Many people are asking what plants they can use in pots that will weather the summer sun and intense Coachella Valley heat.

Of course, you know I love our summer flowers; with the right watering and afternoon shade, they will thrive! However, many people do not want to be married to their pots and hoses; they travel a lot; or they are simply trying to be more water-conscious.

I do not recommend using plants in pots that go dormant in the winter, or need to be pruned each winter. Plants such as grasses and salvias fall into this category; although they are beautiful during the hot months, they do not do our pots justice during the winter months. Additionally, some other plants, such as bougainvillea, sages and Texas Rangers, are great in our landscapes, but do not perform well in pots. They need room to spread their roots much farther than a pot will allow.

Staying away from high-water flowers and shrubs, you can create beautiful pots with many cactuses and succulents. If you are aiming for lushness, consider the Gopher Plant (right). If you keep it well-groomed as lower branches brown up, it can be a very satisfying plant year-round. The one pictured here is in full spring bloom.

Another plant that I have mentioned before remains a favorite: the Giant Hesperaloe (below). It’s large enough to be a great specimen plant supported by a magnificent pot, and it will thrive in any full-sun desert setting.

If you don’t have as much room, try my third favorite: Pedilanthus macrocarpus, or the Lady Slipper (top). The orange-red flowers resemble slippers. This easy-to-grow succulent is fun to watch grow. It is slow-growing, so you can put it in a smaller pot which fits into an area tucked around your doors or patio. Lined up as in the picture above, they become little soldiers defending your home!

For optimal success with these and other succulents, be sure to use cactus soil when planting. Smaller pots will need water twice a week, while an extra-large pot (which you’d want to use with the Hesperaloe) will only need water every week or two. A water meter found in any garden department will help guide your water needs.

What plant might you add to this list? Email me at

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 potteddesert@gmail.comfollow the Potted Desert at