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06 Sep 2016

The Potted Desert Garden: As the Seasons Change, Check to See How Much Sun Your Plants Are Getting

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Make sure you are watching the amount of sun your pots are getting as the days grow shorter—and the temperatures get lower. Make sure you are watching the amount of sun your pots are getting as the days grow shorter—and the temperatures get lower.

Trust me: These hot days are getting shorter. The summer equinox was way back on June 20; that is when the sun started its journey north.

As we think of the sun’s journey, it’s time to start thinking about how the sun affects our potted desert gardens.

We know that our climate changes from long summer days, with daytime temperatures of 115-plus, to long winter nights, where temps regularly dip down to 30-45 degrees. In some areas, temps may drop even lower.

The sun is shifting from its northern angle in the summer, and moving more southerly now. Plants that were getting a lot of sun over the summer, if kept in the same location, may have much less sun. Some plantings on the more northern side of the house will eventually be in complete shade.

Note where your winter sun is so that your plants that do well in the shade are not blasted with rays. You also want to make sure your sun-loving plants, fruits and vegetables are getting enough sun during the cooler season.

I know this sounds like a science experiment, but if you pay attention as the sun travels from season to season, your plants will thank you. They really do want to please you!


Hints to Help Your Plants During the Changing Seasons

1. Put pots that you know will need to be moved regularly on pot dollies. Plants may need to be moved not only for the shifting sun, but for protection from the cold, too.

2. To make it easy to move wheeled pots, try to keep them on flat surfaces with no steps or gravel to traverse.

3. Move plants before you water them so they are lighter.

4. Don’t put off moving sensitive plants. Sunburn and freeze damage don’t improve over time. Parts of plants suffering from these ailments will need to be pruned.


Tips for Your Next Flower-Shopping Trip

1. Know your pots—sizes, colors and sun/shade.

2. Know your desired color scheme.

3. Grab a cart at the nursery, as well as an empty flat or carton.

4. Place your selections on the flat. Step back and look at it.

5. Stare at it, and be sure it sits right with you.

6. If something seems off, take out one plant. Look at color combinations, textures and heights. You may have too many small, flowered plants with small leaves, and that can complicate the arrangement.

A 24-inch pot with one central planting will need approximately 14 4-inch plants. If you select gallon plants, they can replace three or four smaller ones. I urge you to use 4-inch plants and not six-packs.

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

Marylee Pangman is the founder and former owner of The Contained Gardener in Tucson, Ariz. With more than 18 years of experience, she has become known as the desert’s potted garden expert. Marylee’s book, Getting Potted in the Desert, is now available. Buy it online at potteddesert.com; it’s now available on Kindle. Email her with comments and questions, or requests for digital consultations, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Follow the Potted Desert at facebook.com/potteddesert.

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