About Gardening on Mars

Edit July 23, 2017:

Some things have changed a bit since my last post and I’d like to offer a brief explanation of why I haven’t posted for so long. I especially want to apologize to anyone who’s asked me a question and didn’t get a response over the past couple of years. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that your questions were well-answered by other sources, but I’m still going to give the best answers I have in the comments section of the posts where they were asked in the hopes that the information will help someone else down the road. 

After several years at the nursery, I took a job as a gardener at one of the largest cannabis grow operations in Vegas. I worked on the cloning team, helping to maintain the mother plants and the cuttings we took on a daily basis. It was seriously one of the coolest jobs I’ve ever had. The people there were fun and relaxed (hard to imagine in a weed garden, I know), but also really enthusiastic about what they were doing. The energy and general camaraderie in that place were like nothing I’d ever seen before. I hope it’s still like that.

After working there for a couple of months, I was offered a job interview with a local landscaper who I’ve sincerely admired for years. I didn’t want to leave the cannabis job, but I couldn’t resist at least talking to the guy. I mean, his company regularly wins local awards for its approach to sustainable landscapes. Long story short, we hit it off right away and I went to work for him last year.

I’m not gonna lie, I lost pretty much any and all street cred I ever had in my whole entire life by leaving the grower to work in residential landscaping, but the company I work for now is even more awesome than the last one. We’re truly all working toward a common mission and we’re all encouraged to learn, whether it be by formal training, experience or mistakes. I have yet to see someone punished when they take responsibility for their screw-up and I’ve seen some pretty big bumbles over the past eighteen months, my own included.

The reason I’m telling you all this is first, to explain why I’ve been gone. I went from working part-time at the nursery to full-time at both of the jobs since and I was honestly a little overwhelmed last year by the position I’m in now. Excuses, excuses, I know. The good news is that I have been learning more about plants in general and how they behave in Las Vegas specifically in the meantime. Some of what I’ve learned contradicts my earlier posts, so I’m doing my best to make edits where necessary based on the information I’ve gathered. I promise you this, I’m always working to give you the best information I can find and I’m never trying to mislead you.

I recognize that July 2017 is kind of a weird time to pick up the topic of gardening in Las Vegas again. This year has been especially hot, causing garden and gardener alike to show signs of stress in the most unattractive ways. I sweat to the point that I’ve literally been asked if it was raining outside while the leaves of some plants are curling up, turning brown and outright giving up the ghost. But you know what that means? It means it’s the perfect time to lie around inside with the air conditioning on and learn about our favorite plants on the internet with no pants on.

After all, the heat in Vegas may be more intense than ever before, but it’s never too hot here to get a little dirty

Original Post May 2015:

I work a day job at a local nursery, where I give plant suggestions and advice to people who are redoing their landscaping or want to know why their plants are struggling.  We’re in Las Vegas, so as you can imagine, more often than not the problem with a struggling plant is related to it not getting enough water or getting too much sun.

It’s also pretty common that the person who I’m talking with is from somewhere else- California, Minnesota, Ohio- and they often want to tell me about the incredible garden they had when they lived there.

“Hydrangeas as tall as the house,” they’ll say.  “And I never had to do anything for them. You just throw some seeds out back and watch ‘em grow.”

“Forget everything you knew about growing plants there,” I tell them.  “You’re in the Mojave desert now.  You might as well be gardening on Mars.”

I don’t tell them that an unskilled monkey could have an amazing garden in San Diego, but I’m thinking it.  Show me someone who’s growing beautiful plants in the desert and that’s when you’ll see me impressed.  It takes real work to get a plant established in a climate this harsh, let alone have it thrive, so when I see it done right, I want to shake the hand of the dedicated soul who managed it.

This blog is meant to showcase the great trees and shrubs that I see in my city and in the world at large.  And if I know me like I think I do, you’ll probably see at least a few really bad plants, too.  Ideally, you and I will both learn something about plants in general or a specific bit of greenery with every post.  Just remember, there are a lot of truly fascinating, beautiful, weird and wicked plants in the world, so this could take awhile.

Please feel free to email me with questions, comments or suggestions any time at julie@gardeningonmars.com. I’d love any feedback that you have to offer!


  • Thank you for your help at the nursery on Sunday 😊
    Everything is happy in its environment and I couldn’t have done it without your help. I’m so happy Teddy took me in!

    • It was my pleasure, Monica! It was nice to get to meet you. I’m so glad to hear that the plants are happy in their new home. Definitely keep me updated as they start to fill in, too. And I know what you mean about sweet Teddy…he’s pretty awesome 🙂

  • Dear Gardening Martian, You are mean! I read your blog on chocolate scented plants & recalled a time when my youngest daughter recommended that, in order to get my “chocolate fix”, I could burn one of the chocolate scented cake candle that I sold in my little gift shop. Following her advice, I burned one while working one morning & promptly cleaned out (by eating) every, single piece of chocolate I could get my hands on……….INCLUDING all the chocolate kisses contained in little crocheted ornaments that were for sale on the Christmas tree! I had to stop by the store the next morn & buy replacements. Still, I am tempted to follow your advice by purchasing some of the recommended plants but only as gifts for others!
    P.S. thank you for including watering, care, etc. directions in your blog; it is most helpful. Even though I am a fan, follower & complete stranger, I know you are my kind of person (& the youngest of my daughters that gave me the advice on burning the chocolate cake candle)
    Sorry………..I couldn’t resist!

