Monday, November 4, 2013

Thinking Color For a Winter Potted Garden in Your Desert Landscape

Posted By on Mon, Nov 4, 2013 at 9:00 AM

Five foot pots become huge “raised beds”
  • The Potted Desert
  • Five foot pots become huge “raised beds”

A large pot — meaning one that is greater than 28” in diameter offers you a tremendous opportunity to express yourself in living color. With our temperate climate in our desert landscape, we can enjoy winter seasonal color for a long time in our desert container gardens. What we plant in late October or early November will last long into the spring…. or is that early summer?

When combining colors in this large of a pot, you can almost treat it like a flower bed. However, you do not want to combine every color in the flower spectrum in one pot or one area. Too many colors, although pretty on first glance, quickly become too busy — the eye does not know where to rest and the brain becomes overwhelmed with all that it is trying to assimilate.

Before deciding on your color palette for this pot, there are a few things to consider:
1. The color of the pot itself.
2. Your colors of your décor.
3. Other plantings in the area and color of any flowers that will bloom during the same period of time.
4. Your personal preferences.

The same way you decorate your home and decide on your colors, you want to plan the colors in your pot.

Color of the pot
Organic colors such as those of the desert can really handle any color combination you might choose. You will find brown, umber, green and even matte blue pots in what I call more natural colors. These pots are purely the vessel that hold your bouquet.

Pots of bold colors need to have flower arrangements that complement the color of the pot. Bright blue pots might hold a combination of pinks, primary colors, pastels and are strong enough in their own color that one might decide to plant only one color in the pot.

I find the most difficult pot to choose colors for is the Chinese Red pot. Red or pink flowers will not look good in them but oranges, purples, and yellows will work fine.

Your Décor, Your Plantings and Surrounding Colors
If your pot is close to any other decorated areas of your home, you want to choose complementary colors to your furnishing, cushions, umbrellas, even the colors of the room that has a viewpoint of your pot. For example, if you decorate in earthtones, you probably will not choose a flower combination that includes pinks or blues, but decide on colors that are in your pillows or paintings such as hues of orange, cranberry, purple, yellow or red.

The same principles apply to flowering plants that will be seen in the same view as the pot. If you have a lush ‘Barbara Karst’ Bougainvillea against a wall and the pot is in line with the bougie, I don’t expect that I would plant a fire engine red planting in the same sight line. One of the colors is just going to lose. White, yellow and purple would stand out nicely with the fuchsia as the background.

Your Personal Preferences

32 Pots Overflowing with Winter Color
  • The Potted Desert
  • 32" Pots Overflowing with Winter Color

We all have our color loves. The wonderful thing about annual flowers is that we can try something this year and do something different in the next season. I have designed container gardens for over 15 years and I have never repeated the exact same design. There are too many flowers, colors and hues to choose from to be self-limiting and each year, growers develop new hybrids and shades of flowers. The other thing I see happening is that more and more flowers are being hybridized to handle more heat becoming more tolerant of our desert climate.

What I recommend in choosing the combination for a pot (or pots) is to grab a cart at the nursery and an empty flat or carton and place your selections on the flat and then step back and look at it. Look at it hard and long and be sure it sits right with you. For a 32” pot with no other permanent planting, you are going to want to put in approximately 22-26 four inch plants. If you select any gallon plants, they can replace 3-4 smaller ones. I urge you to use 4” plants and not jumbo plants.

Important: When you go shopping and bring your plants home, water them in well and plant as soon as possible — as in the same day. If you have to wait until the next morning, place them in the shade to rest until the morning.

  • The Potted Desert

Want to keep your money out of the compost heap? Sign up for the Desert Potted View and our Free Monthly Potted Garden tips - sign up at Potted Desert Newsletter.


Marylee is the founder and former owner of Tucson’s The Contained Gardener. With more than 15 years of successfully designing and growing potted gardens in the desert’s challenging and oftentimes harsh climate, Marylee has become known as the Desert’s Potted Garden Expert. Marylee is available for in-home or digital consultations and you can always email her with your questions and comments. Follow The Potted Desert on Facebook!

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,