Even sun-loving plants appreciate a little shade—for example, from a lightly leafed tree, such as a mesquite tree.

We have had a hot start to the spring here in the Coachella Valley!

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 90-degree days. I have heard too many people already complaining about the heat.

Regardless, May is a good time to get your potted garden in good shape before the real saturated heat starts. Here are some tips to guide you along your way. Think about these this month before the intensity of the heat keeps you indoors.

1. It’s not too late! You can still plant summer flowers, shrubs, cactus and succulents this month. If you have a blank-slate area of your yard, consider getting out there with a few new jumbo-sized pots and some well-started summer plants—and make a major difference in your landscape. 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 systems.
  • Be sure your plants’ root balls are moist before planting.
  • Water the pots fully when you are finished with your planting (except for pots with cactus).
  • Keep a close eye on your pots during the first two weeks of growth to make sure they are getting enough water. You do not want your plants to dry out as they are getting established. Once you see new growth on the plants, you know they are off to a good start.

2. Because the desert summer sun is so intense, even sun-loving plants prefer a little shade. Place pots under a lightly leafed tree, such as a mesquite tree, for dappled light.

3. Move some of your favorite pots and plantings onto a patio or into an entryway. Getting them into 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 you will see them every day.

4. As you would expect, the key to success in your hot desert pots is water—consistent, plentiful water. If you water your pots with an irrigation system, set it to come on about 4 a.m., and water before the lines heat up in the sun. If you are watering by hand, water as close to sunrise as 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.

However, only water your potted succulents and cacti when the soil is almost dry. I use a water meter for this to make sure I am not overwatering them.

5. If you do lose some plants to the heat, don’t leave dead or dying plants in the pot. All that does is make you feel bad. My motto has always been: Better dirt than dead!

Marylee Pangman is the founder and former owner of The Contained Gardener in Tucson, Ariz. She has become known as the desert’s potted garden expert. She is available for digital consultations, and you can email her with comments and questions at potteddesert@gmail.com. Follow the Potted Desert at facebook.com/potteddesert. Get a free copy of Ten Top Tips to Desert Potted Garden Success by visiting www.potteddesert.com/m.