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Wed09172014

Last updateWed, 27 Aug 2014 10am

Potted Desert Garden

After last week’s storms, temperatures in the valley have heated back up. Perhaps your potted gardens are looking shabby or tired. There are several things you can—and should—do to care for your potted gardens this month.

Here are some tips to get you deeper into the desert’s true fall season.

Deadhead: Continue to deadhead your annuals.

Prune: Prune any leggy plants to create new growth and make for a well-shaped plant. Prune your tomatoes by two-thirds to encourage new growth and fruit-set for the fall. If you haven't pruned back your geraniums, do so now.

Jet spray: I’ve said it many times before, and I’ll say it many times again: Spray all of your potted plants, including flowers, shrubs, cacti and succulents—everything—every day if you are able. This will increase air circulation, and deter pests and disease such as spider mites, powdery mildew, aphids, etc. Do this in the early morning.

Fertilize: Treat your potted gardens every two weeks with a water-soluble fertilizer. Any rains we receive will support wild growth!

Capture rainwater: Use it to water plants under your covered areas. Micro-nutrients in the rain are great for potted plants!

Speaking of rain (and there’s a chance of some in the forecast this week): Too often, desert homeowners make the mistake of thinking that a storm means they can cut back on irrigation or hand-watering. However, it has to rain at least one inch in order to saturate the root ball of your plants—and even a deep soaking rain (more than one inch) received over a long time period (several hours) will only replace one day's worth of pot watering.

Two more things: First, it’s time for your September rose cutback. This applies to all hybrid teas, minis and floribundas. (See the picture below!)

  • Remove the top third of your roses and dead canes.
  • Selectively prune your climbers, doing a lesser cutback.
  • Clean up all the dead and fallen leaves, old mulch and debris.
  • Reapply bark mulch around the roses.

Second, be sure to fertilize your citrus this month. Fertilize according to the instructions on the package, and be sure to water in deeply.

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.

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