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Regal Mist Pink Muhly—or Muhlenbergia capillaris—is probably my favorite landscape grass in this part of the country. I love the way the sun shines through its plumes during its flowering season. That hazy but eye-catching frothy mist of deep pink is what first caught my eye when I saw a mass planting in a landscape. All I could say was, “Amazing!”

So grab your gloves and tools, because now that cooler weather is here, it’s a good time to plant this stunning grass.

The grass stays relatively small and is drought-tolerant, but thrives with regular watering. Its bloom period is during the fall months, and it boasts glossy green leaves the rest of the year—until you cut it back annually to the ground in January. As a clumping grass, it only grows in size and does not propagate new plants. It also is not prone to reseeding, so you can trust that it will only be where you plant it. Regal Mist thrives in full-sun and reflected-heat locations.

People often ask about planting these gorgeous grasses in pots—and this leads to a bit of a conundrum. Yes, the plants look great. They are clean and look splendid around a pool—plus you don’t need to worry about them throwing off debris you’ll have to clean up. They will wave in the breeze, and with regular but lesser amounts of water, will reward you with a stunning show all fall and early winter. The color intensifies as the desert cools off into the 50s and 60s. Its seeds provide a banquet for native birds, and the grass can provide these same birds with shelter—while also being critter-resistant.

However, there is a problem: The grass must be cut back in January. It will start sprouting new leaf growth as the spring warming trends begin, in March or so. So what should one do with this stark pot from January to early April? I am definitely a gardener who prefers immediate gratification, and no matter how splendid the grass is in the fall, it’s a bummer when it brings nothing to one’s container garden for half of the winter.

One suggestion to deal with this problem: When the grass is cut back in January, plant pansies or other winter annuals around the perimeter of the pot to hide the cutback grass in the center. Of course, this means the grass needs to be placed in a pot large enough to support the root space needed for these plants. I recommend a 22-24-inch diameter pot.

Of course, you could also put the pot away somewhere out of view and replace it with another temporary pot that is filled with the look you want this winter—and then bring back the Regal Mist come April.

Whatever you decide … happy gardening!

After more than 3 1/2 years of The Potted Desert Garden, this is the final column by Marylee Pangman, 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. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Potted Desert Garden

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.

Published in Potted Desert Garden

As I mentioned last month, gardeners are typically rule-breakers. We bend the rules and seek out plants that we are told will definitely not make it in the desert. We try to grow our favorites, climate be damned, saying as we stomp our foot: “Yes I can!

Unfortunately, it’s proven a lot more difficult for potted desert gardeners to successfully break the rules this year. I have heard from a lot of desert gardeners recently who are trying to grow plumeria. While some fortunate souls may luck out, the recent high heat in the Southwest U.S. has been killing off these plants rapidly.

I cannot believe how many people I’ve heard from in the Coachella Valley complaining about the plants they are losing this year. Tropical plants just cannot live in our summer heat unless they are placed in an area that can be temperature-controlled.

Of course, as I also mentioned last month, there are constant gray areas within the rules for gardening in the desert. I almost always preface my gardening answers with, “That depends.”

One question I get asked often is: How often do I need to change the soil in my pots?

My answer? You guessed it: That depends!

Pots may need the soil replaced if:

• Water runs through very quickly.

• Plants are wilted even after watering.

• Large plants’ leaves are curling even after you water deeply a second time in the same day.

• Plants that are wilted in the heat of the afternoon are still wilted in the morning.

If you see one or more of these symptoms and decide that your pot needs new soil, what should you do? Well, first off … DON'T change the soil now, during the heat of the summer!

You want your potted plants to rest right now and get through this summer period. What you can do is keep them hydrated—but that does not mean adding even more water.

You should only water potted cactus plants every week or two. Potted shrubs and trees should be watered once or twice a week, while potted perennials and annual flowers need to be watered daily.

So how do you keep plants hydrated without watering more? You water smart: Be sure to water in the early morning so the plants go into the hottest periods moist. In the desert heat, that is going to be between 5 and 6 a.m. Don’t worry if plants wilt or droop during the heat of the day; that is what they do for self-preservation. They should bounce back once the sun has gone down.

If they are still struggling, cover plants in direct sun with shade cloth, or move the pots under a tree or under a roofed ramada.

Palm Springs has been even hotter than normal this year. Without the benefit of monsoon rains, you will need to be vigilant with your potted desert gardens—and it couldn’t hurt to cross your fingers.

As you go through the rest of this summer, closely observe your pots and your plants’ watering needs. Make a note which pots may need to have their soil replaced this coming fall—something that’s typically done during the October planting season. I will share more information on how to do this next month.

