Potted Desert Garden Care in February

How do you remember our winter so far this year? Rainy, chilly, downright cold?

Do not let a warm week in February allow you to think that winter is over. We can and most likely will have freezing temperatures this month and possible into March. Average last frost date is March 15 and remember – That is the AVERAGE!!! I just read that Chad Borseth from Native Seed Search and Facebook Group Tucson Backyard Gardening posted that he bases the last freeze being over by when his Mesquite tree blooms. Great tip from one of Tucson’s experts.


Potted Garden Tips for February:



Frosted or Frozen Plant Damage

  • Do not be tempted to prune back frost damaged plants yet.
  • We need to wait until the danger of frost is over (average date March 15)
  • Watch for a surprise frost and cover tender annuals.


Mitchell 10-03-11 (11)Fertilize your citrus around Valentine’s Day 

  1. Water both the day before and immediately after applying granular fertilizers.
  2. Use a granular fertilizer according to the directions on the package. Size and age of the trees determine how much fertilizer you use.
  3. Fertilize mature trees away the trunk, meaning the outer two thirds of the ground of the leaf canopy where the most active roots are.
  4. Give the trees a deep soaking watering after applying the fertilizer.
  5. Newly planted trees do not need fertilizer the first 1-2 years after planting).
  6. Note: Whether you use Ammonium Sulfate, Ammonium Phosphate or Citrus Food fertilizer it’s important to read instructions because the amount of fertilizer need per year will vary depending on the age, size, and type of citrus tree. For example, a medium-sized adult tree 5-6 years after planting needs 6.2 pounds of Ammonium Sulfate per year (split into three applications). Grapefruit trees 5 or more years after planting need half the amount for other citrus.
    Source: Pima County Master Gardener Program
  7. Continue to pick your citrus. You do not need to harvest all of the fruit just because the trees come into flower. Grapefruit and Valencia oranges will continue to sweeten while left on the trees.

Potted Plants

  1. Continue your bi-weekly fertilizing routine.
  2. Deadhead regularly and prune to shape plants.
  3. Blast your plants with a jet spray from about 4 feet away to deter pests and disease.
  4. Water potted cactus and succulents if you have not gotten ample rain. If you have registered an inch of rain in the last month, that is enough for now.

Roses (from the Rose Society of Tucson)

  1. Complete all pruning of your roses by mid-February.
  2. Once you’re done pruning, be sure to clean up all the old mulch and dead leaves and throw them in the trash, not your compost pile. Dead leaves can often have mildew spores and other diseases on them that can infest your compost pile and create problems later on.
  3. Apply both a pesticide and a fungicide to your pruned roses and the soil in the pots. Fungus spores such as mildew can live through the winter in your soil.
  4. Apply long-term or organic fertilizer, such as Max Magic Mix, Bandini Rose Food or homemade com-post. Also, it helps to add superphosphate at this time and apply a half cup of Epsom salts. Scratch it into the soil and water in.
  5. Two weeks following the long-term fertilizing, begin your regular short-term or liquid fertilizing program using a water soluble fertilizer such as Rapid Gro or Miracle Gro.
  6. Once growth appears, start in on your hose jet-spray regime to keep the aphids and mildew away.
  7. Continue to water your roses. As daytime temperatures increase, increase your watering frequency making sure the pot drains with each watering.

Have a beautiful month! February and March are our spring months and we want to get out and enjoy our splendid winter gardens!

~ Marylee Briehl 10-4-13 (3)

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December in your Desert Potted Garden

December Chalk boardGreetings All! Happy December!

As I sat down to write this month’s post, as often happens after Thanksgiving, I was a little uninspired. There are many things I rather be doing than gardening this month or even writing about gardening. When I get to this point of the year, I am often ready to take a break and just enjoy my garden, tending it a little and then getting on with the holidays! So I thought – that is OK! I am human, am I not? I can tell my gardening friends like it is and I would not be surprised if you don’t tell me you are feeling it too!

