Category Archives: Potted Garden Design

Low Water Desert Color – It Works!

Planning for a garden of color in dry and hot climates can be challenging. Especially if you prefer not being wedded to your container garden and the garden hose. Choosing low water bloomersDry Pot in Summer Desert Heat will not only provide you with an easier solution other than cactus but will give you that desired living color focal point in your desert landscape all summer long.

Choose low water plants that require similar light and water and those that will do well in your hot climate.

  1. Use quality potting soil that retains moisture AND drains well – I know it sounds like an oxymoron but it is true!
  2. For a combination plantings, plan to use plants that grow into three different heights – tall, mid-range and trailing.
  3. Plant early in the day and water your pot thoroughly after planting.
  4. Keep the pot moist until you see new growth. Then you will want to water the pot every two to three days. Water until you see water coming out the bottom of the pot. Test the moisture level at the root level which with these plants should be down about 6-8 inches.

Be mindful of the moisture in the pot throughout the summer as the heat escalates.

Plants used in this combination include: (Clockwise from Back Left)

Gopher Plant (Euphorbia rigida)

Blood Flower (Asclepias currasavica) Of the Milkweed family, Monarch butterflies need to feed on milkweed plants as caterpillars and so do not be surprised if you find a Monarch chrysalis on this plant

Parrot’s Beak (Lotus berthelotii)

Lantana (Lantana camara)

Note – except for the Parrot’s Beak, the plants in this pot are critter resistant!

Favorite Desert Color Works in Pots Too

We see Bougainvillea all over our desert landscapes. With a larger number of patio homes, these large plants are often too unwieldy to support in the patio landscape. Desert Dwellers often ask about planting Bougainvillea in pots so they can enjoy them year-round in hot climates. However, Bougainvillea are seriously particular, so follow these tips to increase your chances of success!

  1. Choose the right sized container. You need one at least 22” in height and diameter and one that is heavy with a wide bottom to reduce the risk of tipping. Be sure there are drainage holes in the pot.
  2. Give bougainvillea plants well-drained soil. Bougainvillea does not require high quality soils. Use a garden soil that is coarser with organic material and even gravely as potting soil is too rich for these plants.
  3. Do not disturb the roots when removing from the nursery can. Handle carefully, cutting the can away from the root ball rather than pulling the plant from the can.
  4. Position the bougainvillea plant in the best place. Bougainvillea is a sun-lover and it will grow best in a full sun position, in the open, facing due south. Heat is not an issue for bougainvillea.
  5. Water sparingly. Bougainvillea plants weaken with too much watering, ending up with heavy leaf growth in place of flowers
  6. Prune. Bougainvillea plants are prolific growers and need good pruning to force blooming:
  7. Wait for the first colorful bracts to form and fall off in spring
  8. Once they fall, prune excess growth
  9. Fertilize with a high phosphate fertilizer. This will cause new bloom on the shorter flowering spurs
  10. Repeat during the flowering season as needed.
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4 Tips to a Stunning Winter Container Garden

 Are your winter desert gardens giving you a showcase?

As the desert moves into the second half of winter, your pots should be starting to really show off. In spite of the cold temperatures over the holidays, February’s potential warming will spur your seasonal annuals to bloom beautifully for you!

You may have heard me say this before  New desert gardeners often say, “You can’t have flowers in the winter!” I always felt that statement was from their experience back home in cold winter country. I would also discover that they were trying to grow annuals that are not our winter flowers.

By the way, if you are looking for lists of flowers that do work in the harsh desert climate, check out my book, Getting Potted in the Desert.

Follow these tips to have a gorgeous riot of color the rest of the winter.

