CVIndependent

Mon05272019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Marylee Pangman

Temperatures for much of the last week have been approaching 110 degrees—as you already know!

Well, this week, we’re talking about rain. With all of the blazing sun, you might think: Why is she writing about rain? Well, we do occasionally get a summer rain shower or two in July and/or August (and as of this writing, Weather.com is reporting a 30 percent chance of precipitation on Thursday), so it’s important to be prepared, just in case, so we can help our plants get all the benefits!

Too often, desert homeowners make the mistake of thinking that a rainstorm means they can cut back on irrigating or hand-watering their pots, gardens and other plants. Don’t do that. After all:

  • One inch of rain is needed to saturate the root ball of your plants. We are unlikely to get that amount all summer, much less in one storm.
  • In the unlikely event of a deep, soaking rain (more than an inch) received over a long time period (several hours), it will only replace one day's worth of watering.
  • Pots under a ramada, tree or overhang do not receive much, if any, rain.
  • Pots in full sun with flowers and other 'soft' plants are accustomed to daily watering. A missed watering will cause your plants to be stressed—and this invites problems, including pest invasion and disease.
  • Remember, potted cacti and succulents need water, too, rain or no rain!

Some other tips:

Capture rainwater: Put out pots, cans—anything you can put your hands on—to capture rainwater. Use it to water plants under your covered areas. Micro-nutrients in the rain are great for potted plants!

Measure your rain: It’s fun to see how much rain we get at our homes in comparison to the measurements at the airport. Pick up a rain gauge at your local hardware store, and place it in a location where it will catch rain without being hampered by tree branches or overhangs. (I have mine in a pot!)

Deadhead: Continue to deadhead your annuals, and prune to create new growth and a well-shaped plant.

Fertilize: Your potted gardens every two weeks with a water-soluble fertilizer. Rains will support wild growth!

Jet spray: Regardless of whether it rains, spray all of your potted plants, including flowers, shrubs, cacti and succulents, every day if you are able. This will increase air circulation and deter pests and disease such as spider mites, powdery mildew, aphids, etc. As long as your plants are well established, i.e., they have been growing all summer in their pots, do not be afraid of using the jet setting on your hose. Stand about three feet from the plants.

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 is available for digital consultations, and you can 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.

Many people are asking what plants they can use in pots that will weather the summer sun and intense Coachella Valley heat.

Of course, you know I love our summer flowers; with the right watering and afternoon shade, they will thrive! However, many people do not want to be married to their pots and hoses; they travel a lot; or they are simply trying to be more water-conscious.

I do not recommend using plants in pots that go dormant in the winter, or need to be pruned each winter. Plants such as grasses and salvias fall into this category; although they are beautiful during the hot months, they do not do our pots justice during the winter months. Additionally, some other plants, such as bougainvillea, sages and Texas Rangers, are great in our landscapes, but do not perform well in pots. They need room to spread their roots much farther than a pot will allow.

Staying away from high-water flowers and shrubs, you can create beautiful pots with many cactuses and succulents. If you are aiming for lushness, consider the Gopher Plant (right). If you keep it well-groomed as lower branches brown up, it can be a very satisfying plant year-round. The one pictured here is in full spring bloom.

Another plant that I have mentioned before remains a favorite: the Giant Hesperaloe (below). It’s large enough to be a great specimen plant supported by a magnificent pot, and it will thrive in any full-sun desert setting.

If you don’t have as much room, try my third favorite: Pedilanthus macrocarpus, or the Lady Slipper (top). The orange-red flowers resemble slippers. This easy-to-grow succulent is fun to watch grow. It is slow-growing, so you can put it in a smaller pot which fits into an area tucked around your doors or patio. Lined up as in the picture above, they become little soldiers defending your home!

For optimal success with these and other succulents, be sure to use cactus soil when planting. Smaller pots will need water twice a week, while an extra-large pot (which you’d want to use with the Hesperaloe) will only need water every week or two. A water meter found in any garden department will help guide your water needs.