Your August To-Do List

1. Do not prune plants during the continuing August heat.

2. Deadhead your spent flowers.

3. Garden and water very early in the morning.

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.

Published in Potted Desert Garden

Gardeners are typically rule-breakers. We don’t always follow instructions; we try the untried; we seek out plants that we are told will not make it in the desert.

Desert transplants and snowbirds often yearn for the gardens we had “back home,” leading us to try to replicate our favorites. This has led to many dead tulips and fuchsia plants. I am sure some of you are reading and saying, “I have them in my Palm Springs garden!” If so, you are an exceptional gardener, likely with the perfect location and conditions for these plants that love water, humidity and non-scorching temperatures.

There are constant gray areas within the rules of gardening in the desert. For example: I teach beginning gardeners to place plants with the same light, sun and water requirements together in the same pot. Ornamentals, succulents and drought-tolerant plants all have their place in our gardens … happily segregated. However, there have been times when I’ve needed to try rule-breaking combinations for special environmental conditions.

My first rule in desert container gardening is that bigger pots are often better: When choosing a container for anything other than cacti, an 18-inch internal diameter is the smallest you’ll want to have. This size or larger provides enough soil to hold moisture longer than a couple of hours and gives roots added insulation from the direct heat of the sun. Even an 18-inch pot in all-day-sun locations is too small. To repeat: The bigger, the better, I always say, especially when gardening in low-desert regions such as the Coachella Valley.

However … one of my former commercial clients was a restaurant with a railing around the outside dining patio. This area was within a brick-floor courtyard, surrounded by brick buildings. In the summer, the patio was drenched in sun for eight or more hours. Needless to say … it was hot! We changed the existing 4-by-6-by-30-inch plastic window boxes to the largest I could get, which were 12-by-13-by-40. I knew this was smaller than what my rules dictate, but the chef was determined to keep the window-box effect.

We succeeded easily during the winter with typical winter flowers for desert pots—but in the summer, the plants struggled. I looked for a solution that allowed both a permanent or perennial tall plant and surrounding annual color. I decided to give red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) a try over a few years to see if it would hold up with the higher water content needed by the annuals. Long story short: It worked very well, as you can see from the accompanying photo. The Yucca grew nicely and never experienced any root rot from the plentiful water.

I still used medium-water annuals during both the winter and summer. Once well-grown, we could usually reduce the watering during the hottest months to once daily in the early morning. If we had to water them again later in the day, we applied a very short period on the timer (3 to 4 minutes). They were, of course, on a dedicated irrigation pot line. Winter plantings were always only watered in the mornings.

I am also a fan of the gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida), another succulent which can handle the additional water you will need when combining with perennials. For added height, consider including a lady slipper (Pedilanthus macrocarpus) to the back of your combination planting.

Do not let your pots go empty all summer. Happy gardening!

Your July To-Do List

1. Avoid pruning plants now that the desert has heated up. You can deadhead your spent flowers, but pruning leads to sunburn by exposing previously shaded stems.

2. Increase the watering frequency to be sure your pots don’t dry out. If your ornamental plants are wilting in the afternoon heat, first check to see if the soil is moist. If this is the case, mist the plants with cooler water from the hose. This will NOT burn them as long as you let the hot water run out first.

3. Keep up with biweekly applications of a water-soluble fertilizer. Be sure the soil is already damp before applying.

4. Garden and water very early in the morning.

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

There are different ways to look at the arrival of summer in the Coachella Valley.

While many people complain about the heat and the hefty power bills, summer also brings a lot of good. Our winter visitors have left, which means we can get into popular restaurants at a reasonable time, possibly without a reservation—and we can get some great deals, too! Traffic is certainly less troublesome.

In your garden, summer offers opportunities, despite the heat. Of course, we can simply rely on the strongest desert and arid plants, which require little water and minimal work, such as cacti and succulents, bougainvillea, trees and shrubs.

But that’s kind of boring, isn’t it?

The largest pots in our yards offer us another opportunity: You can choose to do some minimal but productive gardening in pots that are 24 inches or larger (in width and height), as they will retain enough water to support the plantings of your choice.

If you are like me and want some summer color, two heat-surviving summer annuals are vinca (see picture above) and pentas (below). Go with hues of vibrant reds and hot pinks, or soften the look with pale pinks and white. These plants will need daily water, but not so much that you risk violating the water restrictions. You can even save the first water from your shower in a 5-gallon bucket to use to water your pots. (For more ways to save water in your container garden, check out this article.)

If you would like to grow a little food, try some basil in an area which only receives early-morning sun. Make sure the soil stays consistently moist, and harvest the leaves regularly. Pesto, anyone?

