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29 Sep 2015

The Potted Desert Garden: The Simplest Way to Start a Garden

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Let’s go for succulents and cactus! They’re easy-care, low-water and beautiful for any landscape. Plus, succulents and their sub-families are wonderful in pots. When you are frustrated with the struggles of Palm Springs’ constant heat, it can be a relief to have a strong plant to count on in your garden.

The three pots above demonstrate a sun-and-shade combination. The tall euphorbia in the back requires shade with no reflected light and heat. The two plants in the front lower pots—ponytail palm and firesticks—can take the sun, but will do better with afternoon shade in the summer. All of these plants are frost-tender, but that is a rare concern here, as long as the plants are placed on a somewhat covered patio.

If you still are longing for some added color throughout the heat, the two black pots in the first photo below offer one example of a low-water solution. The coordinated golden color of the golden variegated yucca marginata and golden barrels are set off by the bright blue recycled glass. The glass, instead of landscape rock, is a nice alternative.

The Spanish dagger, in the second picture below, is a show-stopper in a pot with a strong presence on its own. In green or, as shown, in the variegated variety, the dagger will have guests asking you what is it—and where did you get it? The gracefully bending fronds give your home a tropical feel without the water needs of true tropical plants.

A little extra care that will ensure the overall health of the plant:

• Place the plant in a mostly shady area with good air circulation.

• At least once a week, jet-spray the leaves, being sure to get into the cups that are formed where the leaves originate from the stem. This is a safe-haven for pesky bugs—unless you insist on their discomfort.

As we approach the heat relief of October, now is the perfect time to plant some succulents in pots. Planting now will give your plants plenty of time to acclimate to their new location and prepare for next summer. But let’s not talk about that yet! Let’s enjoy our beautiful weather all winter long!

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. Marylee’s book, Getting Potted in the Desert, has just been released. Buy it online at potteddesert.com. Email her with comments and questions 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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