Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Potted Garden Care in February

Posted By on Tue, Feb 11, 2014 at 9:30 AM

Winter in Desert Potted Garden
  • The Potted Desert
  • Winter in Desert Potted Garden

We have had an inconsistent winter this year so far. Warmer than average temperatures while the rest of the country suffers through freezing, snowing conditions. Our fluctuations have confused our plants so extra care is needed. 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!!!

Fertilize your citrus around Valentine’s Day Special Attention Needed in February
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.
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.
(Source: Pima County Master Gardener Program)

  • Image courtesy of Master isolated images /

 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.

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Monday, February 3, 2014

Prune Your Roses for Early Spring Blooms and Desert Heat Rose Health

Posted By on Mon, Feb 3, 2014 at 11:00 AM

Enjoy Roses in Your Desert Garden
  • The Potted Desert
  • Enjoy Roses in Your Desert Garden

You will want to finish pruning your roses by early-February (preferably this week in the Palm Springs desert) so that they can rest for a couple weeks before our early spring tells them to start growing! Follow these steps for a healthy spring bloom! The same instructions apply for all Hybrid Tea and Floribunda roses.

Pruning Use bypass pruners that work similar to scissors. Anvil-type pruners will crush your rose stems.

Rose Bushes before Pruning
  • The Potted Desert
  • Rose Bushes before Pruning

1. Prune the rose bush down to a height of 8-12”. Yes — this will remove ½ to 2/3 of the plant.
2. Remove any dead canes and small twiggy growth.
3. Remove any canes that are crossing through the middle of the bush or rubbing against other canes. This also opens up the center of the plant. You want your bush to have a “vase” shape to it.
4. Make your cuts about 1/4 inch above a bud eye that is facing out from the center of the bush.
5. Strip all leaves from the canes.
Roses after pruning - with new growth!
  • The Potted Desert
  • Roses after pruning - with new growth!

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Monday, January 27, 2014

5 Designing Tips for Your Desert Home Oasis

Posted By on Mon, Jan 27, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Robellini Palm Creates a Tropical Look
  • The Potted Desert
  • Robellini Palm Creates a Tropical Look

Designing Tips for your Desert Home Oasis

1. Plan your tropical garden near your home, part of your seating area. Since the majority of the plants require heavily filtered light, you can make the garden be part of your outdoor living area as you appreciate similar conditions.

2. Plan the flooring to be as cool as possible. Non-reflective colors in earthtone or blue hues work well. You might add an outdoor carpet to the seating area.

3. Think in levels or layers of plantings as you would see in a tropical garden. Low plantings around the seating areas in low pots will do well. Also bordering walkways. Then mid-height plants in taller pots or pots up on pedestals or pots with trellises for some vines.

Thinking in Levels
  • The Potted Desert
  • Thinking in Levels

4. Further back towards walls or further from the patio, you can think about larger plants and trees, still trying to keep the layered effect of the three heights of plants in the landscape. Perhaps a couple citrus or palm trees or an evergreen Pistache tree with a mixture of hibiscus and a blue leafed agave such as the Agave colorata. And definitely keep in mind your Bougainvillea and Birds of Paradise- both tropical (shade) and Mexican (sun)!!

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Monday, January 13, 2014

Tropical Gardens in your Tucson Desert Home

Posted By on Mon, Jan 13, 2014 at 3:00 PM

A Display Rack for Tropical Plants
  • The Potted Desert
  • A Display Rack for Tropical Plants

Living in the desert, we are able to stretch our plant choices a further than other areas of Arizona, as long as we can provide most of the plants with heavily filtered sun or afternoon shade.

The south side of my home is shaded by my neighbors towering oleanders. This is really the walkway to the back yard but I was able to transition the 8 foot wide side yard into a mini oasis which tends to be about 10 degrees cooler than other areas of my landscape. One side gets mostly shade all day long and the side along the house gets heavy sun making it the more challenging area. This area is therefore also protected from some of our lighter freezes.

Many plants that we have come to know as ‘house plants” are actually tropical plants that cannot survive the cold temperatures that most of the United States experiences. We are familiar with names like Pothos, Dracaena, Philodendrum and other common house plants. In full shade and with cold protection when the temperatures go below 40, these are tropical wonders for our patio oasis. However, once temps plummet below freezing, you will want to take the plants inside your home or Arizona room.

Plants that will tolerate more sun (but still will want afternoon shade most of the year are the Rose of Sharon, Hibiscus, Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta), Day Lilies offer clumps of arching sword-like leaves and can be evergreen, semi evergreen or deciduous depending on the species, Agapanthus, Butterfly Iris, Cordyline and Coleus.

