Hold Off Planting Summer Flowers in Desert Pots

Do your March Diligence before Planting Summer Flowers


3 Reasons to Hold Off Planting Summer Flowers

1.Frosted Perennials Remind Gardeners to Wait Until April to Plant Summer Flowers

The nights are still too cold to plant summer flowers.  You think just because I live on Kauai I don’t know what’s going on in the dry and hot regions of the country? This week in desert communities, nights are predicted to be in the 40’s plus or minus 5 degrees depending on your elevation. Summer annuals need a strong start to survive – no Thrive all summer long. They need time to grow their root system before the heat begins.

2.Beautiful Pinks Still Grace Three Pots of Winter Plantings

Your winter flower should still be looking lovely and scented annuals are filling the air with their fragrances. I am picturing the fragrance of Allysum with Stock mixed in with Jasmines and Citrus flowers. A good pruning or dead heading will help you get them to satisfy you for another few weeks. Give them a shot of fertilizer too (water soluble) to be sure they are well fed.

3. Rich Blue Pot with Yellow Winter Annuals in Desert Full Sun

The nurseries may have a few early summer flowers tempting your wallet. But they are typically young plants, not always well rooted. You will have a much better selection if you want 4 – 5 more weeks. Also, landscapers will be buying out the first round of plants from local growers and nurseries. Let them have first dibs and wait for the second round as the nights warm up.

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Dramatic Seasonal Changes with Just 3 Pots… even in the desert

 

Would you believe something as simple as three pots could make a remarkable story in your desert garden?

And that you can change on a whim?
Now is a perfect time to plan for your living color garden in your hot, dry climate.
Start with just three pots and have 365 days of color.

 

Pictured here is a blank slate of a common, albeit boring fence in a desert backyard. It borders a grassy area adjacent to a rocked space that is the view from the back door and kitchen crying for the ‘right something’ to be added.

Enter – a collection of three pots and two perpetual kids playing. This combination quickly became a fun garden ‘play area’ and a view from the house and the outdoor garden room.

If you look behind the pots, there is a lower level room that will look up to the massive display of color!

This winter combination includes complementary colors of yellow, blue and burgundy, planted merely with Pansies and two varieties of Lobelia.

Next, we come to summer – desert style! As you can see from this picture, the trees on the east side of the pots now provide some intermittent shade to the pots.

The Vinca, Salvia and Chartreuse and Blackie Sweet Potato Vine (SPV) are all sun-loving plants, but anything will do better with some respite from the intense summer sun.

Notice our ballplayers tucked in the leaves of the two shades of the SPV. It seems as though they have not given up their game as they know to stay in the shade!

 

 

Back to another winter season and the out-of-the-picture eastern tree has grown to provide even more shade for the pots. A long-living perennial (Butterfly Iris) and a shrub, Golden Euonymus have been added as permanent stature plants in the back two pots. The front pot is filled with cold-loving Cyclamen that will survive most desert frosts.

 

This last picture brings us back the full circle to another summer. You can now see the golden colors of the Euonymus as it reflects the early morning sun.

Since the pots are continuing to be protected from the sun by the mature tree, more shade plants have been added including Begonia, Bacopa, and Geraniums.

The hottest pot is the back yellow pot where Calibrachoa and Dusty Miller are added for some bold contrasting shades. The back two pots will also shade the front pot in the later afternoon sun.

You can find ways to create shade by calculated alignment of the pots in relation to the movement of the sun.

Just as our two kids playing ball have their own story to tell, as you start out with just three pots,
be part of creating your memories in your garden.

 

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Bringing the Tropics Home to Your Desert Oasis

January is the perfect time to start planning a desert oasis in a new area of your  container garden. The ideas listed below will also work in areas of dry climates, reasonably mild winters and hot, dry summers. What better way to create an oasis garden than to look at our patios for the magical setting for morning coffee or afternoon cocktails.

