Shade is a good thing during our hot summers—and some ground-cover plants offer a lot of great shade for our summer pots!

The entire vinca family (perennial groundcover vincas) will grow easily, even in our summer heat, as long as the plants are in the shade. Above, you have a picture of the beautiful gold and green variegated vinca, “Golden Illuminations.” You will have no problem keeping the plant going down the sides of the pot.

You can also find vinca major and vinca minor, with deep, glossy green leaves; one of the few differences in the two varieties is leaf size: Major leaves are about twice the size of minor leaves. Each variety also comes in a variegated style. (The variegated vinca major is pictured to the right.)

Another key difference between major and minor is the growth height. Vinca major will grow to 10 inches tall, even in pots, so it is a little more challenging to keep the plants cascading. Minors will have no problem trailing down the pot.

Keep these plants evenly moist, in shade areas (one hour of early morning sun is OK in the summer; more in the winter is fine).

In previous columns, I’ve discussed the Purple Heart Plant, or “Purple Wandering Jew” (Tradescantia pallida), seen in the first pic below. Too many desert-dwellers try to push this plant in sunny landscapes; however, it thrives in shady conditions, or filtered sun in the winter. As you see in the picture, it does grow to about 10 inches in height but will also cascade as the branches get longer. It is somewhat drought-tolerant—but you’ll still need to water it, and make sure the soil does not completely dry out.

One landscape groundcover plant that will hold up to the heat of the day all year long is the trailing rosemary, shown in the second photo below. Be sure to select a plant that is “trailing” and not the upright rosemary: The latter will grow up to 4 feet tall, while the trailing rosemary tops out at 6 inches. Plants left in pots more than two years do get somewhat woody, but they respond well to pruning. Don’t forget to use new growth in your cooking!

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