    • Dear BJ (aka Mom),
      If the worst thing you can say about me is that I made you eat chocolate one time, I think that just means that I’m the best daughter a mother could hope for. Also,I’m sending you 100 chocolate flower seeds asap. Love you much!

  • You are KICKASS AWESOME!!! I found your blog because I had to prune some shrubbery for my girlfriend, and wanted to know if it was too late. I don’t live in Vegas yet. Moving soon from the green Midwest. I am an avid gardener here. You are freakin hilarious. Laughed my ass off lookin at plant shaming. You seriously make me laugh. You are awesome. When I do move I will be hitting you with a barrage of questions. Oh by the way, I only brunette with hand pruners. Hate the choppety chop chop look. It too, looks like shit. So very happy I found your blog. Again……you are KICKASS AWESOME!!!!!!

    • Well, I like you, Doug. You seem smart, wise beyond your years and you know how to approach people. Thank you for the compliments and for being patient with my reply. I was abducted by aliens but I’m back now and very nearly my old self, save that weird buzzing in my back molar. Anyway, I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed my blog and I hope you’ll check back for new posts soon. I’m always looking for good blog ideas too, so if there’s anything you’d like to know, please do say the word!

  • You are KICKASS AWESOME!!! I found your blog because I had to prune some shrubbery for my girlfriend, and wanted to know if it was too late. I don’t live in Vegas yet. Moving soon from the green Midwest. I am an avid gardener here. You are freakin hilarious. Laughed my ass off lookin at plant shaming. You seriously make me laugh. You are awesome. When I do move I will be hitting you with a barrage of questions. Oh by the way, I only brunette with hand pruners. Hate the choppety chop chop look. It too, looks like shit. So very happy I found your blog.

    • Oh, good, I’m glad you cleared that up, Doug. I didn’t want to say anything but I was wondering… 😉

  • Nice to find a blog specific to gardeners in this area. I’ve got a lot to learn so this seems like a great place to start!

    • Thanks, Jessica! I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to reply, but I’ll be posting new material about gardening in Las Vegas again soon. Please feel free to let me know if you have any questions or suggestions!

  • Dear Martian Gardener,
    Thank you for your wonderful information!

    We just moved to Vegas from Denver. I’m hoping to have some container plants on my patio. We have a lot of desert trees, and therefore mostly shade with very little dappled sunlight. I’m trying to find plants that will survive the cold winters in pots and that will look nice year round. Again, we have so much shade that whatever I plant won’t be suffering in direct sun during the summer.

    I’m going to try some zonal geraniums, and if you have any other advice on container gardening here, I’d be all ears.

    Thanks again for sharing such great information!

    • Hi Barbara, Thank you so much for your kind words. Please let me be the first to offer you a belated welcome to our lovely valley. I know it’s taken awhile for me to respond and I apologize for the delay. Hopefully you’ve found some amazing plants for those containers in the meantime. Geraniums are a nice choice, though they often don’t look their best during our hot summer months. Maybe Arabian jasmine or a some British Ruellia? Oooh, or a flowering succulent?? Blue Elf Aloe is really nice and low-maintenance. Let me know if you have any other questions. I’m looking for blog ideas and any feedback is very welcome!

  • We live in Henderson and have two lovely, shady African Sumac over our courtyard which are horribly messy!! Any suggestions for replacing them? It is between yards, so not a lot of room, but definitely need the shade without the mess! Thank you for your blog!

    • Hi Diane, I apologize for the late response, mostly because I know you’ve had to go through the molting phase of two African sumacs alone. I’m so sorry. Depending on how large your yard is and its sun exposure, consider something like a chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus) or Red Push pistache (Pistacia x’Red Push’). Remember, deciduous trees (those that lose their leaves in the winter) are often much less messy than their evergreen counterparts.

  • Thank you for the update and congratulations on your employment successes!

    Now back to the blog …lol! We moved here a couple of months ago from the rich, well-watered soils of the Blue Ridge Mountains. If it was not for finding your blog and reading EVERYTHING and sharing it enthusiastically with my new neighbors, I would have packed up and moved back.

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom!! I’m looking forward to the Spring 2019 and planting/landscaping my little patch of Mars.


    • Thank you, Lynda! I’m so glad to hear it’s helping with your transition. You’re on a different planet now but it’s a beautiful one in its own way. Hang in there and let me know if you struggle with the garden next spring 🙂

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