Planting a garden with your family offers loads of benefits. You can beautify your home, grow fresh produce to use in the kitchen, spend quality time together, and learn about plant biology alongside your kids. Maintaining a garden is also great for teaching kids about planning ahead and keeping up with responsibilities as they care for the plants. As you start to prepare your garden in central Arizona, consider adding these low maintenance and zone 9 tolerant plants. 

Shrubs and Ground Cover

A simple Mesa, AZ. backyard garden.

Image via Flickr by alangraham999

As you begin planning your garden, you’ll need to decide whether you want to take on a full landscaping redesign or simply plant a small veggie garden. If you’re hoping to add some shape and color to your yard, consider planting some easy to manage shrubs and ground cover plants. These types of plants typically do well along borders, fences, and house walls, but can really go anywhere. 

Yucca, lavender, Russian sage, and yarrow, all do well with little maintenance. Lavender and Russian sage are nice options for a pop of color, and they’re great for making little bouquets to give as beautifully scented gifts. Yucca and yarrow typically produce white flowers. Other easy plants for zone 9 include salvia, snake plants, and creeping juniper.


If you want to also invite birds, butterflies, and bees to the party, plant some colorful flowers. Use pictures to get the kids excited about what you’re planting and let them pick out their favorites. Once you have some blooms throughout the yard, let them do some careful clippings to create bouquets for friends, teachers, or to bring inside. Watching bees pollinate the flowers is another opportunity for a biology lesson.

Here are a few flowers that do well in zone 9 (colors included):

  • Marigolds (orange, red, white, yellow)
  • Zinnias (multi colored)
  • Wisteria (blue, purple, white)
  • Veronica (purple)
  • Sunflower (yellow)
  • Shasta Daisies (white)
  • Rhododendrons and Azaleas (purple, pink, red, white, yellow)

Depending on the amount of upkeep you want from year to year, you’ll need to decide between planting annual and perennial flowers. Annuals typically only bloom once and then die at the end of the season. Perennials come back year after year. If you plant a few annuals in outdoor pots, they can be a fun way to start your gardening season each year with the family and get the kids into an annual routine. You might even set aside a Saturday each year as your family gardening day and create some fun memories while you work together. 

Annual flowers rated for zone 9 include zinnias, marigolds, poppies, snapdragons, and Gerber daisies. Black-eyed Susans, daylilies, blazing stars, and sedum are all great perennials for zone 9 climates. Keep in mind that some annuals will actually continue to live from year to year in warmer climates, so you may just want to keep an eye on them to see how they do. 


You can have a lot of fun growing fruits if you have the space for it. Certain varieties of grapes do really well in the zone 9 regions. If you have a fence or trellis, you can train the vines to climb and end up with a beautiful display of fruit each year. Plus, building a trellis could be a fun activity to do with older kids. Fruits with woody shrubs are great to plant along the edges of your yard, and they tend to hold up well in sunny, warm climates. 

Keep an eye out for critters stealing your bounty. Some fruit bushes do well with protective netting if you’re hoping to keep all the berries and nuts for yourself. If you have young children, keep in mind that certain berry bushes can be prickly for little hands. 

Consider trying these zone 9 friendly easy to grow fruits:

  • Blueberries 
  • Raspberries
  • Figs
  • Blackberries
  • Apricots
  • Almonds
  • Watermelon
  • Cantaloupe


Whether you choose a raised or in ground vegetable garden, you’ll enjoy a quick reward for your work. Some veggies produce in as little as a month or two depending on the health of the soil. Raised gardens are great for discouraging snacking by local critters and for getting around hard-packed soil. If you have healthy, well drained soil, you may be able to simply dig up a portion of your yard to create a vegetable garden. 

Here are vegetable varieties that are easy to grow in zone 9 at various times of the year:

  • Lima, pole, and bush beans (plant in March and April)
  • Spinach, kale, lettuce (plant and harvest in cooler months)
  • Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage (plant and harvest in cooler months)
  • Potatoes, beets, onions (plant and harvest in cooler months)
  • Tomatoes (plant in February through April)
  • Sweet and hot peppers (plant in March)


If you’re planning to be in your current home long term, consider planting a tree with your kids. You can plant a very young tree or even try to grow one from seed. Local plant nurseries sell young trees and can help you learn exactly how to plant and care for them. Drought tolerant trees rated for zone 9 include ginkgo, cypress, windmill palm, and sycamore. Consider planting a fruit tree like pear, lemon, or orange to enjoy some sweet bounty once it starts producing. Keep in mind that fruit trees take a few years to produce after planting. 

Planting a tree offers a great opportunity to teach the kids about how to tell the age of a tree and how long they take to grow and even consider the history of all the trees in your neighborhood since some of the largest ones have been around for decades. 

There you have it. Our list of recommended plants for low-maintenance, kid-friendly gardens. At Crème de la Crème of Mesa, AZ, we consider all activities learning experiences when approached with growth and teaching in mind. Our programs and curriculum are focused on nurturing and developing the creative minds of kids of all ages with principles ranging from social skills to STEM and language development.