I have spent a lot of time this fall getting the word out on my book, Getting Potted in the Desert. It has been a blast and I cannot tell you how thrilled I am with the response I have received. I know it was a long time coming and I kept promising those in my classes that some day this information would be available in print/published form. I keep placing more orders for copies and will keep doing so until we get all desert dwellers potted!! I plan to get it on Amazon and in an e-book form after the holidays.

It’s not to late to order books now – for yourself or for a gift.

I am also planning many more workshops and book events the first half of 2016 – Check out the upcoming events page here on the website or if you are reading this via the blog, over to the right.

Here is a quote from one of our book purchasers:

I moved to Tucson a year and a half ago from the Seattle, Washington area. I needed to “re-learn” and adjust to many new gardening techniques in this Sonoran Desert climate. Marylee’s new book is a godsend. I now have a “to do” list for every month with the information I need to take care of my landscape and pots … as well as add new plants or dispose of ones I don’t want any longer. Thank You Marylee!  Kathy P.

Desert Red Geraniums and Silver.potteddesert.comIf you are so inclined to do some planting this month:

You might want to pick up some extra flowers to make your pots company ready. Or add an arrangement to your front door. Whatever whim you have, keep it simple and save your time and energy for other holiday preparations and definitely time to enjoy your friends and family.

Happy Holidays to you!

Keep everyone you love close – if not in person, than in your hearts.

Take time for each other and to smell the flowers!


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November in Your Desert Potted Garden

Desert Red Geraniums and Silver.potteddesert.com

November is here and that means the holidays are quickly coming! Let’s get your garden done sooner rather than later so it is gorgeous for your guests and you can enjoy it yourself with just a little more work each week.

December to do


Prep your freeze cloths and supplies now. You want to have enough cloths for each of your frost tender plants and plantings. Clothespins are great for holding the cloth together, close to the branches of the plants.

DO NOT USE plastic, towels or heavy blankets. If it rains, the heavy fabrics will break the stems and plastic in the cold will burn the plant.

My First Radio Show!

Logo with photo, dark wings, cutMrs. Green’s World will be hosting an interview with Mrs. Green herself tonight at 7pm (AZ time) Hear my story about how I got involved in container gardening and how smart use of pots for your garden can help Mother Earth in preserving water.

If you miss the first airing, no problem! Just follow the link any time to listen to the podcast.

IMG_5341Want more help in your desert potted plants?

Pick up a copy of my book, “Getting Potted in the Desert” today!

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2 Weekends of Potted Garden Events

IMG_5345Happy Fall and Happy Halloween!

Greetings! We are finally into fall weather! We might get a little rain this week and let’s hope it doesn’t continue into the weekend. There are so many events around town and the UA football game on Saturday, as much as we appreciate the rain, we can wish for it to be done by tomorrow!

As we do catch some precipitation, don’t assume it is ample to your pots. Check new plantings regularly to make sure they don’t dry out. If you have not planted your winter flowers and vegetables yet – now is certainly time to do so. The rest of your November potted garden updates will be out next week.


Upcoming Desert Container Garden Presentations with Marylee

Celebrate Magic Garden Nursery

19th Anniversary Celebration and Sale

This weekend,Oct 31 and Nov 1

Ask Marylee your burning potted questions. 10-2 each day.

7909 E 22nd St, Tucson, AZ 85710;  (520) 885-7466


Class PBO 12-09-29 (7)

Please pre-register with Tucson Botanical Gardens by calling, 326-9686


Signings East and West


Dakota Bar & Grill  

during the Heirloom Farmers Market

6541 E. Tanque Verde Rd. Tucson, AZ 85715

Friday, November  6,  2015 10am-1pm

Marylee Pangman, author of newly published book “Getting Potted in the Desert” will present potted gardening demonstrations each half hour followed by book signings. Complementary food tastings from Dakota Café and stay for a while to have lunch. Mention this post and receive a free appetizer per table.


Gourmet Girls Gluten Free Bakery Bistro

Celebrating their 3rd Anniversary!