With freezing nights typical during desert winters, we can stretch our plant choices a little further, if we provide most of the plants with heavily filtered sun, afternoon shade and cold protection starting at 45 degrees.

Many plants that we have come to know as ‘house plants” are actually tropical plants that cannot survive the cold temperatures that most of the United States experiences. We are familiar with names like Pothos, Dracaena, Crotons, Philodendrum and other common house plants. In full shade and with cold protection if the temperatures go below 40, these are tropical wonders for our patio oasis.

Pictured below are a Multi-Trunked Draceana, a Golden Xanadu and a Fiddle Leaf Ficus. All of these plants need good cold weather protection with more than just frost cloths. Heat lamps, moving into a garage, an Arizona room or even into the house for the winter will help protect these tropical plants.

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Still Time to Get Potted for the Holidays!

Potted – in your container gardens that is!

Last Minute Ideas for your pots

Plant annuals under or around your potted permanent plants.
  • Go to the nursery and choose flowers that go with your holiday color scheme.
  • Choose from the list below or get help from your local nursery staff
  • Plant these plants right into the soil, adding a little time release fertilizer (scant handful)
  • Water in after planting.
For your Sun Plantings, add Red and White Annuals such as:
  • Petunias
  • Stock
  • Million Bells
  • Dianthus – try the newer variety of Amazon or other super tall Dianthus
  • Nemesia
  • Diaiscia
  • Geraniums (part shade too)
  • Snapdragons (Whites and Burgundy – no red)
  • Pansies and Viola (Whites and Burgundy – no red)

Shade Plantings – Red and White Annuals:
  • Primrose and Cyclamen are your best bets in full shade.
  • Geraniums best in morning or filtered sun
  • Poinsettias are of course wonderful and with all the new varieties, you have more choices than only red.
  • Paper Whites, and Amaryllis are great nursery plants that you can use in pots during the holidays.
  • If there is a dip in temperatures to 40° or below, you will want to bring tender tropical plants inside.

If you only have a little time

Simply place a potted plant (or several) on top of the soil of the larger plant and dress it with potted ivy, garland, pine boughs, lights and anything else you have on hand to finish it off. This is a great way to use those tender nursery plants that you might have to bring inside.
Pots on your patio or near your front door are a great place to add candles (maybe the flameless variety) inside chimneys among the plantings. This would be a great addition when you are expecting guests.
No matter how much or how little you do, allow your child’s eye the freedom to create the look you want for the holidays. I know I have kept within the traditional red and white color spectrum but if you want to work with blues, all whites, gold’s or silver’s – look to those colors when you visit the nursery. I know you will find something that just tickles you.

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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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Save Money with these 6 Tips for your Container Gardening Shopping

Do you have a plan before you go flower shopping for your pots?

Marylee choosing flowers for her container gardens

  1. Know your pots. (Sizes, color and sun/shade)
  2. Know your desired color scheme
  3. Grab a cart at the nursery and an empty flat or carton.
  4. Place your selections on the flat and then step back and look at it.
  5. Stare at it hard and long and be sure it sits right with you.
  6. If something seems just not right, take out one plant. Look at color combinations, textures, and heights. Often you have too many small flowered plants with small leaves and that can complicate the arrangement.

A 24” pot with one central planting will need approximately fourteen (14) “4” inch” plants. If you select any gallon plants, they can replace 3-4 smaller ones. I urge you to use 4” plants and not six-packs. (Ask me why!)

Important: When you go shopping and bring your plants home, water them in well and plant as soon as possible – as in the same day. If you have to wait until the next morning, place them in the shade to rest until the morning.


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Don’t neglect your hot garden now

Desert Red Geraniums and Silver.potteddesert.comDid that headline make you feel guilty? I know it’s been/is hot, and humid in many areas and for some, monsoons have brought major rains. Who wants to go outside to do more than the absolutely necessary tasks?

Set out to accomplish these few manageable jobs and you will prepare your container garden to become a beautiful fall showcase as the nights begin to cool off. Trust me – I’ve been there.

