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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Do you hate it when you look through your yard and see a fence or block wall?

A majority of our desert homes are cordoned off by walls. These walls can seem restrictive—but they certainly do not have to be prison-like. Walls are linear—that is, they go on in a line. Even when the wall is curved or turns a corner, it is still linear (just not straight). Unless your design is minimalist in its truest, purest form, this can get rather tedious.

If your walls are boring, be creative while enhancing the view from your home. This can certainly be done with landscaping: Trees, shrubs and even vines can go far in limiting the view of the wall. Structures such as a gazebo, shade sails or even a planting shed can also move the eye away from the wall.

But sometimes, we just don’t want to put more things in the ground—or perhaps we don’t have the ground to put plants in, if there is a solid “floor” of pavers, bricks, flagstone, concrete or tile.

Well … container gardens can come to the rescue!

When your home has a wide backyard with a wall or, as is the case in the two pictures below, a metal fence, you can add potted plants to serve any purpose you want.

If you have a view beyond the barrier, you do not want to block it—instead, you want to lead the eye beyond it. With the large pots as a backdrop to the pool, the viewer is encouraged to look from the front pots, to the pool, on to the back pots, and then off to the distant mountain view. If a guest visiting this home in the “after” picture were asked whether there was a wall or fence around the yard … that guest might not even remember!

Not all of us have wide backyards, of course. Smaller homes often come with diminutive yards, patios or courtyards. In community developments, these spaces are always bounded by walls of some sort. These walls can give you a boxed in feeling—a feeling that does not make you want to spend a lot of time in these outdoor living areas.

Once again, you can use a container garden to soften the setting, as well as create a small living feature that will attract birds—especially when you add a water feature. People often think that they need a water source to have a fountain. However, you only need power and a way to fill the fountain, which is easily accomplished with a hose or bucket. Be sure you don’t let the pump run dry, though.

Notice in the picture above how the shadows of a nearby tree cast interesting effects on the wall. As the tree moves in the desert breezes, these shadows will cool the area and provide a tropical feel.

Also, some of us have “seat walls” that are so long that we’ll never have enough guests to fill them. Many builders use these seat-height walls as dividers to create different “rooms” on a patio. Well, I’ll bet we can come up with even more ways to put them to good use.

Some seat walls are built into an outdoor “room.” I once worked on an al fresco dining area enclosed by full and half walls in a U-shape, with a large barbecue on one side. Between the dining table and chairs as well as the banco, this corner was not missed when the planters were added.

Sometimes all it takes to change up your viewpoints is to look at what you already have. You do not always have to go shopping for new pots and plants. Think about adding some metal art; hanging pots from the wall in shadier areas; or even painting the wall. A little creativity and imagination is all it takes. Just be sure though to make necessary adjustments for the desert. We are not going to put a wax candle on a sconce in the sun … right?

Your May To-Do List

1. Plant summer flowers in pots and beds.

2. Monitor irrigation and watering as heat rises, especially with newly added plants.

3. Place shade cloth over tender vegetables and herbs, like tomatoes and basil, especially in the low desert.

4. Fertilize citrus trees around Mother’s Day. Water in thoroughly.

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, is now available. 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.

Published in Potted Desert Garden

When faced with the pending summer warm-up of their desert homes, people often ask: How should I water my potted gardens as the days grow hotter? As we leave winter’s slightly cooler months, we need to be prepared to adjust our watering each day, until we settle into consistent temperatures as spring blasts into summer.

I say this, because the temperatures could be in the mild 70s one week—and then get pumped into the upper 80s or even 90s in a day’s time. As we enjoy our wonderful winter flowers, we hope to get a couple more months of splendor from them, so we need to make sure they are moist enough to make it through the hotter days—but not overly wet when it cools off.

If you are hand-watering or have your pots on an irrigation system, adjustments are not hard to make, as long as you are mindful. Being mindful means exploring your garden on a regular basis, especially as the seasons change. Take your coffee or tea out in the mornings, and check your pots to make sure they are each doing well.