Saturday, Nov. 7,  2015, 10am – 1pm

Marylee will again present potted gardening demonstrations each half hour followed by book signings. Complementary food tastings from the Gourmet Girls treats in celebration of their 3rd Anniversary.


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5 Tasks for Fall Potted Desert Garden Success

Hello! The coming first weeks of October are when I ask you to practice PATIENCE. In the high and mid desert regions, temperatures are teasing us with dips into the 80’s and our summer flowers might be getting a little tired.

If you have already passed that point and they are absolutely dreadful, you still need to hold off. Low desert areas such as Palm Springs and Phoenix stay hotter later and I suggest you wait a little longer. For these areas, plant shoulder season flowers such as Snapdragons, Petunias, Dusty Miller and Marigolds.

For the best results in the longevity of your winter flowers, you want to wait until the nighttime temperatures are sticking to the mid to low 60’s. Especially with pansies, ornamental kale and violas.

October’s Tips to Potted Garden Success

For more information, pick up your copy of "Getting Potted in the Desert" at www.potteddesert.com

For more information, pick up your copy of

“Getting Potted in the Desert”


Healthy rose blooms (2)

 October Rose Care (from the Rose Society of Tucson)


  • Deeply water to encourage roots to grow to where the soil is cooler.
  • Roses in pots need daily water.
  • Never let them dry out or the soil will become hard to re-hydrate.
  • Check your irrigation system often.
  • Give your roses a cooling shower of water in the afternoons.


  • Use a  water soluble fertilizer twice this month.

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Your Potted Desert Garden – July

Summer Desert Color – In All Its Glory

Hello! As we prepare to celebrate our nations 4th of July, I want to wish you each a beautiful holiday weekend. Don’t neglect your potted gardens as you get busy with your events. I know it is hot out there and probably one of the last things we want to do is go out and work in our gardens. Even the dawning hour is pretty warm and humid as we enter monsoon season.

My biggest advice to you this month is to BE MINDFUL! 

July’s Tips to Potted Garden Success


Don’t assume the rain has provided enough water for your pots. We need about an inch for you to take a day off. If we then go back to full sun, they are going to need to be watered again the next day. Use a water meter or your trusty finger to check on the soil’s moisture depth.

Potted cactus and succulents – if we get measurable rain this month, you can probably take the month off from watering your potted cacti and succulents.

Be sure to water pots that are under a patio or car port roof. If you can get them out into the rain, better still!

Want to have a mosquito –free summer?

Check to make sure that you have no standing water in any of your garden or potted areas.

Deadhead and Feed

  • Continue to fertilize your pots with a water soluble fertilizer throughout the summer every two weeks regardless of the heat.
  • Deadhead your potted gardens at least every two weeks.

Healthy rose blooms (2)

    July Rose Care (from the Rose Society of Tucson)


  • Deeply water to encourage roots to grow to where the soil is cooler.
  • Roses in pots need daily water.
  • Never let them dry out or the soil will become hard to re-hydrate.
  • Check your irrigation system often.
  • Give your roses a cooling shower of water in the afternoons.


  • Use a half-strength water soluble fertilizer or a time-release fertilizer this month.

Watch for the coming announcement of Marylee’s book: “Getting Potted in the Desert”

The last edit is in the works. We are planning our kick off events and sales. Marylee is also accepting demonstrations and book signings at garden clubs, book stores and other garden-centered events. Email Marylee to get on the list or reserve your copy of the book!

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Your Potted Desert Garden – June

Summer Potted Arrangement


The Heat is Here! June on average is Tucson’s hottest and driest month.

We continue to be below our normal rainfall totals so take great care to make sure your plants are getting enough            water until the monsoon arrives. Don’t forget to make sure you stay hydrated too!

June’s Tips to Potted Garden Success


The main topic in our desert summers. Your potted gardens, planted with flowers or perennials need daily watering as the roots are in the top six inches of the soil. Your shrubs and trees in containers will most likely need a deep soaking twice a week.

