This sun-drenched pot is full of holiday color!

Life in the desert is grand! Since we can enjoy gardening year-round, we can plant as little or as much as we want without worrying too much about the timing.

But now is the time, as the holiday season is upon us, to add to our home’s celebration by sprucing up our container gardens to our heart’s content. It’s yet another excuse to ‘play’ outside in our gorgeous fall weather!

You have many options to add to the holiday luster in your pots. Let’s explore some ideas; mix and match as you please.

Seasonal plantings that last all winter: Whether you lean toward permanent plantings, such as shrubs or trees; you mix it up with perennials; or you only have annuals, you can plant your holiday color scheme now. Your gardens, with the right care, will last until the heat of the early summer.

For in-sun plantings, red and white annual possibilities include:

• Petunias

• Million Bells

• Stock

• Dianthus (try the newer variety of Amazon or other super-tall dianthus)

• Geraniums (they’re part-shade, too)

• Diascia

• Nemesia

• Snapdragons (whites and burgundy; no red)

• Alyssum

• Lobelia

• Pansies and Viola (whites and burgundy; no red)

As for shade plantings, primrose and cyclamen are your best bets in full shade. Filtered sun is a great place for geraniums.

Paper whites, amaryllis and, of course, poinsettias are great nursery plants that you can use in pots during the holidays. If there is a dip in temperatures to 40 degrees or below, you will want to bring them inside.

Permanent plantings: Your existing shrubs or trees can stand alone as holiday décor. Heavenly bamboo leaves will turn red. The red-tipped photinia’s new growth is red, so if you fertilize it now, you might force it into growth, resulting in showy leaves just in time for the holidays. Pyracantha and English holly have red berries that show off right in time for your parties. Burgundy cordyline is another plant that can bring holiday cheer when decorated with other plants or objects.

Speaking of objects: Take some of your decorations, and embellish the plants. Use small holiday lights, bows, garlands, ornaments, pine cones or anything that catches your eye as you deck the halls!

Combining your ideas: You also have the opportunity to plant annuals under or around your potted permanent plants. You can simply place a potted plant (or several) on top of the soil of the larger plant and dress it with potted ivy, garland, pine boughs or anything else you have to finish it off. This is a great way to use those tender nursery plants that you might need to bring inside.

Pots on your patio or near your front door are a great place to add candles (maybe of the flameless variety) inside chimneys among the plantings. This would be a great addition when you are expecting guests!

No matter how much or how little you do, allow your child’s eye to create the look you want for the holidays. I have kept within the traditional red-and-white color spectrum here, but if you want to work with blues, all-whites, golds or silvers, look for those colors when you visit the nursery. I know you will find something that just tickles you!

Have a great holiday season. Be safe in your garden and in your celebrations.

Marylee is the founder and former owner of The Contained Gardener in Tucson, Ariz. She has become known as the Desert’s Potted Garden Expert. E-mail her with comments and questions at, and follow The Potted Desert on Facebook.