Basic Container Ideas
Containers have always been a popular attribute to the outdoor landscape, isolating a few on a patio/deck area or adding a focal point to the landscape itself, it’s a poem amongst the garden story. I believe containers can be whatever you want! It could be just a petunia spilling out of a pot. It could be a tall and grand with height. The creative options are endless!
The basics to container gardens are just three rules of Thriller, Filler, and Spiller.
The Thriller is the tallest, grand plant material in the container. It’s usually placed in the middle or towards the back (depending on the viewpoint of where the pot is positioned). Plants that work well as the Thriller are Canna lilies, tall Dahlias, Castor Bean, Abulition, tall Coleus (for shade) floral Hydrangeas, ornamental vegetables like Artichoke, small dwarf ornamental trees, and tall ornamental grasses. Again, creativity knows no bounds and they are plenty of tall perennials, small flowering but tall annuals, conifer trees, conifer shrubs, and tropical plants.
The Filler is just that, a medium size plant that compliments the grand thriller. Usually the filler is mono culture but you can spice it up with adding a variety of fillers that alternate. I go by more is better and it fills quickly. The go to for fillers again can be small grasses, Heuchera, Lantana, Osteosperum, Senecio (variety of Dusty Millers) Euphobia, Alyssum, New Guinea Impatiens, Impatiens, variety of herbs, succulents, ferns etc. Again creativity knows no bounds. Any medium size annual, perennial, grass, and herbs will work.
To me the Spiller is just as important as the Thriller. It has to be as grandiose as the Thriller. I like to use two maybe three spillers. A Spiller is usually a trailing plant like Ivies, Petunias, Dichondra, Licorice, Callibrochoas, Vinca Vine, and Sweet Potato Vine. Careful on the selection of spillers because spillers like sweet potato vine can be aggressive and I only use one of them.
Example: a single planter in a pot can just make a statement, especially when it’s the right plant for the right pot.
Also, containers are not only of ornamental use, you can grow vegetables especially if space is small and no land is available. Herbs do great in containers and any annual herbs can be brought in to be used all year long!
(Left pot: Romaine Lettuce, Scallions, Salvia; middle pot: Peppers, variegated Sage; right pot: Japanese Eggplant and Zucchini *bad choice on my behalf I know; middle small pot: Mint, Thyme, And Parsley)
Down below is a typical Thriller, Filler, Spiller moment. I used two Thrillers to play off each other with the tropical chartreuse Canna Lily and a tall Solanceum. The filler was trailing Verbena, its habit is mostly mounding with outreaching tendrils with a sharp leaved tropical variation of a pink Gladiola (not shown). The spillers are the Sweet Potato vine, Calibrochoas.
Mind you containers need maintenance too, besides watering and fertilizing, pruning and culling are necessary for keeping its luster. When trying out new annuals, plant and observe them. You will not know its growth habit until a month later. After this picture was taken, I pruned back the thorny Solanceum and Sweet Potato vine. Interestingly, I put the thorny Solanceum in this container because it was on main walk in downtown. Plant theft is very common on main walks and views. I placed this Thorny plant to deter theft.
(Left picture is a great example of needing maintenance or I need to stop using Sweet Potato Vine; yeah it’s the latter. Note: As a result from this picture do not use Sweet Potato Vine unless you can be there every day to keep it in place.)
Right Plant for the Right Place
Like for all plants, you need to know the area for which the pot will be placed and the plants that will thrive there. Big Elephant Ears will easily burn out and flop being placed in direct sunlight. They do best in dappled shade or shade all together.
Also, the container, the aesthetic of the home and personality are essential to a successful and beautiful container garden. Container gardening should add to the visual story of the place as a beautiful addition or a resource.
Shade Pots examples
Window Boxes/Container Boxes
Also container gardening should be fun! It’s a creative way of expressing your personality within the area. It’s also a way of allowing rules to be broken, so what if the colors clash? If you like it and those colors are your favorite, do it! Honestly gardening is one long journey of experimenting and just enjoy the ride.