Two popular vegetables that can take the heat are okra and eggplant. Both of these thick-skinned veggies will do pretty well—especially if you can keep them out of the sun by 1 or 2 p.m. Harvest the okra while still young on the vine, and it will be nice and tender. Local nurseries will have appropriate varieties of both of these plants, but I would get them ASAP, from starts; it is too late to begin from seed.

If you have become inspired to grow your own food, and are thinking about tomatoes … sorry. You have missed your season, and you’ll need to wait until the fall to grow your own.

As for that okra and eggplant that you’re growing … try grilling the veggies, and combine them with a few other fresh ingredients to complement your summer dinner!

  • Wash both vegetables thoroughly. Slice the eggplant into 3/4-inch pieces, and place on a paper towel with a little salt sprinkled on the top of each slice.
  • Heat your grill to a medium heat, and brush the grate with cooking oil. Then brush the veggies with your favorite olive oil, and place them on the grill.
  • If you have some tomatoes, cut them into thick slices and add them to the grill when the okra and eggplant are almost done. You can use cherry tomatoes, too.
  • Remove the veggies from the grill on a serving platter; top with that the fresh chopped basil you grew; and season to taste. Add some feta or goat cheese if you like. Enjoy!

See? Summer does not need to be all about air conditioning and ice cream. Just do your gardening early, and then get out of the heat. Remember: Both you and your plants need to stay hydrated!


Your June To-Do List

1. Avoid pruning plants now that the desert has heated up. You can deadhead your spent flowers, but pruning leads to sunburn by exposing previously shaded stems.

2. Increase the watering frequency to be sure pots don’t dry out.

3. Keep using a water-soluble fertilizer biweekly. Be sure the soil is already damp before applying fertilizer.

4. Garden and water in the early mornings.

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 appears the first Tuesday of the month at CVIndependent.com.

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

Consider using your garden for your gift-giving ideas. Plants that you may already have around your yard will make great gifts!

Beyond that: If you are the creative type (and aren’t all gardeners?), you can give gifts that truly come from your heart as well from your garden.

Herb-Infused Vinegar

With the movement toward slow-food and sustainable gardening, making herb-infused vinegar is a wonderful idea that your friends will appreciate, in part because you made it from your own herbs. Below is a simple recipe on how you can accomplish this quickly and easily.

Some herbs that work well include:

  • Basil
  • Bay
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Garlic
  • Lemon Balm
  • Marjoram
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Savory
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme

You can also use edible flowers such as the winter flowers of calendula and nasturtium. Consider adding dried chilies or peppercorns.

Materials:

  • Bottles or jars
  • Lids or corks
  • Vinegar (many recipes use apple-cider vinegar or white-wine vinegar; experiment to see what flavor you enjoy)
  • Your choice of fresh herbs
  • Labels
  • Ribbon, raffia, other decor

Steps:

  • Sterilize your bottles or jars by placing them in a large pot (without the lids) and covering them with water. Bring the water to boiling and boil for 15 minutes. Leave in the water (after turning the heat off) for up to an hour before using. Use when cool to touch. Do not put cold liquids into hot jars. Add the lids to the warm water to clean before using.
  • Pick your herbs early in the morning and dry them thoroughly, making sure both sides of the leaves are dry.
  • Gently crush the leaves with your hands.
  • Stuff the leaves of your chosen mixture of herbs into the sterilized bottles to a third full.
  • Bring vinegar to a boil.
  • Fill the bottles or jars covering the herbs up to a half-inch from the top of the bottle. Cover with its lid or cork.
  • Allow to cool.
  • When cool, place in the refrigerator for one to two weeks. Check by smell after one week to see if you have a fragrance that you think you would enjoy. If it the herbs’ scent is not strong enough, leave in for another week.
  • Once you reach the preferred flavor or scent, strain the vinegar out of the bottle; remove the herbs, and put the vinegar back in. A glass measuring cup with a pour spout works well to accomplish this.
  • Decorate the bottles as you like, and add a ribbon, a label and gift card.
  • The vinegar will last a couple months if stored in the refrigerator.

Cactus Pups

Look around at your succulents and cacti to see if you have volunteers (i.e. plants you didn’t intentionally plant) that have sprung up, or perhaps some off-shoots or “pups” coming up next to the main plant. Each of these can be separated or dug up and placed into an attractive pot to give to a friend as thank-you, thinking-of-you or holiday gift.

You can also propagate succulents such as pencil cacti, euphorbias and many other plants to create new plants. Be sure to let the branch or stem that you have removed from the main plant callous over in the shade before planting it in its new home. Use cactus soil, and add rock or recycled glass to “dress” the top of the soil making an attractive gift.

