vine or happy wanderer vine (Hardenbergia violacea) survive on the southwest side of my house?

A: This is a wonderful fast-growing vine for your setting. Provide some support and once it gets going you can almost watch it grow. I love this early bloomer with its deep purple flowers and those little yellow dots staring at you when looking into the flowers.

Q: How do I grow globe artichokes?

A: I love this plant for its large, silvery-gray foliage. It makes a great accent plant in any garden and produces artichokes for you over several seasons. For best results, plant it on the east side of the house for relief from our afternoon heat and mulch it, as it is a high water user.

Q: Can I plant more than one peach tree in a single hole?

A: Yes, but they act like kids, one wanting to suppress the other. With this in mind, remember to suppress the dominant plant by pruning. Dominance also happens when grafting another variety onto a different tree.

Q: Why is my yucca gloriosa houseplant loosing its leaves? I’m wondering if I’m watering it enough.

A: If anything, you are overwatering it. It’s also known as the Spanish dagger yucca we use in our landscapes. It’s trying to tell you to put it outside. It loves full sun.

Q: Why is one side of my tree flat instead of the normal rounding?

A: You left the “transpiration stake” that came with the tree from the nursery on too long. The constant hammering of the stake against the tree by our winds damaged that side of the tree. Remove those stakes after planting and place stakes farther out to allow normal trunk growth.

Q: We lost a paloverde tree that shaded our sego palm and are wondering if now being exposed to the sun will kill it?

A: The older leaves may sunburn, but you’ll remove them as new leaves emerge. I’ve seen them in tough conditions, and they do just fine.

Q: Can we grow blackberries and raspberries in Las Vegas?

A: Blackberries do very well here, but raspberries struggle with our alkaline soils and heat. Always add soil sulfur to the soil anytime you work it to correct the alkali. Scratch the sulfur into the soil and water it in. It needs oxygen to break down so it can change the alkalinity of the soil. Also, plant your raspberries on the east side of the house for relief from the blistering summer sun.

Q: What are the best trees to plant near our new pool?

A: The University of Arizona puts out a publication of suggested trees and goes on to recommend shrubs, ground covers, vines, accent plants and plants to keep away from the pool. It also gives 10 things to consider when selecting plants for around pools. Go to

Q: When do we dethatch our Bermuda lawn?

A: Wait until the Bermuda becomes actively growing before dethatching. It loves heat and bounces back quickly after dethatching. I strongly suggest renting a dethatcher, as it is hard to remove the thatch. If this is your first time to dethatch, you may have a heart attack when you see the damage, but your lawn is thanking you for the clean out.

Linn Mills writes a garden column each Sunday. You can reach him at or call him at 526-1495.