3 Conditions Where Hand Watering Your Hot Container Garden is the Right Choice

You decide to do a couple pots. You know we need the soil and pots and plants. As our excitement about our project escalates, do we think about how to water them once they are in place?
In many climates, water is not often an issue. In cities like Seattle where there are 340 days of rain, potted gardens only need occasional supplemental water. However, as our climates continue to change with more and more areas experiencing drought conditions, we do need to consider how we are going to get the water to our containers.
You might be thinking to just use a watering can or a hose or possibly your existing or new irrigation system. Now I am not going to get into irrigating your pots in this post. That is a much larger subject than I am willing to tackle today. But I will leave you with the knowledge that 90% of the time when using irrigation, you need a dedicated valve and line to water pots correctly.
You might also have recently seen olla’s or glass balls that distribute water as the soil dries. I don’t have much personal experience with these. Having lived in the middle desert for 20 years I am somewhat leery of possible solutions where I cannot be sure that the water or moisture will be distributed throughout the full body of soil. I understand that this method is based on old ways of ‘the early days’ of gardening for food.
Let’s move back to the original topic of when it is best to hand water.
Potted Desert Potted SucculentsCacti and Succulents
When you are potting up cactus and other succulents, hand watering is definitely the way to go. The frequency of water needed depends on the specific plant, the size of the pot and the amount of sun it receives every day. A basic guide is to water cacti and succulents monthly during the cooler seasons and bi-weekly in hot months. It is best to err on too little water, not over-watering.
Fountain Grass
Ornamental Plants
For ornamental shrubs, trees, vegetables, herbs and flowers, I recommend hose watering rather than using a bucket or watering can. A hose with a good nozzle can provide a rain shower that is not only gentle in its application but thorough in distributing water to the entire soil bed.
Hand watering recommended for Container Gardens
 Preventative Care
A hose nozzle also provides a jet spray which will improve plant health when used daily during hot spells to aerate the plant and send off any pests that are lurking in the cool shade of the leaves. The mist setting on the nozzle will provide cooling respite for hot afternoons when the soil itself has not dried out enough to need to water.
Watch for next Friday’s blog where I will talk about placing your pots to make watering easier.

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July in your Hot, Dry Container Garden

Think Positively – You Can Grow Beautiful Pots even in the hot summer

Summer Potted Desert Flowers

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To Do In Your Pots This Month

1. Garden and water in the very early mornings.

Who wants to be out in the heat?

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

You want your pots to be damp throughout.

3. Deadhead your spent flowers weekly to encourage new buds

Doing this weekly makes it be less of a chore.

4. Avoid pruning plants now that the desert has heated up.

Pruning now leads to sunburn by exposing previously shaded stems.

5. Keep up with bi-weekly pot fertilizing with a water-soluble fertilizer.

Be sure the soil is already damp before applying fertilizer.


Special notes on roses (From the Rose Society of Tucson)Healthy rose blooms (2)

Water, water, water: 

  • As temperatures remain above 100 degrees, water potted roses daily.
  • New potted roses may need water twice a day
  • NEW RECOMMENDATION: Water late in the afternoon after 6 p.m. during this time of year which allows for less evaporation
  • Place potted roses in an area that gets afternoon shade

Spray off your roses daily with water: The No.1 enemy of roses during the summer in hot and dry climates are spider mites. Spider mites, which look like small salt-and-pepper particles under leaves, will suck the leaves dry until they turn light brown and fall off. Keeping as much foliage on your plants is crucial to rose health during the summer.Every morning, spray off your roses with a jet of water supplied by a nozzle  attached to your water hose. YMake sure you spray underneath the leaves of the plant. By doing this daily, this will prevent spider mites from getting started. The added benefit is adding humidity to your garden which is vital in arid summer conditions.

Do not deadhead or remove dead leaves during the heat. Every bit of added shade helps.

 Stay Tuned – more coming every Friday for your desert or hot or dry garden.


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“Back Home” Gardens Turn Into Desert Surprises

Did you grow up in the desert? I didn’t and a huge number of people I have met over the last 20 years are not from the dry, hot climate we have come to love. We came from ‘up north’, ‘back east’ or ‘out west.’ We may have gardened easily in these regions with ample rain, plenty of sun, simple conditions. Except maybe for deer, that is.

Many transplanted gardeners yearn for their gardens from back home. Often we think – it’s just not possible to create the bountiful and joyful garden that we had in our milder climates; at least in the summer. Now, faced with the challenges of the desert, we might give up and not even bother once we see the thermometer hitting the 95o mark.

Don’t Let Your Pots Go Empty All Summer

Today I want to give you permission to try something different. I want your pots to not only survive the desert heat but have gardens that thrive all summer long.  Like something that you loved back home.

The opening photo is a bed of coleus. These wonderful, colorful leafy plants are being hybridized to handle increasingly hot climates. Some even can take a moderate amount of sun. I suggest you plant them when the nights are still slightly cool in order to become established before the heat sets in and be sure to choose a location that gets morning sun only and then providing them with ample water.


Coleus in Full Sun Desert PotThis second picture of coleus IS in full sun in the higher elevations of the mid-desert. Imagine how this mound of plantings shade its  soil maintaining a cooler temperature for its roots.

The pot is about 28” in diameter and holds an abundant volume of soil that will insulate the roots. It is amazing that even in this all-day sun setting, it thrived!

In the low desert such as Palm Springs and Phoenix, I would advise you to place this pot where it will be in the shade by 10am.

In the high desert, plant coleus after all danger of frost is past and feel free to place in sunny locations.


Bed Of Marigolds

Use the principles listed in the previous paragraph and the tips below to tempt fate with plants that you would love to try again. Don’t spend your entire savings on your first attempt though, work with only a few plants at a time. For instance, in this next photo is a bed of Marigolds. Experts have said; ‘Do not endeavor to grow Marigolds all summer in the desert.’

This photo was taken in Tucson, Arizona in August a few years back. The bed was planted with 4 inch transplants in the early spring in full sun. As the sun made its northern journey across the horizon, the bed was positioned so it was tucked into shade from the short wall behind it. With plenty of water and good air circulation, the marigolds thrived.


4 Tips to Stretch your “Back Home” plants into the Desert

  1. Choose some of your most resilient favorites.
  2. Plant early in the summer season. Best to plant in pots before the night temperatures consistently reach the 70’s.
  3. Provide consistent and abundant water. (except succulents such as those that come from California)
  4. Start small and gain experience.

Success takes three elements; the right spot with the right conditions, your love for the plants and a little amount of luck.

What plants from “back home” have you succeeded in planting, stretching the limits of your desert garden?

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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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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

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