When it comes to colorful flowers, there can be too much of a good thing, as this picture shows. See the picture at the bottom of the story for a more balanced, pleasant pot.

Color is the most prominent element in garden design, and typically the first one considered. Color is what draws us into a garden and is often what draws us out of the house and onto our patio.

When you’re driving down a road, and you approach a bed of flowers, what draws your eye in? Color! However, we’ve all had the experience of thinking a garden (or something else, for that matter) is “pretty” at first … but the more you look, something clicks in your mind that what you’re seeing is not working. What first is viewed as fun and exciting can become exhausting when you sit with your coffee or cocktail after a long day.

Why doesn’t it work? Often, the problem is too many colors in one garden!

Sometimes, we think a color combination will work when we choose the colors at the nursery, but once they are home and planted, we wonder … what did I do wrong?

At the store, the rainbow of colors and shades attracts our attention, and unless we have a “color agenda,” we don’t put the brakes on and try to coordinate our selections. We need to take a moment and step back to plan our potted gardens and, hence, our color selections.

I always suggest putting the plants that will go in one pot together on your shopping cart. Step back to look at them. The look needs to be long and hard. Stare at your combinations, and see if it works as you view it with your critical eye.

Here are some basic thoughts about combining color for your potted gardens this winter:

  • Start with two colors that you also use in a room inside your home—especially the room from which you have a view of your pots.
  • Add a contrasting color if you would like.

For instance, if your home is decorated in earth tones like rustic oranges, browns and greens, begin with an orange. Green will enter the picture with leaves and stems. Then add either purple or yellow, depending on how exciting or vibrant you want your color combination to be.

Another example: If your room is decorated in primary colors, choose something like blue and yellow, and then perhaps add red. The key is to put your plants together to see if you like the combination Try it! The beauty of using potted gardens is that you can easily change your mind, try new combinations and take out one plant and substitute another—without breaking the bank.

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.com. Follow the Potted Desert at facebook.com/potteddesert.