Would you believe something as simple as three pots can make a remarkable story in your desert garden—a story that you can change on a whim?

Pictured first, above, is a blank slate—a common, boring fence in a desert backyard. It borders a grassy area adjacent to a rocky space. It’s crying for the “right something” to be added.

Enter—a collection of three pots, with two kids perpetually playing (below). This combination quickly became a fun garden “play area”! This winter combination includes complementary colors of yellow, blue and burgundy, simply planted with pansies and two varieties of lobelia.

Next we come to summer—desert style! The trees on the east side of the pots have leafed out and provide some intermittent shade to the pots. The vinca, salvia, chartreuse and sweet-potato vine are all sun-loving plants, but anything will do better with some respite from the intense summer sun. Notice our ballplayers tucked into the leaves of the sweet potato vine!

Back to another winter season, and the out-of-the-picture eastern tree has grown, providing even more shade for the pots. A long-living perennial (butterfly iris) and a shrub (golden euonymus) have been added as permanent stature plants in the back two pots. The front pot is filled with cold-loving cyclamen.

This last picture brings us back full-circle, to another summer. You can now see the true golden colors of the euonymus as it reflects the early morning sun. Since the pots are continuing to be protected by the mature tree, more shade plants have been added, including begonia, bacopa and geraniums. The hottest pot is the back yellow one, where calibrachoa and dusty miller are added for some bold contrasting shades. The back two pots will also shade the front pot in the later afternoon sun. You can find ways to create shade by the calculated alignment of the pots in relation to the movement of the sun!

March Care in Your Desert Potted Garden

Things are starting to heat up in our Palm Springs gardens—but it is too soon to think about planting summer flowers, with night temperatures staying in the 50s.

In order to extend the life of your winter flowers:

  • Deadhead your flowers. Pinch them back to the originating stem, deep within the plant.
  • Fertilize your potted plants every two weeks with a water-soluble fertilizer.
  • Bare spots in your pots? Plant midseason annuals such as petunias, dianthus, osteospernum, snapdragons and marigolds.
  • Watch shallow-rooted, newly planted annuals, which can quickly dry out with spring winds.

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