Our plants have the greatest chance of survival if they are healthy before the heat hits. Proper water and regular feeding (every two weeks with a water-soluble fertilizer) will provide them with the best conditions possible for this challenge.

With fully grown winter flowers and plants now shading the soil, I would expect you are watering your larger pots (greater than 22 inches, that is) every other day in the morning. Check your pots on the non-watering day to make sure the top 6 inches of soil have not dried out. The roots of flowers planted in the fall should be at least this deep, so that is where you want them damp. They should be OK if the top soil line is a little dry.

A water meter is a handy tool to have; otherwise, just insert a pencil. If the pencil comes out with soil clinging to it, the soil is moist. The water-meter reading will be between medium and dry before water is needed. If you do find them dry that far down, be sure to give them a good soak—meaning that water flows out of the drain hole in the bottom of the pot. The general guide for hand-watering is 30 seconds for each 18 inches of soil diameter, with your hose set to a gentle-shower setting.

Irrigation run times will depend on your system and emitters. A dedicated pot line is typically set for five to 10 minutes each day of operation. I have seen some systems running only three minutes, with ample water delivered to the soil. As I said, it depends on your water-delivery methods. You must make sure you understand how to run the system and make adjustments as needed. They best way to learn is to practice making changes every day until you are so comfortable with its operation that you could coach someone over the phone.

While you are out there being mindful, take time to smell the flowers!


Planning for a Delightful Year-Round Pot

I have often talked about planting trees in pots—but a tree I have left off my list, at least until now, is the pineapple guava (pictured below). It’s actually a shrub, but this plant is often grown as a patio tree, keeping its size in a pot to 6 feet. We won’t necessarily see flowers or fruit on the tree due to the absence of the chilling time required to produce fruit, but the gray-green leaves with silvery-white undersides bring a striking and unique hue to your yard. They’re similar in color to the leaves of an olive tree.

Pineapple guavas, like all potted trees, should be put into a pot at least 26 inches in interior diameter. This will give the roots enough soil to stretch out and provide the plant with the moisture and nutrients it needs to thrive. They are not fast-growers, so I suggest you select a plant in a 5-gallon nursery container.

Plant them in a good potting soil that drains well. Similar to Mediterranean plants, pineapple guavas do not like wet feet. They can take full sun, but they will look better if given some afternoon summer shade.

Don’t be fooled by the drought-tolerant listing: You do not want the tree to dry out. If it does get too dry, the leaves will let you know by dropping off the plant. (Remember my “be mindful” mantra!)

The pineapple guava is frost-tender in mid-desert regions, but in the low desert, it will be rather comfortable all winter long. If we happen to get down to 35 degrees or lower, it would not mind a little jacket, in the form of a light blanket. Take it off the next morning after the sun is up.

As seen in the accompanying picture, the Guava can be underplanted with seasonal flowers—making for pure beauty when supported by the perfect pot.


Your March To-Do List

  • Monitor irrigation and watering. Be Mindful!
  • Deadhead faithfully, and selectively prune longer branches, especially in petunias.
  • Use your water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks with a hose applicator.
  • Clean up plant debris, including dead leaves and broken succulent stems.
  • Begin fertilizing roses.

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, is now available. 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. The Potted Desert Garden now appears monthly.

Published in Potted Desert Garden

Bountiful color or elegant statements? Whichever you choose, these three beautiful, perennial, evergreen plants take less work, less water and less summer aggravation than many other garden options.

The boxwood, Texas mountain laurel and ponytail palm each can serve as a focal point on their own, while the boxwood and laurel can be under-planted in the cooler winter months with colorful annuals. During the summer months, add water—and they’ll live on. No pruning is needed during those hot months, because every branch on the plant serves itself with shade. Add a little fertilizer monthly to keep the plants healthy during those long summer days, and they should remain in fine form.

Pots to fit the plant

Because these plants are slow-growing, the roots will not take over the pot quickly, so you can plan on leaving the plants in their new homes for several years. However, you need to be sure you are planting them in the correct size container to begin with.