What plant might you add to this list? Email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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 is available for digital consultations, and you can email her with comments and questions at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.follow the Potted Desert at facebook.com/potteddesert.

Too many colors in our garden all at once will create havoc or confusion in our weary, heat-laden minds. Let’s return to this month’s theme of the rule of three, and limit our choice in color combinations to odd numbers.

In this pot above, with our plant of the month, the Silver King Euonymus, we already have our silvery white and green glossy leaves. (Green is static in our combination, and we will not count it as one of the three colors.) With the white, I added strong contrasting colors: purple of Nierembergia “Purple Robe,” and the almost-black leaf of the Black Pearl Ornamental pepper plant. The white is repeated in white “Profusion” zinnias as the outside bookends of the design.

You can substitute purple scaevola or fan flowers for the Nierembergia; they will hold up better in the full desert sun. You can also use vinca for your white. You could substitute yellow for the white—with either the Profusion zinnias or purslane.

As I always say: At the nursery, group your plants on a cart, and step back from them to see if you like them together. You will be tempted to buy many other plants and flowers, but keep in mind the heat, and keep it simple. You can always go back another day!

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 is available for digital consultations, and you can 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 on Facebook.

Tolerating the Palm Springs summer heat poses a challenge to any living thing—but box-leaf shrubs (euonymus), including the Silver King (see last week’s column), are up to the challenge.

These plants enjoy good potting soil, but can tolerate less-rich soils and moderate watering. Since the shrub is easily pruned, it can serve as an excellent topiary specimen. If it has a good center trunk, it can be shaped up into a small tree over a couple years.

When you visit your nursery to select a plant, compare the size of a one-gallon plant with a five-gallon plant. Be sure whichever you choose is well-rooted: You should be able to see a few roots through the holes in the can. Since they are not super-fast growers, select the size that will give you satisfaction now!

  • Take the plant home, and water it well—water should come out through the holes in the can. Prepare your pot by placing it in its permanent location.
  • Fill your pot after covering the drainage hole with screening or a folded coffee filter. Bring the soil level up about half way, and then compress the soil.
  • Add a large handful of time-release fertilizer to the soil. Leave a cavity in which to place the root ball.
  • Carefully remove the plant from the container by turning it on its side; compress the container to loosen the root ball; and gently urge the entire plant out from the can, being cautious to not tear the stems from the roots.
  • Loosen the root ball’s mass by opening it with your hands or a small trowel. You do not need to be overly cautious at this point.
  • Place the plant into the pot and add soil, making sure the end result will place the top of the plant’s root ball about 2 inches below the top of the pot.
  • Add more soil, and continue to pack it in around the root ball. Bring the new soil level up even with the top of the plant’s root ball. Do not bury the root ball under new soil. Pack the entire mass firmly, and water in thoroughly.
  • Be sure your newly planted shrub does not dry out. During the first two weeks, you may need to water daily. Depending on sun exposure, heat levels and wind, you might be able to drop back to every other day.

Prune shrubs in the spring after flowering (inconsequential) to maintain the desired shape and to remove green shoots that will sometimes pop up. It’s proper to remove a quarter to a third of the shrub each time it is pruned, forcing new growth to come from old wood deeper inside the canopy of the shrub. This rejuvenates the shrub, adds more new growth to the canopy, and keeps it young and vigorous.

One of the main issues with the euonymus is its tendency to get powdery mildew. Although this is less likely to occur in the dry desert, reduce the likelihood by choosing a location with morning to mid-afternoon sun, and good air circulation; water it 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 is available for digital consultations, and you can 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 on Facebook.

Looking for a new plant this summer? I recommend considering the box-leaf family of euonymus—and this month, specifically, the Silver King.

The Silver King has eye-catching, silvery white edges with glossy green leaves that add unique color and texture to your landscape.

