A Winter KISS Design for Full Sun in Your Desert Pots

A winter Desert Pot filled with Violas, Petunias and Alyssum

This KISS Design ensures plenty of ways to get it right

(KISS – Keep It Super Simple!)

Looking at this combination of flowers in a winter pot, I realized it does not matter where you place the plants. Since each of the three varieties (in five colors) have a medium upright stature as well as a draping habit, they will jockey for position with each other, and you really cannot go wrong.

Why I Love These Plants

Petunias, Violas, and Alyssum are all reliable winter flowers in our desert pots. Once planted, they will last until the temperatures warm up with some freeze protection until the temperatures warm up with nights resting (finally) in the ’60s.

Yes, everything except Alyssum will need deadheading, but if you find some Wave ™ Petunias, you can save yourself time as they are reported to not needing that care.

I love how they all cascade over the sides of the pot, creating a beautiful bouquet resulting in a gorgeous display. This allows you to use any pot, regardless of its wear, because you will not see the pot two months into the season!

Why I chose this Pot

As I mentioned above, the pot, in this case, does not have to be special. The pot was chosen to fit on a stand in the picture here, elevating the future ball of color to be seen from anywhere in the yard.

The beauty of this KISS design is that you can use any size pot 18” and larger by adjusting the number of flowers you use to fill it.


The “rules” around this type of design use only 3 types of flowers and up to three distinct colors. You can vary the colors’ shades to increase interest and layers, but it will become too busy and potentially disjointed if you get too far outside the box.

The pot shown includes Violas of solid Yellow, and the others are Lavender with a White Face and Yellow Center.

The two colors of Petunias are Purple with a Yellow Center and Fuchsia in the back of the pot, and White Alyssum.


The Fuchsia Petunia is not needed as it is hidden in the back where no one ventures. It breaks my “Rule” of this pot in having only three colors – White, Purple, and Yellow.

Quantity of Plants

Your quantity will depend on the size pot you are using. Use this chart as a guide.

The Potted Desert's Plant Count Guide for pots

This is a full sun pot, so you should not use anything smaller than a large pot.

The chart shows a large pot will probably take 11 flowers.

I suggest you use this count:

 Large Pot 18”-23”

  1. (3) 4” Yellow Violas
  2. (3) 4” Lavender Violas (with a white face and yellow center if available)
  3. (3) 4” Purple Petunias
  4. (2) 4” White Alyssum

For an XL pot, increase the quantity to a total of 17 plants.

XL Pot 24”-28”

  1. (5) 4” Yellow Violas
  2. (5) 4” Lavender Violas (with a white face and yellow center if available)
  3. (4) 4” Purple Petunias
  4. (3) 4” White Alyssum

Petunias tend to grow larger than the other plants, so I keep their quantity less than the Violas. Since you will be planting the Alyssum along the edge of the pot, you don’t need as many of them either.

A winter Desert Pot filled with Violas, Petunias and AlyssumPlant Placement

The title of this desert garden design is KISS Design, with plenty of ways to get it right. You really cannot go wrong with how you lay out the flowers. Have fun with it and see how it grows together.

Reasons this pot and planting are so successful.

  1. A large or extra-large pot. This one is 20” 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 potline, which has proven extremely reliable.
  3. The plants chosen are winter hardy. This arrangement only needs to be protected from freezes if the temperatures go below 30°F (approximately)
  4. Regular grooming (deadheading) and fertilizing are consistently provided.

Added Benefits of this Design

  1. This arrangement is versatile and can accommodate a changing color palette. You can use the same ideas in this design in other pots around your home. You can’t go wrong with the selection of plants.
  2. 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 sunny days.
  3. Snowbirds can still use this recipe and safeguard the soil health if 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 to keep the soil viable.
  4. Year-round desert gardeners can change the flowers each season. Change your color scheme and plants freely to experiment with new combinations!

 Planting Basics

  1. Cover the drainage hole with screening or a folded coffee filter.
  2. Use a quality potting mix. Suppose starting this pot from scratch with about 1.5-2 cubic feet of soil, depending on your pot’s size.
  3. If you are planting an 18” pot, you need to fill this entire pot with soil. The roots need all the space possible.
  4. However, if you are planting a larger pot and have no perennials added to this design, you can put something in the bottom, such as crushed gallon plastic jugs, nursery cans (upside down), or any other filler you like to use. I would not use rocks!
  5. Apply granular time-released fertilizer as you add the final layer of soil.
  6. Water thoroughly immediately after planting.

Livie Your Best Life Emoji from MaryleeMost Importantly

Have fun with this design. Follow some of the guidelines for plant selection and quantities and enjoy how it changes as it grows!





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