Purchase a five gallon plant. Since these plants are slow-growing, you don’t want to start with a miniscule plant and be waiting until your kids or grandkids are grown for it to amount to anything. A reputable, local nursery should be able to give you a hand in picking out an attractive plant.

The boxwood can go into a 20-24 inch pot, while I would put the mountain laurel or ponytail palm in a 24-inch pot to start. The reason: You can trim the roots of the boxwood as it approaches being root-bound, whereas the ponytail palm will be most happy if left in the same pot for a very long time. You may find the Texas mountain laurel in shrub or tree form, and in either case, with its stature, it deserves a larger pot, such a 24-inch one. However, you can decide depending on the size of the tree.

If you’re not planning to plant any flowers in these pots, choose pots that add to the décor—make them as special as your plant selection. The boxwood has a deep green leaf and no substantial flowers, so your pot could be a brighter color that the green complements.

The laurel flowers for a couple of weeks in the spring with clusters of purple, grape-jelly-scented flowers that will remind you of Wisteria. Although short-lived, you will want to keep the color of the flowers in mind when selecting your pot.

The ponytail palm is a very stately plant that just asks to be showcased in a pot whose width supports the breadth of the canopy of the tree form.

Caring for the plants

Plant the boxwood and Texas mountain laurel using quality potting soil, and add some fertilizer to the mix. Use cactus soil for the ponytail palm.

Be sure to plant each of these plants at the same soil height they had in the nursery can. Keep the ponytail palm high in the pot so it is positioned like it is on a stage: Keep that bulbous stem up and out of the moist soil so it is supported. Add some stone to finish the look and provide added protection to the stem.

Press the soil down firmly as you add each 12 inches to remove air pockets and reduce the risk of the soil level dropping. Once planted, water thoroughly so that the entire volume of soil is wet.

During the warmer and hot months, blast the plants with the jet setting on your hose nozzle from about four feet away to rid the plant of dust and pests. Do this once a week or more as you walk around your yard. This is really important to deter spider mites during the hot months.

The boxwood and Texas mountain laurel respond well to pruning. However, don’t prune off the seed pods of the laurel, because they are next spring’s flowers. The plants should be kept moist; never allow the soil to completely dry out.

If the plant becomes root-bound—you will know this is the case if water runs right through the roots immediately, and the plant is starting to look sad—you can prune the roots by a third and put it back in the same pot with fresh potting soil. This is more likely to happen with the boxwood as opposed to the laurel.

The ponytail palm is actually neither a palm nor a tree, but a succulent in the agave family. This plant only needs water when almost completely dry, as it stores water in the “bulb.” If the bulb looks shriveled, then give it a solid, long drink. Test the soil down low in the pot with a piece of metal or a 1-inch-diameter pole to see if the soil is moist.

This month is a great time to plant any of these. The winter climate of Coachella Valley will not put them at serious risk of any frost damage. However, those living in higher elevations will want to protect the ponytail palm if the nighttime temperatures approach freezing.

Enjoy these plants for years to come in your desert potted garden!

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. The Potted Desert Garden now appears monthly. Below: Texas mountain laurel with snapdragons.

Published in Potted Desert Garden

We all move pretty fast these days.

I’m not talking about a physical race (although a lot of Coachella Valley residents are runners and bikers). What I mean is that over the last 50 years, life’s pace has gotten more and more hectic. Even many retirees I come across are very busy.

On the flip side, there is a movement toward “slow food,” across the country and even the world. This movement “officially” started in 1986 in Italy. The slow-food movement strives to build a region’s cuisine and encourages the local farming of plants, seeds and proteins distinctive of the local ecosystem.

As a result, more and more restaurants are sourcing local ingredients. There has also been a huge upswing in home gardens with vegetables and herbs, as well as an influx of chickens at home—and even some home beekeepers!

Those of us who don’t want to have a miniature farm at home can still enjoy a taste of freshness—right out of our own garden. Winter in the Coachella Valley is a splendid time to be outside gardening, and pots are a perfect way to keep this endeavor manageable, even for the most hectic of lives.

