Euonymus in Silver and Gold

A Potted Desert Recipe

Perfect Plant for Year-Round Pots in the Desert

If you have been around me much at all, you have heard me talk about Euonymus shrubs. With 175 species, there are many to choose from but here in our desert pots, I stick to my favorite two. The “Silver King” Euonymus and the “Golden” Euonymus. Cold hardy, requiring moderate water and easy to shape with occasional pruning, these shrubs’ spectacular color and size create massive planning easily in large pots and combination plantings.


Golden Euonymus Potted with Winter Annuals
The Potted Desert


I love this picture. One might wonder if the golden bush is blooming. It was rather surprising to find the petunia emerging from the center of the plant. Talk about leggy!!

The reason I chose this picture for my next Desert Container Recipe is that it is a winter combination that any gardener can master. The care is simple to keep the colorful combination blooming and it is rather frozen tolerant.  

This Golden Euonymus shrub was originally planted in 2002. It grew from a 12″ plant which started in a gallon container, into this 3.5 ft. focal point in just a few years. 

You can use either the Golden or Silver King Variety in this recipe. Be sure to read below the winter recipe to get the summer planting option!

Desert Container Recipe: “Winter Surprise Euonymus” 


  1. (1) 5-gallon Golden Euonymus
  2. (3) 4” Lite Purple Petunias such as “Petunia Ray” 
  3. (3) 4” Blue Pansies such as “True Blue Matrix” 
  4. (3) 4” lite Purple/White Violas such as “Icy Blue” 
  5. (3) 4” Magenta Compact Snap Dragons or substitute with a deep pink, short Dianthus

Learn how to choose pots that support your plants' needs when placed in full sunPlanting Basics 

  1. Cover the drainage hole with screening or a folded coffee filter.  
  2. Use a quality potting mix. If starting this pot from scratch, you will need about 4 cubic feet of the planting mix. And yes, you need to fill this entire out with soil. The roots need all the space possible.  
  3. Apply granular time-released fertilizer as you add the final layer of soil.  
  4. Water thoroughly immediately after planting.  
  5. FOR MORE ON how to plant your desert garden pots, check out my YouTube video.

Reasons this pot and planting is so successful 

  1. An extra-large pot. This one is 24” interior diameter at the rim. That means the belly is even wider giving the roots plenty of room to grow.  
  2. Consistent, thorough watering is provided by the homeowner’s dedicated pot line, which has proved to be extremely reliable.  
  3. The plants chosen are winter hardy. This arrangement only needs to be protected from freezes if the temperatures go below 29°F (approximately) 
  4. The Euonymus is an attractive clean plant. 
  5. Regular grooming (deadheading) and fertilizing is not a tedious job in this combination.  
  6. The Euonymus can be Root pruned every three years or when the pot is root bound.

Added Benefits and Tips for this design 

  1. A design with an easy-care shrub will save you money for years! Since the Euonymus take up half the pot, you will not need to buy as many flowers as you would if you planted annual flowers in the entire pot.  
  2. This arrangement is versatile and can accommodate a changing color palette. I do recommend limiting the number of colors and various textures because of the variegation of the shrub’s leaves.  
    A potted Golden Euonymus with petunias and dusty miller. The Potted Desert

    Existing Golden Euonymus Shrub with Fuchsia and Pale Pink Petunias and Dusty Miller

  3. Given the right annuals, water needs are moderate. With this size pot and the thick walls of the glazed clay, it will retain moisture in the center of the soil during hot summer months. There is no need to add mulch.
  4. Euonymus responds well to both pruning for shape and root pruning when the plant becomes root bound. 
  5. Snowbirds can still use this recipe as long as your pots are on a drip line.
  • Remove the winter flowers before you leave for the summer.
  • Provide regular summer water with an irrigation line.
  • When you come back in the fall, do a quick pruning and deep watering before adding your next set of winter flowers!!
  • Year-round desert gardeners can change the flowers each season. Change your color scheme and plants freely and enjoy this pot for years! 

Summer Desert Container DIY

This is not rocket science. The Euonymus will grow, filling the pot with its canopy and roots. All you need to do is plant around the edges with any flowers you like. Depending on the size of your pot, you will need six to ten flowers. Four-inch plants will be easier to plant than quart or gallon size.

Here is a “Silver King” Euonymus trimmed roughly in a Christmas tree shape underplanted predominantly with Vinca. There are a few Summer Snaps (Anglelonia) planted on the right side but I think they will be too tall to compete with the shrub.

Stick to low growing plants like Vinca, Profusion Zinnias, Purslane, Fan Flower (Scaevola) or Verbena.