Not very welcoming, is it?

Approaching an entrance for the first time can be intimidating. Do we have the right house? Is this the right door? If you couple this with a prickly “attack” cactus, that can only to your visitors’ apprehension!

We do need low-water plants in pots near our entryways. It can be hard to run irrigation to these pots; we do not want to have water runoff there; and the potential for stains around the pots is troublesome. Therefore, cactuses or succulents make sense.

However, we have a choice when it comes to these plantings. There are many succulents that can grace a front entry or courtyard gate without an unwelcoming prickly persona!

The following list includes some of my favorite plants that do well all year long in the desert. Those that prefer afternoon shade are marked with an asterisk. A double asterisk demands full shade. Note that some succulents put off a white milky sap that may be irritating to the skin and can be dangerous if ingested. Please handle these and other cactuses/succilents with gloves and caution.

  • Totem Pole Cactus Lophocereus schottii monstrose
  • Toothless Desert Spoon Dasylirion quadrangulatum
  • Spineless Pricky Pear Cactus Opuntia cochenillifera 
  • Red Yucca Hesperaloe and Giant Hesperaloe
  • Moroccan Mound Euphorbia resinifera
  • Lady Slipper Pedilanthus macrocarpus
  • Pencil Cactus or Firesticks Euphorbia tirucalli (pictured below; beware of toxic sap)
  • Elephant’s Food* Portulacaria afra
  • Spanish Dagger* (variegated or green) Yucca gloriosa
  • Jade** Crassula ovata

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; and follow the Potted Desert on Facebook.