Starting a Potted Edible Garden

Place your pots in an area that receives approximately six hours of sun—preferably morning to early afternoon, rather than late-day sun. If you plan to grow anything edible in the summer, your pots will need to be shaded by 11 a.m.

When choosing where to place your edible garden, also consider the proximity to your kitchen. If you have to traipse across a large yard on a busy day, you might not be inspired to do so. If an area closest to your kitchen gets the required six hours of sun, it may be the perfect location.

I always preach that pots should have an inside diameter of at least 18 inches. They need to be large enough to support plants when they are fully grown—and even 18 inches is often not large enough to do so in our intense heat. As always, bigger is better.

Be sure your pots have adequate drainage, with at least one 1-inch hole which you will cover with a coffee filter or window screen to filter the water as it drains out.

Materials

Pots: For larger vegetables like tomatoes, broccoli and potatoes, you need one pot per plant. You can mix herbs, greens and other small plants in a large pot.

Soil: Get a quality potting soil from a local nursery. Fill your pots up to two inches from the top.

Fertilizer: Each time you plant, use a time-release fertilizer and some organic granular fertilizer. When plants are established, use a water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks to keep food available to your growing plants.

Water: Your pots will need water almost daily, so either plan to have your hose on the ready, or hook up the pots to your dedicated pot-irrigation line. They need to be continually moist but not overly wet.

Plants: If you are just starting out, begin with only a few pots. Think about the time you have available to plant, care for and harvest your garden through the next five months.

Plant Choices

Herbs: thyme, oregano, bay laurel, cilantro, parsley and mint. Be sure to keep mint in its own pot; it’s incredibly invasive.

Great winter vegetables for the Coachella Valley: tomatoes, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, onions, peas, radishes, potatoes, turnips and all greens, including lettuce and spinach.

Edible flowers: pansies, nasturtiums, calendula, violas, roses, dianthus and marigolds.

Other Tips:

  • Cluster your edible pots for easy harvesting and care.
  • Water in the early morning.
  • Harvest early and often. The more you harvest, the more plants will grow.
  • If we do get a cold snap, protect your tomatoes.
  • If you start now, you will have some lovely edibles in time for holiday dining: Greens planted now can be harvested in as little as two weeks! Bon appétit!

Your December Potted Garden Checklist

1. Continue to plant winter flowers.

2. Deadhead faithfully, and selectively prune longer branches—especially in petunias.

3. Use your water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks with a hose applicator.

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. The Potted Desert Garden now appears monthly.

Published in Potted Desert Garden

The holidays are coming quickly: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s are all looming in the not-so-distant future. If you handle things properly now, your desert garden containers will be in illustrious bloom—and off your long holiday-prep to-do list—well before the festivities begin.

Think about your color scheme for your home and how you will add to it for the holidays. Do you go all-out in reds and glitter? Are you more subtle with whites, or do you enjoy delving into the romantic blues? Or are you all about color, with a desire to bedeck the halls with rainbows and bling?

Do the backbone planting now, and add fall colors into the pots temporarily with chrysanthemums. When those flowers are spent in late November, add your winter colors so they are in full bloom by mid-December. Thanks to our gentle early winter temperatures, your plants will grow and bloom quickly with appropriate water and fertilizer, making the rest of your job easy.

Holiday reds and whites are easily gained with geraniums in part sun, and cyclamens in full shade. Red flowers for full sun include dianthus and petunias. These two choices are available in white, too.

If you want a little blue in your holiday decor, look at pansies and violas. Blue is readily accessible in these flowers, but not in many of our other winter standbys, such as Petunias, calendula, stock and snap dragons. Petunias do have a deep purple available, which offers a nice contrast to the soft blue of the other flowers.

Dusty miller is a nice plant to mix in with any of these colors, as its sultry, powdery grey color will have the other shades popping. There are a couple of varieties to choose from that provide different leaf structures and surface areas. One of the most popular types of dusty miller is the “silver dust” (Senecio cineraria) variety. Another popular option is “silver lace,” which has a finer, fern-like leaf with the same silver color. There is another plant called “silver brocade,” which looks like a dusty miller but is actually a perennial in the Artemesia family. Its broad, flatter leaf provides a less complex texture to your floral arrangement.

