One of the most asked questions about the desert southwest is “When will the wildflowers bloom?” Unfortunately, it’s not an easy question to answer. Most of the spring wildflowers are annuals and must be sown from seed anew each year. Sun, wind, water, temperature, and elevation are all factors that affect when (or if) they bloom. Ideal conditions for wildflowers do not occur often – the norm is once every five or ten years. If you would like to predict how next spring’s blooms will fare, several pieces of information must be monitored. Rain is needed in small doses over the winter. Sparse rainfall doesn’t allow for seed germination; too much rain could rot or wash away the seeds. Temperature is also critical. Warm days are a good indicator of blooms, but if it gets too hot (over 85 degrees), the seedlings may be scorched. Cool nights slow the growth of grasses and mustards so the seedlings can thrive, but very cold temperatures are also bad, for obvious reasons.
Wildflowers have adapted to survival in the desert with their brief appearance each spring, and hopefully you will be lucky enough to witness their beauty. Spring is the optimum time for wildflower viewing, although wildflowers can be seen in late summer, early fall, and even winter. The Desert Botanical Garden Wildflower Hotline is available in March and April (480) 481-8134. The Boyce-Thompson Southwestern Arboretum (520) 689-2811 provides information as well, and the National Park Service Website is a good resource.
As a general rule, the lower elevations (1,000 – 3,000 feet) optimum blooming period for wildflowers is February through April. In higher elevations (3,000-5,000 feet) that window is March through May. You will see cacti blooming in the lower elevations March through May, and in higher elevations, April through June. Joshua Trees and Yuccas generally bloom in March and April.
Although we can’t guarantee which week will be the best to view desert wildflowers, we can guarantee that if you allow us to arrange your desert RV trip, that will be your only unknown. And whether you see the flowers at their absolute peak or not, your RV vacation will be spectacular! Call our trip consultants (800-247-0970) to start planning your early spring desert getaway. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Henkel.