Fall Container Gardening

November 10, 2020

As the weather changes in November, Arizonans get out and enjoy the cooler temperatures. Why not take advantage of the weather and give container gardening a try this season? We have some great suggestions about how to select a plant, choose a pot, get the best soil, and water your plants appropriately.

The plant you choose is an important part of how you conserve water. Here are some suggestions for plants you might enjoy that will add interest to your garden, as well as save water.

  • Consider cacti, agaves, and a great selection of other succulents such as aloes, which will provide spikes of winter blooms that attract hummingbirds.
  • Desert annuals and perennials will provide lots of showy colors. Try early-blooming Mexican poppy and penstemons, or long-blooming angelita daisy, blackfoot daisy, and moss verbena. Combine flower types and colors for added visual interest. Mix and match colors to find the combination that’s most pleasing to you.
  • Small, colorful shrubs are good performers. Look for plumbago, bush morning glory, purple hop bush, and dwarf bottlebrush.
  • Herbs also do well in containers and provide the benefit of fragrance or spicing up your cooking. Some sturdy winter plants include trailing rosemary, lavender, oregano, thyme, and lemongrass. Many will cascade nicely over hanging baskets.
  • Don’t hesitate to combine plants together in pots. Just don’t mix cacti and succulents with plants that will need more water.


The right pot is important for the look and health of your new plant. Here are some tips on choosing the right pot for your new addition.

  • Clay pots are the most popular, but they don’t always hold up well to moisture. To preserve them, line the inside with plastic before putting in soil and plants. Punch a hole through the plastic in the bottom of the pot to allow water to drain. Inserting a plastic pot inside a clay planter is also an option.
  • Pots made of lightweight Styrofoam-type materials make it easier to move plants to a protected location on colder nights. They also allow you to move your plants in and out of the shade as the seasons change.
  • Plants don’t like to be crowded so buy the bigger pot. Plant roots will stay cooler during warmer months and will also dry out less quickly.
  • Whichever pot you choose, allow for drainage. Arizona’s water is highly alkaline and the salts can harm plant roots. Make sure there are holes in the bottom of the pot, place screens over the holes so you’re draining water but not soil, and place pots on pot feet, bricks, or iron stands rather than saucers.


  • A good quality soil mix is probably the most important ingredient for successful container gardening. Choose a cactus/succulent mix for those varieties. For everything else use a lightweight packaged potting soil or a blend of one-third potting soil, one-third vermiculite, and one-third pre-moistened peat moss.
  • Use a timed-release fertilizer. Typically, a three- or four-month release fertilizer is sufficient for container gardening.
Photo by Wolfgang Rottmann on Unsplash


  • Container plants have restricted root systems and less soil compared to plants established in the ground, so they typically need more frequent watering than your landscape plants.
  • Be sure to water thoroughly each time, then allow the soil to dry moderately in between.
  • Keep in mind that weather and plant growth over time will change water needs.