Edge your pots with white alyssum, and not only will you have delicate white flowers trailing down your pot; the rich perfumed air will complement your entire patio or home’s entry.

Another trailing option for your shade pots is bacopa. This deep, green-leafed plant with small white flowers is great for early morning sun in your desert garden or shade areas. The variety “giant snowflake” is a wonderful choice because of its larger flowers. Check your local nursery to see if they carry it or can find it for you.

It’s a good idea to get to know your local resources. If you develop a relationship with the people who work at local nurseries, they will let you know what growers they are bringing in, and when certain plants will be available. Bring them pictures of the gardens you have created with your purchases, too!

Your November To-Do List

1. Plant to your heart’s content.

2. Deadhead weekly.

3. Use a water-soluble fertilizer bi-weekly.

4. Water daily early in the morning.

5. if night temps sink below 50 degrees, bring in tropicals and tender succulents.

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.

 

Published in Potted Desert Garden

Many of our homes have been built with a kiva—or fireplace—in the backyard.

This leads to a question: Why? For those long, cold winters? I think not! But we have them, so let’s put them to good use.

Fire or No Fire?

If you think you will use the fireplace in the winter, then you will want to place ceramic pots with low-water, high-heat-tolerant plants closest to the flames. Another option is to use a lightweight pot that can be moved when the heat is on. Either way, planning ahead will make life easier—and lessen the risk of losing plants to the fire’s heat.

Pots that are more distant from the fire can contain your favorite seasonal bouquets with annuals, as well as perennials, trees and shrubs. Use colors that coordinate with your kiva wall color and tiles. Keep it simple, as there is probably a lot already going on with the hardscape, seating areas and pots. Consider a white garden to reflect the firelight and moon light in the cool of the evening. (See an “after” pic above, with the “before” pic below.)

Prioritize your relaxation time

Crafting a small garden around your outdoor fireplace area will create another draw to get you out into your backyard. This is the No. 1 complaint that I hear from desert homeowners: Even with our wonderful, mild winters, they do not use their patios enough. We get caught up in the daily life of work, volunteering and our infamous to-do list. We forget to put some priority on motivating ourselves or even allowing ourselves time to spend outside, on the patio.

Well, with flowers and plants that need attention … we must go out to care for them. While we are there, let’s stay a while.

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.

Published in Potted Desert Garden

The desert heat is finally subsiding a bit, so it is time to listen to the call of your backyard—and go out to smell the flowers.

Clean off that bench, and make sure it is positioned in a shady spot so you actually will go out and sit. Take out your coffee, tea, wine or cocktail, as well as a favorite book, to just sit and be.

The main goal is to make your bench more than utilitarian. If your bench is hanging out there with nothing to keep it in your focus as a place to stop for a while, add a large pot to each side to “bookend” it as a full vignette. Fill those pots with colorful fragrant flowers—and you won’t be able to stay away.

Some flowers that meet the requisites of color and fragrance that do well in our warm winters include:

  • Alyssum
  • Dianthus
  • Nasturtiums
  • Stock
  • Sweet peas

You can find additional winter plants listed in my newly published book, Getting Potted in the Desert.

If your bench is colorful as the one in the picture to the right, use a simpler planting such as the yellow bells shrub and coral fountain perennial.

You can also repeat the colors of your bench’s cushions in the flowers as pictured below, with the red crepe myrtle trees and red cushions of this iron bench.

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.

 

Published in Potted Desert Garden

A common architectural element of our desert dwellings is often an eyesore: The posts on the back patio which hold up the roof are necessary—while often ugly. Posts and pillars interrupt the flow of traffic, block your view and get in the way of your hose. There really is not much you can do—except make them disappear in your mind’s eye.

Patio pots are a perfect solution to this problem. Artfully arranged pots filled with abundant floral displays can detract from the not-so-pretty nature of the posts. Instead, you’ll primarily see the beautiful garden.

