The Silver King with colors in groups of three.

Too many colors in our garden all at once will create havoc or confusion in our weary, heat-laden minds. Let’s return to this month’s theme of the rule of three, and limit our choice in color combinations to odd numbers.

In this pot above, with our plant of the month, the Silver King Euonymus, we already have our silvery white and green glossy leaves. (Green is static in our combination, and we will not count it as one of the three colors.) With the white, I added strong contrasting colors: purple of Nierembergia “Purple Robe,” and the almost-black leaf of the Black Pearl Ornamental pepper plant. The white is repeated in white “Profusion” zinnias as the outside bookends of the design.

You can substitute purple scaevola or fan flowers for the Nierembergia; they will hold up better in the full desert sun. You can also use vinca for your white. You could substitute yellow for the white—with either the Profusion zinnias or purslane.

As I always say: At the nursery, group your plants on a cart, and step back from them to see if you like them together. You will be tempted to buy many other plants and flowers, but keep in mind the heat, and keep it simple. You can always go back another day!

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; follow the Potted Desert on Facebook.