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Desert Gardening: High-Drama Houseplants for the Patio

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

In summer, shady porches are the perfect habitats for houseplants. With the arrival of warm nights, move indoor specimens outside to create interest on the patio.

White-striped snake plant

By Scott Calhoun

With its balmy, frost-free nights, summer is a great time to free your captive houseplants that have gathered dust and languished in corners all winter. Give them a vacation, put them outside, and watch them flourish.

In general, many indoor plants prefer low light, so take care where you put them. Covered patios often provide the type of indirect light some houseplant species prefer. Below are a few of my favorite patio stars—mostly indoor plants that make summer cameo appearances on the patio—although you can keep a few of these outdoors year-round in largely frost-free microclimates. A couple of the plants below also enjoy full sun.

Low-growing variety of snake plant in bowl.

Snake Plant

Plants in the Sansevieria genus, also known as snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue, are vertical growers that come in a variety of colors and shapes. Tall, variegated varieties, such as the white-striped ‘Bantel’s Sensation’ pictured above, are excellent in dim patio corners, where height and drama are needed. Low-growing varieties, such as the plant pictured right, are handsome in wide, dish-type pots. Because it grows from rhizomes, snake plant eventually spreads and fills up a pot.

Large potted Madagascar palm on a patio.

Madagascar Palm

Known for its clusters of fragrant white flowers, Madagascar palm (Pachypodium lamerei) is not a true palm but rather a stem succulent with a thorny trunk. It resembles a cross between a cactus and palm. It’s tall—reaching 6 feet indoors and even taller outside. Madagascar palm takes nearly full sun in the desert but also appreciates the filtered shade of desert trees. Indoors it rarely blooms, but once outside it puts on a fragrant spring display, sometimes reblooming with summer rains. Use it in a pot singly, or at the back of a group of pots. It’s dramatic and bold.

Desert rose ‘Crimson Star’ steals the show in the summer garden.

Desert Rose

For a powerful-big summer flower show, try desert rose (Adenium spp.). This oleander relative from Africa thrives in sun, heat and humidity. This one takes full sun. It grows from a bulbous base often purposely left exposed when potting. Plants can range from small tabletop bonsai specimens to hulking 6-footers. Blooms come in colors from white to pink to red, with numerous flower shapes and color combinations. The variety pictured right is the stunning red hybrid ‘Crimson Star’.

Other bold plants (some houseplants) for summer patio pots you usually can find at Lowe’s stores in our region include:

  • Dwarf Lily of the Nile (Agapanthus ‘Peter Pan’)
  • Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata)
  • Lemon Drops Fortnight lily (Dietes Lemon Drop)
  • Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata)
  • Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii)
  • Split-leaf Philodendron (Philodendron selloum)
  • Schefflera (Shefflera amate)

Desert Gardening

Structural and textural plants define the beauty of Desert gardens.

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Gardening & Planting Tips by Region

Check out a variety of garden ideas, plans, articles, videos and projects for your region. No matter what region you live in, Lowe's has garden tips for you.

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