Spring in the desert brings a flurry of activity out in the garden – much of it involving container gardening.

It is much like the saying, “Out with the old and in with the new.”  Cool-season plants are traded out for those that can handle the hot temperatures of summer.  

Yesterday, I spent some time at my local nursery shopping for containers and plants in preparation for my television appearance tomorrow morning on Sonoran Living.  

I was asked to talk about creative container gardening tips, so I thought that I would give you a little preview…

1. Jazz up the appearance of your containers by painting them a different color.


Let’s face it – beautiful containers can be expensive and cheap plastic containers can be a bit on the boring side.  I like to dress up plastic containers by adding a coat of paint.  

Many spray paints can be used on plastic and last a long time.  I have several painted pots in my garden that add a welcome spot of color.

2. Grow herbs and vegetables along with flowers in pots.

Leaf lettuce and garlic grow along with flowering petunias.

I enjoy growing vegetables and herbs in pots.  In the fall, I plant leaf lettuce, spinach and garlic in my large pots alongside flowering petunias.

Winter container garden with spinach, parsley and garlic growing with pink petunias.

Use a potting mix, which is specially formulated for containers and holds just the right amount of moisture.  

Container plants need to be fertilized.  You can use a slow-release fertilizer or a liquid fertilizer of your choice.

Cucumbers growing with vinca and dianthus.

In spring, vegetables such as cucumbers, bush beans and even zucchini can grow in containers paired with flowers. 

*If you would like to try growing edible containers, click here for more info.

3. Plant succulents for a low-maintenance container.


Succulents do very well in pots and need less water than those filled with flowering annuals and perennials.

Desert Spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri).
Succulents are a good choice for planting in areas where water is not easily accessible.  While they will need supplemental water, the fact that they don’t need to be watered daily, make them a better choice for these areas.


In general, succulents are lower-maintenance as well, so they area great choice for the ‘fuss-free’ gardener.

Use a potting mix specially formulated for cactus & succulents, which will drain well.

Fertilize succulents spring through fall using a liquid fertilizer at 1/2 strength.

*For more information on how to plant succulents in containers, including how to do it without getting pricked, click here.

4. Fill the bottom space of large pots with empty, plastic containers. 


Let’s face it – potting mix is expensive and makes your pots very heavy.  If you have a large pot, your plant’s roots most likely will never reach the bottom – so why waste soil where you don’t need it?

Fill up this unused space with recycled plastic containers and then add your potting mix.  You will save money AND your container will be much lighter as well.

*Next time, I’ll have some fun ideas for containers including how to grow flowers or vegetables out of a recyclable grocery bag.

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Tomorrow at 9:00 am, I will be on our local ABC station’s show, Sonoran Living, talking about “Creative Container Gardening Tips”.  I hope you tune in!  I’ll be sure to add the link for those of you who live outside of the Phoenix metro area, tomorrow, if you’d like to watch it online 🙂

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a horticulturist, certified arborist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."

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