To Do In Your Pots This Month

Pre-Fall Tasks to Complete in the Next Couple Weeks

  1. Water pots deeply if not getting ample rainfall.

  2. Use a water soluble fertilizer every two weeks.

  3. Pull all dead plants.

  4. Towards the end of the month, cut back overgrown plants to new growth.

  5. Check your geraniums to see if there is new growth. If so, cut back any dead wood to that point. Don’t overwater them but give a loud cheer!

  6. Plan on planting some late season annuals when there is consistent afternoon cloud cover or nights get into the 70’s AND when the nurseries have suitable flowers.

 

Look for flowers from my shoulder season flower list in my book. “Getting Potted in the Desert"

If you don’t have a copy, order one today and have it before it is time to plan your fall and winter desert container garden.Cover Web final

Print and Kindle Editions available on Amazon.


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I will be continuing to present my container garden classes at the Tucson Botanical Gardens – via WEBCAST.

Sign up just like you do for any classes and go to the Gardens. I will be live via the big screen!

Upcoming Schedule: Click on the link to go to the description page (be patient – loading can be a little slow.)

All classes are 1:00-2:30 pm AZ time

Thursday, Oct 20: A Flourishing Potted Garden – the 101 of Container Gardening in the Desert

Thursday, Oct. 27: Great Winter Potted Gardens

Thursday, Nov. 10: A Flourishing Potted Garden – the 101 of Container Gardening in the Desert

Thursday, Dec. 1: Container Gardens for the Holidays


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Order your copy of Getting Potted in the Desert Today!

Receive additional in-depth updates – FREE and special prices on new products and servicesI hope you stay in touch with me!

by Marylee, The Desert’s Potted Garden Expert!

 

 

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3 Conditions Where Hand Watering Your Hot Container Garden is the Right Choice

You decide to do a couple pots. You know we need the soil and pots and plants. As our excitement about our project escalates, do we think about how to water them once they are in place?
In many climates, water is not often an issue. In cities like Seattle where there are 340 days of rain, potted gardens only need occasional supplemental water. However, as our climates continue to change with more and more areas experiencing drought conditions, we do need to consider how we are going to get the water to our containers.
You might be thinking to just use a watering can or a hose or possibly your existing or new irrigation system. Now I am not going to get into irrigating your pots in this post. That is a much larger subject than I am willing to tackle today. But I will leave you with the knowledge that 90% of the time when using irrigation, you need a dedicated valve and line to water pots correctly.
You might also have recently seen olla’s or glass balls that distribute water as the soil dries. I don’t have much personal experience with these. Having lived in the middle desert for 20 years I am somewhat leery of possible solutions where I cannot be sure that the water or moisture will be distributed throughout the full body of soil. I understand that this method is based on old ways of ‘the early days’ of gardening for food.
Let’s move back to the original topic of when it is best to hand water.
Potted Desert Potted SucculentsCacti and Succulents
When you are potting up cactus and other succulents, hand watering is definitely the way to go. The frequency of water needed depends on the specific plant, the size of the pot and the amount of sun it receives every day. A basic guide is to water cacti and succulents monthly during the cooler seasons and bi-weekly in hot months. It is best to err on too little water, not over-watering.
Fountain Grass
Ornamental Plants
For ornamental shrubs, trees, vegetables, herbs and flowers, I recommend hose watering rather than using a bucket or watering can. A hose with a good nozzle can provide a rain shower that is not only gentle in its application but thorough in distributing water to the entire soil bed.
 
Hand watering recommended for Container Gardens
Preventative Care
A hose nozzle also provides a jet spray which will improve plant health when used daily during hot spells to aerate the plant and send off any pests that are lurking in the cool shade of the leaves. The mist setting on the nozzle will provide cooling respite for hot afternoons when the soil itself has not dried out enough to need to water.
Watch for next Friday’s blog where I will talk about placing your pots to make watering easier.

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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