When placing pots around a post, you want to think of the viewpoints, i.e., the point from which you will be viewing the pots. You might see them from inside through a window, from the patio at your favorite chair, or farther out in the yard—either from your pool, your outdoor kitchen or a second seating area.

When designing most elements of your home, the rule of three is pretty standard: You can use three pots, or count the post as one element of the three. Your pots must be in proportion to the post. Your main pot, the largest of the three, should be at least 2 feet tall. When you add the plants, it will be 3 to 3 1/2 feet tall—a nice third of the height of the pillar. Don't make this into rocket science with the measurements; these are general guidelines for you to follow. Just avoid small, easy-to-carry, “cute” pots. These are much too small to minimize a post.

In the trio of pictures above, you see a large pillar at the end of the ramada. The group of three pots are only seen from the front of the column, so the grouping, including a trellised vine, faces the rest of the yard. One pot has a golden barrel cactus to remind us that we do live in the desert.

The photo below shows a standard 4-inch post in an upscale home. The concrete planters surround the post, as the potted collection is seen from all sides. With seasonal plantings, the homeowners enjoy the living color rather than a single post 365 days a year.

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.

Published in Potted Desert Garden

Anyone can throw a couple of pots together—but with some planning and a little open-mindedness, you can create a work of art with pot combinations and plantings.

The first thing I suggest you do is go out and get a sense of what’s available. Nurseries, pottery stores, home-furnishing establishments and botanical gardens all should have pots. See what colors and styles strike your fancy, and check prices to see what fits in your budget. Keep the decorating style and colors of your home in mind, especially the rooms that will have the focal points of your pots as you look out to your patio and yard. Remember, when it comes to pots here in the desert, bigger is better—larger than 18 inches, for sure. Actually, you will have much better success if you go for 22 inches and up! The bigger, the better.

In the photo above, you can see a grouping that’s definitely suited more to homes in the mid-century modern style. Of course, primary colors, as shown in the picture to the right, also work well in most mid-century modern homes. Bright and cheerful combinations will stand out in your yard and can bring a smile to your face each time you see them. The yellow pot pictured here holds a young bouquet of flowers, including profusion zinnias and pentas. This pot will need daily water during most of our year in the desert. However, the succulent planting next to it, in the orange 20-inch pot, requires only weekly water during our hottest months, and water every three to four weeks during the winter. The lady slipper (pedilanthus) is a great upright succulent which will flower with orange “lady slippers” that attract hummingbirds. The pot is “dressed” with Mexican river rock, which is used to retain moisture, keep water away from the base stem of the plant, and finish the look of the combination.

A more traditional-style home would be a perfect place for the combination shown in the first photo below, of burgundy and cream pots, with complementary color plants. Look carefully to see how the pot colors move from one to the other, starting with the 24-inch belly pot in Chinese red. This pot provides the foundation of the grouping. The taller cream-colored pot supports the tall burgundy plant (phormium) which will do well in the winter. The third pot ties it all together by uniting the red and cream of the larger pots with a coppery sheen that brings in the burgundy and the cream color.

Finally, the outdoor shower setting shown in the second photo below offers a perfect demonstration of matching colors. We were fortunate to find this trio of pots that united the shades of the shower, the side wall and even the honey-colored door. With the square vase-shaped lines of the pots, the contemporary theme holds true—and the simple low-water plantings will help keep the floor free of water buildup. A Texas mountain laurel tree is in the back pot. This slow-growing tree is perfect for pots, as it will not outgrow the pot for years. The low front pot includes a gopher plant, which in this partially shaded area will bloom in the spring. Succulents, including a health-conscious aloe, round out the plantings without a lot of fuss.

I mentioned open-mindedness at the beginning of this column. I say that, because you never know what pots and plants you will find when you go shopping. You might think you want a specific look, but the pots available might not fit your original vision. With an open mind, you may find something surprising that will totally satisfy you. Just have fun!

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.

Published in Potted Desert Garden

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.

Published in Potted Desert Garden

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