Challenge #33 ~ Proper Plant Selection

Read the blog post on the October Theme – GARDENING

Photo by Joshua Lanzarini on Unsplash

It’s time for the fun part, now that we have prepared healthy soils as the very foundation for our happy healthy gardens we can select and choose the proper plants that will not only survive but also thrive. 

Fearless Gardening for Climate Action – Selecting the right plants for a cheerful yet water-sensitive green oasis from scratch.

Who has such a vision? Or determination? We do, and here is how plants play an important role! 

Choosing plant species that are adapted to local conditions is half of the secret for creating low maintenance gardens for year-round joy. The debate about native plants versus adapted plants is important to understand. In Qatar, population growth and urban development have reshaped urban conditions and therefore also the conditions for plants. Plants other than natives are now planted in parks and along roads because excess wastewater (treated sewage effluent) is available to water these urban green spaces to harvest the many benefits they provide above ground as well as below ground. 

Trees, as we all know, are a source of life and are excellent filters especially for urban air. Leaves take up pollutants and fine dust particles. Spending time near trees gives us energy and literally improves physical and mental wellbeing. Studies show that patients with view access to trees and green spaces recover faster and enjoy a lot of benefits, including lower stress.

So which trees shall we plant to start our urban forests? An all-time favorite is the medicinal Neem tree (Azadirachta indica). Neem can grow an impressive canopy for shade on as little water as 600mm per year. This drought tolerance together with its mosquito repellent oils make the neem a preferred tree species here in Qatar. Delonix regia, or commonly called Flamboyant Tree, is also commonly planted in parks and along roads because they are good shade trees and are very attractive when they explode with bold orange flowers. 

Get started with these tips:

Select plants that need less water. See the table below for plant suggestions to try and experiment.

Achieve a permanent groundcover with perennial plants to: 

  • continuously add organic matter by allowing plant roots and micro bacteria to work together.
  • absorb more carbon from the atmosphere by keeping the soils undisturbed.
  • reduce water loss through evaporation and thereby protecting the soils from drying out. 
  • prevent weed seeds from germinating and growing.
  • maximize plant foliage per square foot of soil to filter more dust out of the air. 

IMPORTANT – When planting neem or other young trees follow these directions and ask gardeners, helpers, and neighbors to work with us! 

  • Stake young trees to support the tree trunk to grow strong and straight. 
  • Keep crown tightly pruned until the tree trunk is strong enough to support the crown. 
  • Prune flowering trees in the fall to develop flowers in spring.

Be aware of invasive plants and trees that may grow fast but raise havoc in our neighborhoods. For instance, it is prohibited to plant the Conocarpus tree in urban areas of Qatar because their aggressive root systems destroy sewers and infrastructure. These trees need to be removed and replaced with beneficial trees.

Quick Guide to beneficial plants for Qatar 

GroundcoverShrubsTrees
GazaniaOleanderNeem
RhoeoJatrophaPlumeria
WedeliaThevitiaDelonix regia
HerbsBougainvilleaFicus religiosa
LemongrassDodoniaFicus nitida
WildflowersPennisetumVitex green
Zoysia japonica (grass)HibiscusCallistemon
Paspalum vaginatumLantanaTamarix

Selecting canopy trees that thrive on less water makes us fearless gardeners for climate action and has a profound impact on sustainable urban development and a more resilient Qatar on many levels. 

Plants are amazing living organisms! Plant leaves breath in the carbon dioxide we exhale (or emit into the atmosphere) and give back fresh oxygen into the air for us to inhale and live off. The Amazon is called the Lungs of the Earth for a reason! With our fearless gardening, let’s create our own little urban forests and oases for carbon dioxide uptake, supporting Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) #11 Sustainable Cities and Communities, #13 Climate Action, and #15 Life on Land. 

Yes, you, too, can make a difference in the world, one person at a time.

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