1. Date Palm (Phoenix Dactylifera)
A plant that we’re all familiar with in the Middle East is the Date Palm, a species that’s over 50 million years old. Interestingly, the UAE is responsible for 6% of the world’s date production.
- You’ll need a fairly large garden as these trees can grow as tall as 23 metres, with leaves spanning four to six metres.
- The plant loves hot climates and has difficulty bearing its sweet, edible fruit in more temperate regions, such as Europe.
- Date palms require well-drained, deep sandy loam soils that can hold moisture in. The soil needs to have a pH of 8 to11 and be free from calcium carbonate.
- How sweet and plump the date is depends on the glucose, fructose and sucrose content of the fruit.
- While the Phoenix Dactylifera grows easily from seed, dates from seedling plants can be small and of low quality. Only 50% off the seedlings will be the fruit-bearing female, while the males act as the pollinators only.
- After planting, date palms can take four to eight years to bear fruit, but those grown from cuttings will bear dates two or three years earlier than their seedling-grown counterparts.
A common garden plant for the UAE, Bougainvillea blooms with white flowers, with each cluster of three surrounded by bright bracts in colours such as pink, magenta, purple, red, orange, or yellow. These are the colours associated with this vibrant plant, which makes it a lovely addition to the flower bed.
- The thorny, vine-like plant can grow up to 12 metres, making it a good choice if you need a plant to cover bare garden walls and fences, whilst adding a splash of colour.
- During the dry summer they will become deciduous (in countries where there is regular rainfall all year they are evergreen). That said, it’s a hardy hot-weather plant and it has a high tolerance for drought.
- They tend to flower all year round in equatorial regions while elsewhere they bloom every four to six weeks.
- Bougainvillea grow best in dry soil, positioned in direct, bright sunlight. Although they need frequent fertilization they require little water once established and won’t cope well from being over-watered.
- They can be easily propagated via tip cuttings.
3. Flame Tree (Delonix Regia)
With fiery orange-and-red 8cm-long petals that fan out flamboyantly in a bright display of flowers, the aptly named Flame Tree is perfect if you’re looking for a plant that will add colour and shade to your garden.
- It loves a tropical climate and can also tolerate drought conditions, making it ideal for the UAE.
- While it reaches a standard height of five metres, it can grow up to 12, with the leaves and flowers growing at the uppermost part of the trunk. The tree's green leaves are feathery like a fern and can grow up to 50cm long, giving it a dense foliage that offers plenty of shade; it's the perfect canopy for a garden bench underneath.
- Plant in sandy soil that’s open and free-draining or in loamy soil enriched with organic matter such as household compost. Avoid heavy or clay soils.
- Do not over water with irrigation as it flowers more profusely when it’s kept slightly dry.
- During the UAE’s dry summer it might shed its leaves, however, if it’s kept slightly watered it will remain evergreen all year round.
- Propagate from seeds that have been scarified and soaked in tepid water for 24 hours before you plant them in warm, moist soil in a semi-shaded, sheltered position.
- The optimum flowering season for the Delonix regia in the Emirates is May to July.
4. Frangipani (Plumeria)
A popular plant for UAE gardens, the Frangipani or Plumeria commonly flowers with delicate white and yellow petals and dark green leaves, producing a heady fragrance. In 16th century Italy the flower was used to make a sweet-smelling perfume.
- Being a tropical plant, they can tolerate drought conditions and flourish in soil of poor quality and in direct sunlight.
- While there are 300 species of Plumeria, most are deciduous or small trees, so they’re perfect for compact gardens or terraces.
- Sphinx moths pollinate the flowers at night, which is when its pollen is at its most fragrant.
- They can be propagated by hand easily by cutting leafless stems in February or March. Dry the cuttings at the base before planting in dry soil, otherwise they will rot.
5. Tropical Hibiscus (Hibiscus Rosa-Sinensis)
Widely grown as an ornamental flower in areas of tropical weather, the Hibiscus Rosa-Sinensis is one of few species that thrives in sand. Also known as the China Rose, the flowers bloom in a variety of colours, including yellow, orange, pink and white, with single or double sets of petals.
- The Hibiscus Rosa-Sinensis loves warm and hot temperatures and won’t survive under 10°C. While it will flourish happily in the city gardens of the central and southern emirates, it may have some trouble in more rural homes near the mountains during the winter.
- Plant in sand that’s regularly fertilised with a balanced feed, which you can buy from your local garden centre.
- The plant grows well in containers, making it suitable for balconies and terraces. If potted, it must have its roots pruned and be replanted at least once every three years.
- Unfortunately, the flowers are susceptible to pests such as spider mites, which cause the leaves to turn a mottled yellow, and thrips, which make the buds fall, so you may want to buy some pest repellent.
Find more garden inspiration: