There is no such thing as small vegetation on Kauai.

I’m fortunate enough to be on vacation here in Hawaii. You know all those house plants I have been talking about? Here, those same plants are gigantic. There are pothos leaves the size of full-grown turkeys. Crotons almost two stories high. (See the picture!) And the summer sweet-potato vine, pictured in a water feature, grows all year long—and if not contained, it would take over the entire yard.

We went to an inner-island golf course where there is a Japanese garden and found a full-bloom poinsettia tucked in with other trees. Yes—it was a tree itself! I am sure no one stuck it in a closet for four months to try to get it to bloom again.

Every year, we come here for the holidays, and I’m amazed not just by the beauty of the green, but by how quickly the plants and flowers grow. I hope to come back in the spring sometime, as I am sure that we will see more plants in bloom. There are hedges of bromeliads along the roadways, like we see red yuccas in our desert communities. They are not in bloom now, but the red/green/burgundy leaves are stunning by themselves.

What is our take-away regarding our own gorgeous desert? For me it is two-fold: We need to treasure the desert climate and the natural gardens that exist there. And as a true gardener, we need to continue to try to stretch the limits of what we can plant and grow successfully, to bring in some of the tropic ambience. Our plants may never be as large as they are on the islands, but they will be the perfect size for my diminutive patio.


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. She is available for digital consultations, and you can email her with comments and questions at Follow the Potted Desert at