Tips for your Desert Container Gardening Shopping

Do you plan before you go shopping for your potted desert garden?

Marylee choosing flowers for her container gardens

Before You Go

Make a plan before you head out. I bet you have been dreaming about your next season’s pots. Take a cup of _____ (your favorite beverage) out to your patio or where you plan to buy plants, and sit and think a bit. Be sure you have a piece of paper, your notebook, or your smartphone to make a list.

List the pots you want to fill, color, and size. List the plants on your wish list and the color combination you would like to use. Use the guide below to determine how many plants you need in each pot you fill.

A 24″ pot with one central planting will need approximately fourteen (14-17) “4” inch” plants. If you select any gallon plants, they can replace 3-4 smaller ones. I urge you to use 4″ plants, not six-packs, especially in summer.

Plant Count Guide for Pots by The Potted Desert

Make a List

The best way to approach your shopping adventure is to list the plants you want to use, organizing the list by pot. If you are unsure of the specific flower, note the color instead.

  • Do you already have one, or are you planning to buy any larger plants? i.e., Perennials, Shrubs or Trees? If so, you will reduce the quantity of four-inch plants and flowers you need to purchase.
  • Quantity of total plants needed per pot
  • How many plants you want of Tall, Medium, Short, or Trailing types.
  • What color combination do you want in each pot

Know and Trust Your Limits

Decide how many plants you can handle in one shopping trip. Remember – you can always go back.

Reduce the Overwhelm

When you first arrive at the nursery, it can be overwhelming to know where to begin. Again – go with a plan.

  1. Grab a cart at the nursery and an empty flat or carton.
    A local nursery is a great place to get information

    Shop for your larger plants first.

  2. Shop for your larger plants first. As you make final decisions on these, your needs for your smaller plant may change. Also, having these in your cart lets you check your flowers against these larger plants to ensure you don’t have too many textures.
  3. Next, move to the annual flower section of the nursery. Before entering the rows, look at the overall layout. Look for sun versus shade, color schemes, the height of plants, etc. Get the general view and decide where you want to start.
  4. Shop by pot or collection of pots.
  5. Use your list and a pencil!
  6. Place your selections on the flat, then step back and look at it.
  7. Stare at it hard and long, and be sure it sits right with you.
  8. If something seems just not right, take out one plant. Look at color combinations, textures, and heights. You often have too many small-flowered plants with small leaves, which can complicate the arrangement.

>> When you have completed your list – look at the entire cart and make sure you like your collection. Now is the time to edit your plan. Also, ensure you don’t have too many plants – for your pots and your task ahead.

Important: When you bring your plants home, place them in the shade and water them well, and I recommend you plant them early the following day.

The Importance of Shopping at a Local Nursery

I want to take a moment during this hot month to talk about economic responsibility. So stay inside your air-conditioned home and consider what you can do when shopping for your garden.

You have most likely read why shopping locally is the best choice for your community’s economy. The bottom line is that for every dollar spent shopping at a locally owned store, $.68 stays in your town, while shopping at a chain or big box store, only $.43 remains.

It adds up when you begin to calculate this on a million dollars of sales. $250,000 for every Million! 25% is Huge.

More benefits when you shop locally.

There are times when I recommend shopping for price. A big box nursery can offer a plant for less money than your local nursery. There are plants they will carry that come from the same grower as those your local nursery uses. They may be the same plant, in the same size container, but the big box store’s price will win.

IF you buy this plant soon after it arrives at the big box, and the price is reasonable, I would say go for it. Saving money on more generic plants will allow you to buy more at the local store and some specialty plants that you may not spend your money on!

However, if the plants have been around for a while in the big box, you will want to examine the plant’s health and ensure it has been kept nicely moist and in the type of sun, it needs to thrive. A cheap weak plant is not worth any amount of money you might save.

Here are a few reasons that may strike that chord to keep you shopping locally.

A local nursery will only bring in the plant species that will thrive in your area.

I have often seen a big box bring in plants in the wrong season or too early to plant or those that don’t belong in the climate where I live.

Additionally, local nurseries will offer a plethora of native plants for your area. They will recommend plants that accomplish your personal goals best suited to your garden. From easy-care to perennial bloomers to winter warriors, they will know what you need.

Local nurseries will often grow their plants.

And they will buy their plants from local growers, which the big boxes often do not use. Locally grown plants will be better adjusted to the local climate and sun intensity.

Local nurseries grow plants in the same conditions where they will live their entire lives. Less transplant shock, no adjustment period to the local climate, and even less transport time will contribute to the plant’s health and, therefore, your garden and happiness.

Plants will be cared for with personal attention.

A local nursery employs knowledgeable staff and trains them to increase their knowledge of plants, care, and local conditions. The team will ensure the plants receive water as soon as they arrive. They place the plants in the optimal location for their immediate health, check for pests and diseases and care for any problems.

The staff will prune plants waiting for their new home to maximize their growth and blooming capabilities. They will also repot them if they have outgrown their pots.

What you as a consumer gain

Your local nursery staff understands the microclimates and growing conditions where you live. Even within a state, there can be many climates. For instance, Arizona has low and mid-level deserts and 9,000′ mountains with significant snow and much colder temperatures. Not only will they ask where you live and know the best plants for your home, but they will also ask if you have any specific challenges at your home site due to waterways, slopes, or rocky areas.

Do yourself and your neighbor a favor. Shop smart and shop Local. And while you are at it – go out to eat at a local restaurant!!