I tend to harp about the size of our desert garden pots, because larger pots work best for plants to survive the summer furnace in your Palm Springs container garden—and to support our illustrious plant of the month, the pot should be at least 24 inches wide. This width and similar depth will provide structural support as well as insulation of the soil—and, subsequently, the root system of the plant.

Variegated forms of the box leaf family are most popular, and are among the few shrubs to maintain their variegated leaf color in the full sun during our hot summer climates. The silver tones mix easily with other desert-landscape plant materials and add a unique color and texture to your garden. The plant can serve as a stand-alone focal point, or be surrounded by almost any contrasting color for instant beauty. With the plant’s upright growth habit, several pots can be grouped to form a low screen.

As mentioned last week, the theme for this month is working your designs in odd numbers. Three pots may work best, or you can still maintain the odd number by having a single pot. They do not all have to be planted the same, and probably should not be. We would not want our “King” to get bored with his royal court, now, would we?

More on the Silver King next week.

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 is available for digital consultations, and you can 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 on Facebook.\

Why do we tend to design things in odd numbers? It has to do with our brain: We like to pair things up.

When we look at several items, we rationally try to put them together in groups of two. When we create a group of three, the eye is trying to find a pair, so it keeps moving—and that’s a good thing. In a garden, where our “art” is living and breathing, we want to enhance that movement—and having groups of odd numbers does the trick!

However, for a more formal or contemporary look, design in a more symmetrical fashion. Even numbers, arranged as pairs, will form a pattern that attracts the eye’s focus. Two pots placed on opposite sides of a front gate or entryway, for example, will help guests focus on the entrance rather than passing it by.

How else does an odd number of pots help in our desert landscape design? Long walls and square pots add to the linear look of a backyard wall. Look at the photo above: These two pots just do not seem right against this wall: They stop us dead in our tracks, for some reason. By adding a third pot—round in shape—and twisting the squares to change the angles, the result is much more appealing. Now you see the garden rather than the wall!

When you are ready to redesign and are thinking about adding some pots, place some large objects where you may want to position the pots. (Trash cans, propane tanks and buckets will serve you well without breaking your back.) Once you think you have your design ready, go pot-shopping with my mantra in mind: Bigger is better! If your pots are going to be in the full summer sun, choose pots that are at least 22 inches in diameter.

And as always while gardening, remember: 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 is available for digital consultations, and you can 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 on Facebook.

We often have the best intentions as homeowners: We create beautiful gardens at our home, and we promise ourselves that we will water faithfully—and living here in the desert can mean watering daily. In the severe heat we have much of the year, if we miss a day, our beautiful flowers can become toast.

And sometimes, we miss a day.

If this sounds like you, and your potted gardens are often dying, the most-reliable way to keep your pots healthy is to irrigate them automatically with a dedicated irrigation valve and timer. Yes, it takes some initial time and money to set up, but the payoff is huge: When I first set up my home pots with a drip system, I began saving an hour a day by not having to hand-water!

You have two options for irrigating your pots. The preferred method is to use an existing irrigation system. If your existing timer can accommodate an extra valve and run times, you can use it. Pots typically are watered five to 10 minutes a day during the hot periods of the year. (Here in the Palm Springs area, that is a majority of the time!)

If you’re tempted to hook your pots up to your landscape line, they will be getting one to two hours twice a week or so. This is excessive water, and you risk losing your plants from the abundant water and “erratic” watering schedule. This may mean you need to have another valve put in—at an expense of $500 to $1,200, if you hire a professional. It’s well worth it when you think of the value of your time and the materials you buy for your gardens that die.

The beauty of a good timer is that you can change the run time in one-minute intervals—so you can set it for five minutes, and then adjust it, one minute at a time, until your pots are getting the right amount of water. Additionally, if the water is running through the pots too fast, you can run it for a shorter period of time, more often during the day.

