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Home > Ideas & Tips > 3 Steps for Stunning Container Gardening

3 Steps for Stunning Container Gardening

Container Gardening

3 Steps for Stunning Container Gardening

Get inspired with fun, easy DIY projects and ideas for your home. This project and all opinions are
from Stephanie Rose at Garden Therapy in partnership with
Lowe's Canada.

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
this season, here are some tips to get you off on the right foot. The concept is simple:
thriller, spiller and filler.

Hover or tap the image for more information!

Step 1: Plant a "thriller" in the centre

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:

  • Cordyline Red Star Spike
  • Dracaena Spike
  • Daylilies
  • Geranium
  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
  • Lavender (Lavandula stoechas)
  • Ornamental perennial grasses
  • Purple fountain grass
  • Salvia

Step 2: Choose "spillers" to trail over the edge of the pot

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:

  • Bacopa
  • Calibrachoa
  • Creeping jenny (Lysimachia nummularia)
  • Euphorbia
  • Lobelia
  • Sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas)
  • Vinca Vine

Step 3: Use "fillers" to add fullness

"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:

  • Begonia
  • Campanula
  • Celosia
  • Coleus
  • Coreopsis
  • Dipladenia
  • Dusty miller (Senecio cineraria)
  • Gallardia
  • Hens and Chicks (Sempervivum)
  • Heuchera
  • Hibiscus
  • Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
  • Pentas
  • Petunia
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
  • Sage (Salvia officinalis)
  • Zinnia

3 Reminders for Container Gardening:

Now that you know the steps, here are some more helpful hints to plant the perfect container garden.

1. Choose the right plants
Choose the right plants

Select complementary plants that have the same light and watering requirements listed on their
. 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.

2. The dirt on soil
The dirt on soil

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.

3. Not all containers are created equal
Not all containers are equal

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
container display.

  • Ceramic and clay pots have a classic look and a natural feel to them. Unglazed terracotta pots
    are porous, allowing excess moisture to escape, making them a good choice for a wet climate.
    Glazed pots have more longevity in cold seasons, but unglazed pots will crumble if left to freeze
    over the winter.

  • Good quality plastic pots are very durable, hold moisture well, and can be left out in the weather
    year-round. They are inexpensive to buy, but they will need to be replaced after a few years of

  • Planters made from cedar are meant to be left outdoors year-round. Cedar is porous like clay, but
    it holds moisture in the soil better. They add a rustic look to the garden and will last for a number
    of years before they need to be replaced.

  • Fiber and resin pots take the good looks of ceramic and stone without the weight or cost. Good
    quality synthetic pots can last for countless years and can remain outdoors in all seasons. Look
    for double-walled containers to protect plants from extreme heat or cold. In the event that the fibre
    pots are missing drainage holes, you can use a drill to add some for outdoor use.

  • Save time and resources with self-watering pots. Many containers are now available with an
    insert that holds the soil above a reservoir for additional water. This is a wonderful way to reduce
    watering requirements. Make sure there are still drainage holes in the pot so any excess water
    can drain out. Usually, these holes will be on the side of the planter or in a raised tube in the
    centre of the pot.

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.

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