Potted cactus and succulents need water usually once every two weeks in the summer.Summer Hibiscus and Vinca

Think about what kind of plant you have in a pot, where the root system is and water accordingly.

Want to have a mosquito –free summer?

Check to make sure that you have no standing water in any of your garden or potted areas.

Are your water bills higher than normal?

  • Walk and observe your irrigation line checking for leaks.
  • Let the water run for a while to be able to check for pooling areas.
  • Listen for the sound of bubbling or water spouts.

Are your plants stressing and dying?

  • Check that your irrigation is set correctly and that plants are not getting too much hot summer sun.
  • They may be getting too much hot sun and need to be re-located where they will receive more shade.

Deadhead and Feed

  • Be sure to deadhead your annuals and prune to create new growth and a well-shaped plant.
  • Fertilize your potted gardens every two weeks with water soluble fertilizer.

Healthy rose blooms (2)

    June Rose Care (from the Rose Society of Tucson)

June is dry, hot and windy.


  • Deeply water to encourage roots to grow to where the soil is cooler.
  • Roses in pots need daily water.
  • Never let them dry out or the soil will become hard to re-hydrate.
  • Check your irrigation system often.
  • Give your roses a cooling shower of water in the afternoons.

Mulch: Several inches of mulch will protect the fine feeder roots at the top.


Use a half-strength water soluble fertilizer or a time-release fertilizer this month. This will help keep healthy foliage which in turn shades the plant.

Summer Pest – Spider Mites:

Look for – dead and falling leaves; webs and/or a salt and pepper appearance on the underside of the leaves.

Treatment – use a miticide (not a pesticide) and/or blast the rose bushes with a strong water spray every two to three days.

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Increase Your Desire To Be In Your Backyard


We are approaching the long weekend to celebrate Memorial Day. We decided to stay home instead of traveling and I was thinking about what I want to do. The answer came easily, be in our backyard as much as possible. 

As I thought about this strong desire, I wondered why I did not feel the pull in our home that we previously owned. I do not feel that it is related to ownership, renting our home now. I think that it is the downsizing we have done. I have gone from 50 pots to 9; 6 drip irrigation zones to none. We only have succulents in containers which are easily hand watered every two weeks in the summer. 

We have comfortable places to sit and relax, a view of the Catalina’s, birds and other ‘visitors.’ After battling the squirrels last summer, I have a new mantra. “Squirrels are my friends.” 

Before adding to your garden, think about how you want to spend your time. The wonderful thing about potted gardens is you can always add, move or decrease your pots. We can give ourselves permission to change our minds.

As we celebrate and honor those who serve our country, reflect on your outdoor spaces. Go out and just sit soaking up the atmosphere of your home.

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Your Potted Desert Garden – May

What a nice spring we have been having in the southwest! I know I heard some of you complaining back a few weeks ago when the temperatures were in the 90’s. But the nights have not warmed up yet much at all. Right now, we are unseasonably cool. Enjoy it!! Plenty of time now to plant your summer pots and give them a great start before we do move into the true summer heat.

May’s Tips to Potted Garden Success

Let’s get going on our summer plantings

  • Now is the ideal time to plant summer annuals, new perennials, veggies and herbs.

Some of my absolute summer favorites are Vinca, Pentas and Summer Snaps (Angelonia). Purslane is great in dry pots. Plant around Red Yucca for a stunning, low water pot. Never say, “I can’t grow anything in the summer.” Choose the right plants and make sure they have regular, consistent, daily water.

  • As temperatures rise be sure to also increase the frequency and depth of watering for your citrus and roses
  • Fertilize your citrus near NOW with a citrus fertilizer. (I love Arizona Best)
  • Check your irrigation system for leaks.

Healthy rose blooms (2)

May Rose Care

General Notes:

  • Spray your roses with a jet blast of water three times a week. This is the best proactive method to keep your roses healthy.
  • Put down mulch to keep soil from drying out.
  • Be sure to dead head your roses this month to continue this bloom cycle while our weather is still favorable.