If you are unable to put a pot line into your landscaping system, an alternative is to add a Y-valve to a hose bib near the location of the pots, and connect them to a simple battery operated timer. These timers are inexpensive and typically allow for many start times. A good timer will cost between $20 and $50, and the rest of the parts will run less than $100, depending on how many pots you have. This is a great solution for vacation time, too! Just be sure to change the batteries twice a year—do not wait for them to run out. Daylight saving time is a good way to remember—and while you are at it, change the batteries in your smoke detectors, too!

Regardless of which method you use, you will want to use the right emitters for your pots. An adjustable emitter on a stake is my preferred method. The output of water is patterned like wheel spokes, and is adjustable from about 4 to 10 inches. In larger pots, you would use two or three emitters, each off their own quarter-inch line.

Another option is to use in-line emitters, spaced every six inches, on a quarter-inch line. These lines will need a longer run time to water your pots thoroughly, but they do work well with gardens that need a slower water delivery. Test your system by running it for five to 10 minutes. After watering, the soil should be thoroughly wet, with some water draining out of the container bottoms. If water floods out, you have run it too long; if no water comes out, and the soil isn't thoroughly moist, you need to run the system longer or use more emitters. Most controllers allow you to run the system several times a day, which is particularly useful in our hot climate.

Get this all done, and you can enjoy your garden oasis even more, thanks to the newfound time you have gained!

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 is available for digital consultations, and you can email her with comments and questions at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; and follow the Potted Desert on Facebook. The Potted Desert Garden appears Tuesdays at CVIndependent.com.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014 08:00

The Potted Desert Garden: The Fifth Week

Ahhh—another fifth week!

Typically, there are no meetings and few events in the fifth week. If we organize our recurring to-do lists by the first and third week, or by the second and fourth (which I highly recommend), we should not have much on our lists this week, either!

So, what do we do with this week of freedom? I highly recommend giving yourself permission to get out and enjoy your garden!

That’s it! STOP reading this and GO OUTSIDE, before it gets too hot! Get!

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 is available for digital consultations, and you can email her with comments and questions at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; and follow the Potted Desert on Facebook.

It’s not only about the plants: Your pots can add a lot of interest and color to your surroundings—with or without plants!

We talked earlier this month about using succulents for your front gate pots. However, let’s face it: Succulents can sometimes be a little boring in color, as greens and grays echo the desert landscape.

However, you can plant them in pots that have colors that complement your home’s décor. For example, going back to the front gate, you can always make a first-time visitor feel welcome with turquoise pots.

When you combine colors, keep in mind the style you use inside your home. Keep color families together, and make sure the collection complements each other. When appropriate, relate the outside colors to the first colors people see when they enter your home.

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 is available for digital consultations, and you can email her with comments and questions at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; and follow the Potted Desert on Facebook.

Ever since my trusted nurseryman introduced it to me years ago, the Tangerine Beauty Crossvine has been one of my absolute favorites. It can be planted in the ground and is an aggressive grower that can cover a structure in a year or two.

Planted in pots, the Crossvine is a little slower-growing—but it will take off in its second year. Therefore, you will want to use a large pot with plenty of root room: 24-inch pots or larger are best. Provide something for it to climb on—a trellis, arbor or archway. If there is no trellis on the archway, I have successfully used fishing line connected to small eyehooks screwed into the structure.

Attractive to bees, butterflies and birds, the heavy blooms of the Crossvine are its main fascination. The vines become saturated with clusters of 2-inch, trumpet-shaped flowers—in various shades of orange, brick and red. It seems like they live to bloom!

Leaves on the vine are usually 4 to 6 inches long and 2 inches wide, and glossy dark green in summer. They will have a ruddy red color when temperatures approach 32 degrees. In areas like the Coachella Valley with mild winters, the vine is evergreen, but flower production will fall off.

The Crossvine does best in full sun, but will grow in partial shade, although with fewer flowers. After the plant is established, some say it could be considered to be drought-resistant—but in our desert heat, do not let it dry out between waterings. Prune after flowering as needed. After blooming, dark-brown, woody seed pods will form.

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 is available for digital consultations, and you can email her with comments and questions at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; and follow the Potted Desert on Facebook.