When the heat dampens your gardening spirit, get energized and inspired by Tucson’s public gardens. Here are a dozen that you can visit now to see seasonal blooms and crops. Plus, there’s one you can plan to visit when it’s cooler in the fall.


Arid Garden

1004 W. Camino del Arrendajo, Green Valley.

Since 1986, the Green Valley Gardeners has tended this one-acre oasis in the middle of housing developments.

Shaded benches and bridged arroyos provide easy strolling past raised beds of cactus and aromatic plants and in-ground cactus and salvia gardens.

Open dawn to dusk.

Sampling of what’s in bloom: Trichocereus, whirling butterflies, red yuccas.

Green Valley Demonstration Gardens

1100 Whitehouse Canyon Road.

Cactus, ornamentals, vegetable and xeriscape gardens tended by Pima County master gardeners provide lots of landscape ideas and gardening tips. Have a picnic under the ramada.

Open most daylight hours.

In bloom: Salvia, Texas ranger, chocolate flowers, gopher plant.

Metro Water District Demonstration Garden

6265 N. La Cañada Drive.

The tiny landscape in front of the district headquarters displays more than 50 species that use little water. A path allows visitors to closely inspect plants.

Get a plant identification map in the lobby during business hours. Always open.

In bloom: Slipper plant, banana yucca, desert willow, creosote and spider agave.

Mission Garden

929 W. Mission Lane.

The blooming’s done, but figs, apricots, grapes, quinces and pomegranates hang from plants that demonstrate historical Spanish colonial agriculture. Native mesquite, prickly pear and barrel cacti also will sport edibles. A monsoon garden will be planted in July.

Volunteers provide maps for self-guided tours. Open 8 a.m.-noon on Saturdays through November.

Pima Prickly Park

3500 W. River Road.

Members of the Tucson Cactus & Succulent Society maintain this county park. Several gravel-path loops lead past natural and planted cacti and succulents, including some rescued from construction sites.

A circle of eight saguaros called Saguarohenge is contemplative, while a cholla forest maze is fun to try. Fascinating crested cacti called cristates look otherworldly. Plant signs help identify the different species of agaves, mesquites, hedgehogs and other natives, as well as desert critters visitors might see. Two ramadas invite picnickers.

“We’re trying to make (the park) a high-quality urban desert experience,” says society member Jessie Byrd.

Pick up a map at the entrance. Open dawn to dusk.

In bloom: Saguaro, prickly pear, cholla and barrel cacti. Night-blooming cereus will sprout flowers beginning in late June. Flowers remain open into early daylight hours.

Reid Park Rose Garden

Northeast of East 22nd Street and South Country Club Road.

Yes, roses at Reid Park do bloom all summer, insists Anne Andrews, a volunteer who tends the 800 plants representing 101 species. The aroma is heavenly and the huge ramada used for weddings provides plenty of shade.

The plants aren’t labeled and there is no map, but get there weekday mornings and a knowledgeable volunteer might be available to help with identification.

Visitors can help with dead-heading roses during the summer. Open during park hours except during reserved events.

Tucson Demonstration Gardens

4210 N. Campbell Ave.

Every plant in the 15 gardens at the Pima County Cooperative Extension is nurtured with proven scientific methods, says master gardener Renate DeLay.

Tended by specially trained gardening educators, the gardens range from organic edibles, containers and xeriscapes to natives, companion plants and small-space landscaping.

Open: 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays except holidays. One-hour tours are conducted at 9 a.m. on the second, third and fourth Wednesdays and Saturdays of the month.

In bloom: Butterfly mist, Mexican tree sunflower, cape daisy, desert willow.

University of Arizona Campus Arboretum

Called a living laboratory, the trees on campus are protected and labeled as historic and important urban trees.

Guided tours are finished for the academic year, but several self-guided tours take visitors past gardens around Old Main, the Main Library and throughout the campus, as well as medicinal plants and the Joseph Wood Krutch Historic Cactus Garden.

Always open. Maps are available online or at Herring Hall before 4 p.m. weekdays.

In bloom: Crape myrtle, African baobab, jacaranda, calabash tree.



Desert Museum

2021 N. Kinney Road.

Most of the museum’s 1,200 plant species enhance the habitats for exhibited animals. Cultivated agave, cactus, desert and pollination gardens provide landscape ideas and care tips.

Cool Summer Nights activities start Saturday.

Colossal Cave

Butterfly Garden

16721 E. Old Spanish Trail.

Just inside the entrance to Colossal Cave Mountain Park is a one-third-acre butterfly garden brought back to life by volunteer Pete Long. Some 50 butterfly species have been lured to the cultivated garden, including swallowtails, skippers and the monarch.

Tohono Chul Park

7366 N. Paseo del Norte.

Ornamentals, edibles and natives share the 49 acres of the park’s cultivated areas surrounded by natural vegetation.

The big seasonal attraction is the mass flowering of night-blooming cereus, also known as queen of the night. The park conducts events on the night of the biggest show of flowers.

Tucson Botanical Gardens

2150 N. Alvernon Way.

More than 20 exhibits inspire gardeners with landscape designs, including zen, herb, barrio, bird, butterfly and xeriscape gardens. There also are tips for water harvesting, composting and growing native crops.

Open every day, the gardens stay open until 8 p.m. Thursdays in the summer and fourth Saturdays of the month all year. Public Weird Plant Sale is June 7.

Yume Japanese Garden

2130 N. Alvernon Way.

Closed until Oct. 1, this themed garden has contemplative gardens and a koi pond demonstrating Japanese gardening principles.

Contact Tucson freelance writer Elena Acoba at acoba@dakotacom.net