  1. Cover your pots when there are forecasts for below freezing temperatures. You need to know your micro climates around your home. If you are in a cold pocket, you will need to cover even when the forecast is above 32.
  2. Not sure of your temps? Pick up a digital thermometer with a readout memory at your local hardware store.
  3. Be sure that the soil of ornamentals is damp before going into a freeze. Do not water succulents however.
  4. Cover the plants/pots with frost cloth or blankets. Do not use towels or other materials that will become laden with water if it rains. Certainly, do not use plastic.
  5. Remove cloths after temps rise above 40.
  6. Fertilize your potted flowers and ornamentals every two weeks with a water soluble fertilizer dissolved in water. Spray both the plants and the soil with the nutrient rich mixture. Water with this deeply.
  7. Deadhead spent flowers all the way back to the originating stem regularly.
  8. Be sure your pots have enough water but are not saturated continually. Soil drying rates depend on:
    • The size of your pots
    • How much sun they receive
    • Day and night temperatures
    • Shade provided by the plants themselves keeping the soil cooler
    • Windy days

You might need to monitor this on a regular basis. But if your pots are doing well with an abundance of flowers, just keep doing what you are doing.

Have realistic expectations. You need to be using the best plants and flowers for your climate and conditions.

  1. Don’t expect plants like Vinca and Tomatoes to survive a cold winter.
  2. Snapdragons and Petunias will stop blooming when it is really chilly.
  3. Annuals considered to be hot climate winter performers may still freeze succumbing to the cold. Lobelia and Geraniums will be the first to go.

Take some time to devise the methods you need for your garden to become the envy of your neighbors.

 

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“Back Home” Gardens Turn Into Desert Surprises

Did you grow up in the desert? I didn’t and a huge number of people I have met over the last 20 years are not from the dry, hot climate we have come to love. We came from ‘up north’, ‘back east’ or ‘out west.’ We may have gardened easily in these regions with ample rain, plenty of sun, simple conditions. Except maybe for deer, that is.

Many transplanted gardeners yearn for their gardens from back home. Often we think – it’s just not possible to create the bountiful and joyful garden that we had in our milder climates; at least in the summer. Now, faced with the challenges of the desert, we might give up and not even bother once we see the thermometer hitting the 95o mark.

Don’t Let Your Pots Go Empty All Summer

Today I want to give you permission to try something different. I want your pots to not only survive the desert heat but have gardens that thrive all summer long.  Like something that you loved back home.

The opening photo is a bed of coleus. These wonderful, colorful leafy plants are being hybridized to handle increasingly hot climates. Some even can take a moderate amount of sun. I suggest you plant them when the nights are still slightly cool in order to become established before the heat sets in and be sure to choose a location that gets morning sun only and then providing them with ample water.

 

Coleus in Full Sun Desert PotThis second picture of coleus IS in full sun in the higher elevations of the mid-desert. Imagine how this mound of plantings shade its  soil maintaining a cooler temperature for its roots.

The pot is about 28” in diameter and holds an abundant volume of soil that will insulate the roots. It is amazing that even in this all-day sun setting, it thrived!

In the low desert such as Palm Springs and Phoenix, I would advise you to place this pot where it will be in the shade by 10am.

In the high desert, plant coleus after all danger of frost is past and feel free to place in sunny locations.

 

Bed Of Marigolds

Use the principles listed in the previous paragraph and the tips below to tempt fate with plants that you would love to try again. Don’t spend your entire savings on your first attempt though, work with only a few plants at a time. For instance, in this next photo is a bed of Marigolds. Experts have said; ‘Do not endeavor to grow Marigolds all summer in the desert.’

This photo was taken in Tucson, Arizona in August a few years back. The bed was planted with 4 inch transplants in the early spring in full sun. As the sun made its northern journey across the horizon, the bed was positioned so it was tucked into shade from the short wall behind it. With plenty of water and good air circulation, the marigolds thrived.

 

4 Tips to Stretch your “Back Home” plants into the Desert

  1. Choose some of your most resilient favorites.
  2. Plant early in the summer season. Best to plant in pots before the night temperatures consistently reach the 70’s.
  3. Provide consistent and abundant water. (except succulents such as those that come from California)
  4. Start small and gain experience.

Success takes three elements; the right spot with the right conditions, your love for the plants and a little amount of luck.

What plants from “back home” have you succeeded in planting, stretching the limits of your desert garden?

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Getting Potted In
The De
sert Book

Marylee Pangman shares her wealth of information gained from 20 + years creating successful Potted Gardens in the Desert