Check out the repetition of color in the picture above of an early summer annual planting in a desert container garden. The red celosia and “Strawberry Fields” gomphrena, paired with yellow “profusion” zinnias and “blue” salvia, echo the rainbow colors of the glass balls settled into the rock divider between concrete pads.

We certainly have been able to enjoy all the beautiful blues of winter annuals—growers keep coming up with new hybrids of pansies, violas and lobelia to fill our gardens with wonderful blues. As we face our garden challenges of summer in the desert, many of us would love to plant some soft blues to help cool us off—at least visually.

Unfortunately, blue is next to impossible to come by in summer flowers. In cooler parts of the country, homeowners are planting all of the flowers that we had during the winter, including blues—yet we have none. Yes, some varieties of flowers might have “blue” in the name—for instance blue salvia, and blue vinca—but these flowers are really purple. (See the first pic below.) Yes, it may be a blueish purple, but it’s not blue.

Since we are so close to the California coast, we might pine over the blues in plumbago or agapanthus, which are so abundantly available there. But it’s just too hot to grow them successfully in our desert.

If you are trying for a cool shade to spend the evenings with on your patio, try some soft pinks of vincas and pentas, as pictured in the final picture below, in which the pots are nestled in afternoon shade. They will cool you off—and stand up to the heat throughout the summer.

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 Get a free copy of Ten Top Tips to Desert Potted Garden Success by visiting