Replace Thirsty Flowering Annuals with Succulents in Containers


Do you have a pot or two that you fill with flowering annuals each season?

Replace Thirsty Flowering Annuals with Succulents in Containers

I must confess that I did this for years – both in the landscapes I managed and at home.  In fall, I would plant combinations of alyssum, geraniums, lobelia, petunias and snapdragons.  In summer it was celosia, salvia and/or vinca that I turned to for color.   

But, with many areas of the country experiencing significant drought conditions, perhaps it’s time to think about replacing thirsty flowering annuals with drought tolerant succulents in our containers.

World's Safest Beach

On a recent visit to California, (which is suffering from extreme drought conditions), we walked through the small beach town of Carpinteria.    

This is a fun place to walk, especially through the downtown area with their plant nurseries and the beach is really a great one for swimming.  We used to camp near the beach as kids and spent swimming in the ocean.

Crush cakes and cafe

A visit Carpinteria for us is never complete without a visit to crushcakes for their delicious cupcakes.  

In front of their restaurant, I noticed a unique coffee pot container filled with aloes.

vanilla cupcake

After eating my favorite vanilla cupcake, we continued our walk down the main street.

attractive succulents

Other store fronts also had pots filled with attractive succulents.  

In fact, what was unusual was that there weren’t any pots filled with flowering annuals, as you would normally see along a picturesque downtown area.

That made me realize that while I love flowers, I didn’t miss them.  

Replace Thirsty Flowering Annuals with Succulents in Containers

The absence of flowering annuals, got me to thinking that if you live in an area where there is drought, or even if you don’t – maybe we should look at using succulents instead of flowering annuals?

Succulents in Containers

Like flowering annuals and perennials, there are countless types of succulents available with soft, colorful shades and unique shapes.

Succulents in Containers

Another reason to consider using succulents is that they are easy to grow – especially when compared to flowering annuals.  

All you need is a container with holes for drainage, potting mix formulated for succulents and the succulents themselves.

Succulents in Containers

You could plant a variety of succulents or even add some cacti into the mix…

Succulents in Containers

A container like this one above, needs water twice a month in summer and monthly in spring and fall.    

Succulents in Containers

I loved this succulent container that I saw at recent visit to a client’s home.    

I must confess that I stopped growing flowering annuals a few years ago because succulents are easier to take care of – especially with watering.

Succulents in Containers

Using succulents instead of flowering annuals doesn’t have to be fancy – in fact, a single agave looks great by itself.

Succulents in Containers

But, what if you aren’t a fan of succulents.  Is there a drought tolerant option instead of planting flowering annuals or perennials?


Believe it or not, bougainvillea makes a great container plant and they don’t need much water.  Simply water them deeply once a week in summer and twice a month spring and fall.  In winter, water them every 3 weeks.  

**So what about you?  Could you ditch your containers filled with colorful flowers for a waterwise one filled with succulents?  

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a author, horticulturist, 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."
3 replies
  1. dryheatblog
    dryheatblog says:

    I think I could make the switch, though some color might be nice…in fact, I just bought a backseat-full of beargrass, some "shade-tolerant" cacti and rain lilies…bound for my patio pots!

    All the succulents come easy for much of coastal CA – I wonder what can be used well in the desert SW. Being I'm on the edge of z 8b-9a, summers are not too hot, I need to learn more.

  2. little addictions
    little addictions says:

    I Love succulents and would plant them prolifically–in the ground as well as in containers–If they made it through our Hot Phoenix summers. Despite my best efforts to provide shade, many do not seem to withstand the intense heat. I've already planted the hardy types (you've featured many on your blog). Do you have any thoughts or suggestions on what I can do? I don't have a covered patio.

  3. says:

    Hello Little Addictions,

    I would concentrate on using agave and cacti or 'Blue 'Elf' aloe which can survive our summers while looking great. I have some examples in the photos of this blog post.

    I hope this helps!

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