Winter Color for your Desert Container Garden

Growing up in upstate New York, we had our fair share of snow. As a kid, I loved the snow –- sledding down the high school terraces, building snowmen. You know – typical childhood fun! I yearned for snow days off from school. We’d listen to the radio for school announcements and be disappointed when we were not listed. I walked to school no matter what, across backyards, through drifts and two-to-three-foot snowfalls, carving a path to the next plowed

I lost the advantage of snow days when I moved to Tucson as an adult. I remember when there was a dreary, rainy day in my first October, and I worried we would not see the sun for days. I soon remembered where I was living, and the sun would come out the next day. It was so reminiscent of living in the north, where those first rainy fall days meant the end of warm weather and the beginning of winter. As an adult, I did not look forward to the cold, dangerous driving conditions and having to shovel ourselves out.

However, here in the desert, when the monsoon rains would come, I began to call the worse days ‘snow days.’ My container gardening staff often could not get across washes to their maintenance assignments. I enjoyed calling off work for the day and giving them a snow day!

Imagine how disappointed I was this week when we were forecasted to have an 80% chance of rain. Temps were to only be in the 50’s, and my plants were anxiously waiting for it to start. I had planned a nice toasty day inside, armed with my coffee and dreams of a great movie.

So, what did we get? Maybe 5 minutes of rain? Not enough to dampen the rain gauge. If I were still in the business of taking care of people’s pots, it would not have been a day to send my staff home.

But in the long run, I prefer Tucson and the warm winter sun. I long now for spring, where we can keep doors and windows open and be outside all day long.

Many medium pots can make a large garden

Winter Pots in Full Color

When I started my business, my first client with more than 20 pots lived up in the Catalina Foothills. They had a lot of pots – now I would call them too small for what I teach. But at that time, we made do. They were already investing lots of money engaging my services, and to upsell them on new pots might have had them closing the door on me. As time went on and pots began wearing out, each new one fit my 20”+  diameter rule, with sizes between 22” and 24”.

In these two pictures, you can see how I made a large garden of pots grouped tightly together to foster humidity conditions around the pots. I used one pot as a stand for another. They did receive shade after 2 pm, so the plantings were in full color even in the summer.

Cactus pots made from medium pots

A cactus garden is a great way to use smaller pots.



This pot is under a Palo Verde tree, providing filtered sun during the hottest periods.


  • Snapdragons

  • Pansies

  • Alyssum

  • Lobelia

This trio of pots, all in white, is a focal point from the back of the house. The picture on the right is a shade pot by the back patio pillar. You can see how the color moves out to the trio – all dressed in white.