This alyssum plant was a welcome surprise.

Volunteer plants! We often get surprised by something we did not plant that shoots up. These plants can come from previous plantings, seeds carried in by the wind, and even bird droppings.

One of the nicest surprises is when alyssum plants (above) pop up during late summer rains. We might find volunteer vinca, and some volunteer cactus in a hidden shady spot. (Feel free to move the cactus after the summer heat has dissipated. It may not be growing where you will want it to mature.) Think of the potential reward when we grow any cactus that surprises us with spring or fall blooms!

Below, you can see some summer flowers that decided to sprout up at my desert home. They came up in areas where there obviously was some water runoff from irrigation.


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