Planting containers is one of the most satisfying gardening activities that you can do. The colour
and textures come together as a sculptural art piece to display outside your home.
Crafting a striking planter arrangement is a simple project that can be completed in an afternoon
and will be enjoyed for many months to come. If you want to plan and design your own container
garden this season, here are some tips to get you off on the right foot. The concept is simple:
thriller, spiller and filler.
Start with the "thriller", a plant with enough height and decorative interest to anchor the centre of
your container design.
The thriller is the star of your container with remarkable flowers, bold colour, or noticeable height.
For this sun-loving container, I chose an annual dahlia in bright orange and yellow.
Other good thriller choices are:
Next, add in your "spillers", the plants that cascade over the edge of the planter like a waterfall.
Spillers help the container design to look organic and lush.
Choose spillers that contrast the pot colour to add an eye-catching contrast. When shopping for a
spiller, look for trailing plants and vines that hang over the edge of the nursery pot.
Good choices are:
"Filler" plants are the third step in creating a gorgeous planter arrangement. Fillers are an opportunity
to add more colour or a different texture. Fillers don't need to be as decorative as the thriller nor do
they need to trail like the spillers, but instead fill in space between to create a finished look.
Fillers can add in complementary colours, interesting foliage, or long-lasting blooms to elevate the
design. They are mid-sized plants with strong foliage that acts as a background to the other
elements. You can use bedding plants or some unexpected elements like showy succulents or
Look for fillers with a different colour, height,
or shape than your thriller such as:
Now that you know the steps, here are some more helpful hints to plant the perfect container garden.
Select complementary plants that have the same light and watering requirements listed on their
labels. If your container plant will grow in a sunny spot in the garden, make sure the labels show a
yellow sun. If your container is going to be placed in part-shade or full-shade, then select plants
suitable for those conditions.
You can choose any combination of perennials, annuals, herbs, or even vegetables and fruits for
an outdoor planter arrangement. Many annuals are well-suited for container gardening, but when
branching out to perennials, look for "dwarf" or "container" notation on the labels as those plants are
meant to thrive in containers.
Look for bags of soil specially formulated for container plants. Container mix is often good quality
compost with peat moss and perlite or vermiculite added for aeration and water retention. Garden
soil is generally too heavy for containers, so it's best to purchase container soil to get your
containers started off right.
Tip: If you have a lot of planter arrangements to make, you can make your own container mix
at home with one part perlite, two parts peat moss, and four parts well-rotted compost.
Container gardens have limited space for soil and no natural critters rooting around in the dirt. While
that might sound like a good thing, bacteria, microbes, worms, and bugs offer great benefit in
keeping soil healthy and nutritious for plants.
Once you have created the right soil, add a slow-release organic fertilizer and mix it in well.
Throughout the growing season, water the plants with a dilute fertilizer mixture that will keep them
fed and happy all season long.
There are plenty of options for containers made from materials such as ceramic, plastic, wood, and
resin. They come in many sizes, shapes, and colours — and some even have self-watering bases.
With so many options to choose from, you're sure to find one that will be the perfect muse for your
With these easy steps, you will be well on your way to becoming a master of container design in no
time. For just an afternoon with your hands in the soil, you will be rewarded with a whole season of
beauty to enjoy.