Floral Bouquet

As a quick, spontaneous gift: If you have a supply of small vases on hand, you can go out to your garden in the morning and pick some flowers and greenery to put in a vase of fresh water to take to a party or on a friendly visit. It doesn’t even need a special occasion to warrant something so simple but hugely appreciated by the recipient. Don't be afraid to add branches from a shrub or even a stem of bougainvillea flowers. It is a good idea to remove any thorns, though!

Shameless Self-Promotion

Last but certainly not least, think of giving my newly published book, Getting Potted in the Desert. Any desert dweller with even a couple pots will appreciate this monthly how-to guide for their desert 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.

Published in Potted Desert Garden

When it comes to boosting the curb appeal of your midcentury modern home, the rule of “less is more” is key.

Of course, Palm Springs has one of the greatest concentrations of midcentury homes around. These homes lend themselves beautifully to minimalist gardens, with clean lines and room to breathe between each landscape component.

I love large picture windows that look out on front and back yards. With these windows, you are sure to bring the outdoors inside by capitalizing on the view.

When you are designing with pots, replicate the lines of the midcentury home by thinking about the flow from one garden element to another. Use a simple repetition of plantings along with square and round pots with simple lines, and avoid a strong singular focal point. In the concrete planters with pedilanthus shown to the right, a little cleanup of the plants’ wayward branches will give a strong vertical element, as dictated by this period.

Your pot selection can include vase-shaped or cylindrical containers; if desired, add a punch of color.

Plants reminiscent of this time include hybrid tea roses; strong erect grass shapes, accomplished with flax, phormium and cordyline; succulents, including agaves (choose slow growing varieties), giant hesperaloe and pedilanthus; and water plants like the horsetail reed.

Flowers should have large blooms or a structure that creates the appearance of large blooms; pentas, calendula, dahlia, marigolds and geraniums all can be used well. In the picture at the top of this column, even large leafed greens are included—to add to your dinner salads!

Yes, less is truly more. This philosophy will keep both budgets and water consumption low—a plus for anyone who is a believer in sustainability.

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

This evergreen shrub plant with its many varieties is recognized by many name: Boxwood. Box-leaf. Winter creeper.

If you are daring, true gardener, you might simply say euonymus (yoo-on-uh-muhs).

Because of its diversity, the euonymus has many different uses; I love using these plants in containers. The full shrub works well as a stunning specimen plant, in a combination planting or an as attractive living screen.

In the landscape, it is often used as a hedge. Most euonymus plants grow well in either full sun or shady conditions; however, the variegated evergreen forms generally need more sun to develop and maintain their best color. They prefer moist, well-drained soil, especially when planted in pots.

Shopping for Euonymus

Varieties I have successfully used in pots are the following (in order of my favorites):

  • Golden euonymus, or “aureo-marginata,” has bright golden foliage (shown above).
  • “Silver king” has green leaves with silvery white edges (shown below).
  • “Silver queen” has green leaves with creamy white edges.
  • “Goldspot euonymus or “aureo-variegata” has leaves with yellow blotches and green edges.
  • Box-leaf euonymus, or “microphylla,” is a small-leafed, compact shrub, usually trimmed as a hedge. In pots, it can be trimmed into a nicely shaped topiary.

Growth, Care and Feeding

The euonymus is slow-growing. If you choose a variety with variegated leaves, it will add more to your garden than simply green. It will take the full sun, and is very hardy during our mild winters. Since it does grow slowly, you can keep the plant in the same pot for several years without a problem. I do suggest that you start the larger varieties in 22-to-24-inch (or bigger) pots. The smaller-leaved box-leaf can do well in a slightly smaller pot.

When the shrub becomes root-bound in its container, you do not have to up-size the pot. You can gently remove the plant from the pot and cut back the roots by up to one-third. Then re-pot the plant with fresh potting soil and some time-release fertilizer; water thoroughl,y and you are good to go. I would do this in the early fall or spring.

Each of these euonymus varieties can be trimmed to shape. You can surround them with flowers to make a beautiful, full-potted garden. As you fertilize your flowers bi-weekly with a water-soluble fertilizer, the shrub will be getting the added food it needs to thrive.

In more hot and humid climates, gardeners often complain of the propensity for the plant to attract scale insects. If you keep the plant from getting too compact with its strong branches by pruning out some of the center branches, and you blast the with water with your hose nozzle set to the “jet” setting, you will keep the plant healthy so it can resist a scale attack.

If you are lucky enough to find a young plant with a strong center stem, the euonymus will shape nicely into a small tree. Remember, though, that it is slow-growing, so you will need to exercise patience to gain substantial height of the topiary. It will max out around 3 to 4 feet. Starting with a five-gallon plant from the nursery will give you a good start!

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 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

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