  • Note: Always water your roses thoroughly the night before you fertilize.
  • Week 1: Use one cup of organic fertilizer like Max Magic Mix or homemade compost. Scratch the dry fertilizer into the ground and water in again.
  • Week 3 and every other week after: Use a water-soluble fertilizer with a hose applicator. Spray the rose leaves and buds as well as a thorough soaking of the soil.
  • Week 4: Apply a dose of fish emulsion to help get the microorganisms going.


During the spring, the main rose ailments are aphids and mildew.

  • Aphids: Use Bayer Rose Spray or Safer Insecticide once a week per bottle instructions to wipe them out.
  • Mildew: Keep in check by using a good fungicide. It is best to fungicide as a preventative for mildew on a weekly basis, rather than waiting for the problem to show up. It’s harder to prevent damage once it’s started.
  • Thrips: They attack the rose blooms and turn them brown. A simple way to keep them under control is to get a small plastic spray bottle with your favorite rose spray and spray the buds directly as they are starting to open. Do this once a week at least.

Water: Continue to water your roses deeply so all the soil is moist and water comes out of the drainage hole. Potted roses need deep watering every two days when in the 80’s and daily in the 90’s.

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Your Potted Desert Garden – April

IMG_3817How can I be talking about summer flowers when this picture was just taken at the University of Arizona on March 15th? However, if our temperature trends continue, these pansies may be getting pretty tired by the time you read this update.

As you always hear me preach, I recommend that you do not plant summer flowers until the second half of April or later. Remember, I always talk about how long we ask our summer flowers to perform. If we plant late April, we won’t plant again until late October and that is six months. Planting in late March or the first week of April adds another month to that. We do want to plant before the summer heat arrives so the roots can get established before the soil warms up to summer levels.

You will have more options  in the nursery too! For those of you chomping at the bit to plant sooner, just be prepared to add some new plants in August to refresh your pots if some of the plants are too tired to bloom or grow any longer.

Keep Up with Your Regular Flower Maintenance

April to do

It’s time to check your irrigation system 

  • NOTE: Newly planted pots need daily water.
  • Review past water bills to track your usage – look for any obvious changes.
  • Check your system for leaks.
  • Do Not ASSUME… we need 1” of rain to be safe in turning off the irrigation for any length of time. Your pots will need water again in one to two days. Don’t forget to turn it back on!
  • Adjust irrigation timers. As temperatures increase, so do the water needs of your garden. To give plants just the right amount, adjust the timer by increasing the number of days per week it operates, but not the number of minutes per cycle.

Healthy rose blooms (2)

April Rose Care

Fertilize: Establish a regular fertilizing schedule for your roses starting this month with both organic and water soluble fertilizers:

  • Monthly: Use Max Magic Mix or another organic fertilizer or homemade compost (about one cup per bush the first week
  • Bi-weekly: Dilute your water soluble fertilizer (Miracle Grow, Peters, Scotts, etc) as the instructions state and shower your fertilizer using your hose.
  • Additionally, be sure to apply a dose of fish emulsion once a month
  • Be sure to water your roses thoroughly the night before you fertilize them and again after fertilizing.

Pests and Fungi: aphids and mildew:

  • Spraying your roses off with water a couple of times a week will help reduce the aphid population. If a colony has gotten started, use Bayer Rose Spray or Safer Insecticide once a week per bottle instructions to wipe them out.
  • When the weather gets warmer, the dreaded Thrips will appear. They attack the rose blooms and turn them brown. Using a small plastic spray bottle, spray the buds directly with your chosen insecticide above, as they begin to open. Do this at least once a week.
  • Mildew can be kept in check by using a good fungicide. It is best to apply fungicide as a preventative for mildew on a weekly basis, rather than waiting for the problem to show up. It’s harder to prevent damage once it’s started.
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Getting Potted In
The De
sert Book


Marylee Pangman shares her wealth of information gained from 20 + years creating successful Potted Gardens in the Desert

click here