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Monday, December 30, 2013

Happy New Year to All!

Posted By on Mon, Dec 30, 2013 at 9:00 AM

What is your gardening resolution for 2014?

Mine is to continue to supply you with container gardening tips that will help you grow successful desert potted gardens all year long!

Have a safe and happy New Year! See you in 2014!


Email Marylee with your questions and comments. Follow The Potted Desert on Facebook! Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Holidays from your Potted Desert

Posted By on Mon, Dec 23, 2013 at 9:00 AM


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Monday, December 16, 2013

Having a Blast with your Desert Potted Gardens

Posted By on Mon, Dec 16, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Winter Color with  Mexican Bird of Paradise
  • The Potted Desert
  • Winter Color with Mexican Bird of Paradise

Hopefully you have heard me say that you should ‘blast´ your flowers and potted plants with a jet-spray of water on a regular basis. I know many in my potted gardening classes have looked at me funny when I tell them to do this.

So why do I push this activity on you? A jet spray applied to the structure of your potted plants, flowers, roses and even cactus will do several things. It will blow off any existing pests and it aerates the plants resulting in a proactive method of deterring any pests and disease that might adversely affect the plants. A healthy plant is more resistant to disease such as powdery mildew and pests such as spider mites and aphids.

Once newly planted gardens are well-rooted and show signs of new growth, it is safe to begin your regime of the jet blast spray. New buds and blossoms will not break off unless they are not well-tethered to their stem anyhow. Also, you do not need to worry about wetting the leaves in the sun. Recent research showed that the water droplets do not stay long enough on the plant to create a magnification of the sun on the leaves.

Here are the steps to take in planning your cooling jet program in your desert garden:
1. Before applying water to the plants, be sure the temperature coming out of your hose is cool. In order not to waste this first water, spray it into a bucket and let it cool off before using that water to water another plant, spray it into your pool or set the nozzle onto a shower setting and spray it through the air allowing the cooled water to gently fall on a vegetated area.
2. Jet spray your plants in the early morning hours.
3. You may do this daily in the summer and every few days in the winter. I suggest only spraying off cactus once a month.
4. Set your hose nozzle to the jet spray setting.
5. Stand back three to four feet from the plants.
6. Spray across the structure of the plants, NOT into the soil, and move the hose around so you are hitting them from all sides. Each pot will only need about 10-15 seconds of spraying.
7. When you are done, be sure to turn off the hose at the spigot and run the final water out of the hose by opening up the nozzle for a last spray.

You will find that your plants are much happier and healthier with this treatment. It is a pleasant way to start your day with a cup of tea or coffee in one hand and your trusty hose in the other. On hotter mornings, a little mist drifting around you is not such a bad thing either.

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Monday, December 2, 2013

Nemesia — A Lesser Known Winter Annual

Posted By on Mon, Dec 2, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Rose Nemesia with Heuchera
  • The Potted Desert
  • Rose Nemesia with Heuchera

Even beginning gardeners are familiar with annual flowers such as pansies, violas, snapdragons and petunias. Mid-westerners and northern state residents plant then in the summer but here in the desert, they are part of our winter mix, holding up very well in potted gardens and flower bed. In addition to these old favorites, I enjoy exploring lesser known plants and mix them up in my container gardens to invite people to ask “What’s that plant?”

Nemesia is a fascinating cool-season annual with little snapdragon-shape flowers that bloom in a wide range of colors. It does best in our desert winters, though I had a nice surprise this past summer when my Nemesia continued to grow and flower throughout the summer! It did get some afternoon shade and regular water so I am sure that helped. Nemesia prefers moist, well-drained soil that's rich in organic matter. Originally from South Africa, the small flowers resemble snapdragons and linaria, to which they are related.

Nemesia grows from one to two feet tall, but tend to stay smaller in our heat. You will want to deadhead regularly to prolong their bloom as is true with most of our annual flowers. When flowers do start to decline, cut the plant back to stimulate new growth. Expect your plants’ performance to slow down as the weather heats up.

Designing with Nemesia:
Since Nemesia has such a small flower and its flower clusters will never fill a bed with color, I recommend using it in pots that are closer to the viewing area of that pot. Good locations are near a patio seating area, close to a window you pass by frequently and one that gets 6 hours of sun each day. The flowers bloom in large clusters at the top of the branching stems. There's a wide color range, including yellow, orange, pink, red, and lavender-blue. I team up the plants with strong bloomers around the base of the Nemesia and mix in other larger flowers at the mid-height range so the Nemesia is a delicate surprise popping out among the color.

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