Low Water Desert Color – It Works!
Planning for a garden of color in dry and hot climates can be challenging. Especially if you prefer not being wedded to your container garden and the garden hose. Choosing low water bloomers will not only provide you with an easier solution other than cactus but will give you that desired living color focal point in your desert landscape all summer long.
Choose low water plants that require similar light and water and those that will do well in your hot climate.
- Use quality potting soil that retains moisture AND drains well – I know it sounds like an oxymoron but it is true!
- For a combination plantings, plan to use plants that grow into three different heights – tall, mid-range and trailing.
- Plant early in the day and water your pot thoroughly after planting.
- Keep the pot moist until you see new growth. Then you will want to water the pot every two to three days. Water until you see water coming out the bottom of the pot. Test the moisture level at the root level which with these plants should be down about 6-8 inches.
Be mindful of the moisture in the pot throughout the summer as the heat escalates.
Plants used in this combination include: (Clockwise from Back Left)
Gopher Plant (Euphorbia rigida)
Blood Flower (Asclepias currasavica) Of the Milkweed family, Monarch butterflies need to feed on milkweed plants as caterpillars and so do not be surprised if you find a Monarch chrysalis on this plant
Parrot’s Beak (Lotus berthelotii)
Lantana (Lantana camara)
Note – except for the Parrot’s Beak, the plants in this pot are critter resistant!
Favorite Desert Color Works in Pots Too
We see Bougainvillea all over our desert landscapes. With a larger number of patio homes, these large plants are often too unwieldy to support in the patio landscape. Desert Dwellers often ask about planting Bougainvillea in pots so they can enjoy them year-round in hot climates. However, Bougainvillea are seriously particular, so follow these tips to increase your chances of success!
- Choose the right sized container. You need one at least 22” in height and diameter and one that is heavy with a wide bottom to reduce the risk of tipping. Be sure there are drainage holes in the pot.
- Give bougainvillea plants well-drained soil. Bougainvillea does not require high quality soils. Use a garden soil that is coarser with organic material and even gravely as potting soil is too rich for these plants.
- Do not disturb the roots when removing from the nursery can. Handle carefully, cutting the can away from the root ball rather than pulling the plant from the can.
- Position the bougainvillea plant in the best place. Bougainvillea is a sun-lover and it will grow best in a full sun position, in the open, facing due south. Heat is not an issue for bougainvillea.
- Water sparingly. Bougainvillea plants weaken with too much watering, ending up with heavy leaf growth in place of flowers
- Prune. Bougainvillea plants are prolific growers and need good pruning to force blooming:
- Wait for the first colorful bracts to form and fall off in spring
- Once they fall, prune excess growth
- Fertilize with a high phosphate fertilizer. This will cause new bloom on the shorter flowering spurs
- Repeat during the flowering season as needed.