Five Tips for a Worry-Free Summer in your Desert Pots
We have had a hot start to the southwest U.S. desert this spring. Many of you might be saying, “What spring?” The entire southwest has been running 10 degrees above normal jumping us into an early period of the 90’s. I have heard too many people already complaining about the heat.
However, May is a good time to get your summer pots in good shape before the real saturating heat starts. Here are some tips to guide you along your way. Think about these this month before the intensity keeps you indoors.
It’s not too late you know – to plant your summer pots!
You can still plant summer flowers, shrubs, cactus and succulents this month. If there is an area that remains a blank slate, consider getting right out there with a few new jumbo-sized pots and some well-started summer plants. This one fix will make a major difference in your landscape before the intensity of the summer heat gets started. The most important things to keep in mind if you are going to create a new potted garden this month are:
- Plant early in the morning.
- Make sure your plants have healthy root system before purchasing.
- Be sure your plant’s root balls are moist before planting.
- Water the pots in fully when you finish with your planting. (except for cactus)
- Keep a close eye on your pots the first two weeks of growth to make sure they are getting enough water.
- You do not want your plants to dry out at all as they are getting established.
- Once you see new growth on the plant, you know they are off to a good start and you can adjust your watering to once daily for most summer annuals.
Provide Shade Relief for Your Summer Pots
Because the desert summer sun is so intense, even your sun-loving plants prefer a little shade. Place pots under a lightly leafed tree such as a Mesquite tree for that dappled light.
Move some of your favorite pots and plantings onto the patio or entry. Relocating them to the shade and close to your living areas will provide them with the conditions they need for summer success. Furthermore, you will more likely keep an eye on them because they are close to where you see them every day.
Watering Summer Pots
As you would expect, the key to success in your hot desert pots is water; consistent, plentiful water. If you water your pots with irrigation, set it to come on about 4:00 am and water before the lines heat up in the sun.
If you are watering by hand, water as close to sunrise that you can. Both you and your pots will love you for it. Be sure the water coming out of the hose is not hot. Water pots until the water comes out of the drain hole.
Different Rules for Potted Succulents and Cacti
Water only when the soil is almost dry. I use a water meter for this to make sure I am not overwatering them. You can pick up a water meter in any of the nurseries or most big box stores.
If you do lose some plants to the heat, don’t leave the dead or dying plants in the pot. All that does is make you feel bad. It also can keep telling you to do more work and replace the plants. My motto has always been, Better Dirt Than Dead.
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One more for the road: Rose Worries – Not to Worry!
It’s getting hot, but it can be exceptionally hot if you’re a rose bush. Although roses grow beautifully in the desert, this heat takes its toll. Don’t expect your roses to bloom in the middle of the summer, and remember to cut the amount of fertilizer in half from June through August. This practice allows your rose bushes to rest during the heat of the summer
Here are a few hints to maintain lovely rose plants over the next few months:
- Water, water, water!!! Be sure the water gets down to the roots. If possible, submerge the container in a bucket of water to saturate the soil. Once well-watered return the container to its original location.
- Mulch, mulch, mulch!!! Mulching with an organic mulch like straw, compost, chipped bark, western ground cedar, or pine needles helps keep the soil cool and retain moisture.
- Use the hose on the gentle spray nozzle setting to sprinkle your plants several times a day for added moisture and insect control.
- Do not prune the leaves. The leaves help shade the canes and hold moisture. Pack rats have been known to eat the new growth on your bushes, if this is the case, contact a pest control company. Always remember to deadhead when necessary.
- You might like to try shade cloth during the worst heat of the day. The cloth keeps the sun off, the heat down, and the humidity up.
- In September return to your regular amount of fertilizer and continue applying these nutrients until November.
- Once the monsoon rains begin, your roses will respond to nature’s rain and humidity.