When trying to decide what to fill our containers with, most people gravitate toward colorful, flowering annuals.  For those of us who live in the Southwest, we are equally likely to fill our pots with cacti or succulents, which thrive in our dry climate.


However, did you know that plants aren’t the only thing that looks great in containers?  In fact, what many people would consider ‘trash’ can actually transform the look of a container and your outdoor space.



Dried plant material can add a unique and striking look to the landscape when showcased in a pot.

Besides decorating your outdoor space, they aren’t particular about sun, shade and are perfectly happy without any water or fertilizer.  

In this particular case, I had a lovely blue container in my front entry that had stood empty for longer than I would care to admit to.  The opening was too small for most plants and it sat in the shade for most of the day making it difficult to grow colorful annuals.


On a recent visit to a client whose home was surrounded by the natural desert, I found some dried plant material that would soon find its way to my house.
Among a pile of yard debris mixed in with cut tree branches and branch clippings were several dried yucca flowering stalks that had been pruned away and were waiting to be put in the trash.

Now most people would probably walk right by this pile of discarded plant material and understandably so.  But, I was on the lookout for items that the homeowner could use for a walled in patio, which was quite bare and received hot, reflected sun for most of the day.


My thought was to add colorful, glazed containers in order to bring welcome color to this space and fill them with cacti.


However, once I saw the dried yucca stalks, I decided that they would make a striking filler for a container.


The homeowner, who enjoys designing the interior of her home, saw the potential right away and selected three stalks.


The flowering stalks came from a magnificent soaptree yucca (Yucca elata) that they had growing in their front yard.


The homeowners graciously offered to give me a few of the stalks to take home.


I knew that my empty blue container would make the perfect home for dried yucca stalks.


While I love my new dried yucca stalks – they are just a few natural items that can be used in containers.


This large, dried flowering stalk from an agave would look fabulous in a container and displayed in the corner of an entry or patio.


Discarded canes from an ocotillo that would otherwise be headed toward the landfill can find new purpose as a filler for containers.


A saguaro skeleton would make a dramatic statement if ‘planted’ in a large container.


On my recommendation, this client gave up trying to grow flowering annuals in her shady entry and add colorful containers with bamboo poles.

Do you have a location where you’d like to have containers, but whatever you plant there dies?

Do any of the following situations where you’d like to have containers apply to you?

– Too much shade or sun
– Access to irrigation is limited
– You are gone for long lengths of time and can’t care for container plants
– Worried about staining the concrete or tile underneath the container from mineral buildup from watering
– You tend to kill anything you plant

If you are dealing with one or more these situations you may want to look at adding dried plant material to your containers for a unique and fuss-free look that will add beauty to your outdoor space.
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."

4 replies
  1. Peggi
    Peggi says:

    We went to Sedona this summer. There is a Christmas ornament store that used the Agave stalks for Christmas trees. I loved them and really want one.

    Reply
    • arizonaplantlady@gmail.com
      arizonaplantlady@gmail.com says:

      Hello,

      I’m sorry, but I don’t know of anyone. You can occasionally find them at smaller local nurseries, but they tend to sell out of them quickly. You may want to contact some landscape companies that work in native desert areas and set it up so that they will contact you when they find some. They usually come across them when caring for their client’s landscapes or when clearing land for new developments.

      Reply

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