Skip to main content

See also:

DIY: Perfect patio container

Add your favorite plants to an easy to make container garden.
Becca Badgett

A few pots full of colorful flowers and foliage on the patio add a decorative touch and coordinate your other outdoor pieces. Perhaps you have an indoor spot that begs for a potted plant combination. These tips apply to indoor container gardens as well. Don't spend a lot of money on a professionally planted container. Grab the plant materials, pots, some soil and do it yourself.

When planting new containers, keep in mind those instructional words from P. Allen Smith about using a thriller, spillers and fillers. Of course, he is talking about the plant material you'll use in your container design.

Select the Plants

You may already have some plants in mind, something you've liked or something you've always wanted to grow. Using Smith's concept, choose plants that have compatible sunlight and water needs. I like to use plants that are flexible as to sunlight needs and put them in an area that gets afternoon shade.

The thriller is the focal point of the container and usually goes in the middle or the back of the pot. Thriller plants such as the Persian Shield shown here, are striking, colorful or attention-grabbing in some other manner. In the Winston-Salem area, expect blooms from this plant in autumn.

Spiller plants cascade over the sides of the container; such as calibrochoa, wandering jew or wave petunias in coordinating or contrasting colors. Use white blooming spillers when planting in a dark color container for contrast..

Filler plants take up the remaining space and add height or a mounding habit that compliments the thriller. Many gardeners jam the container full, but when using young specimens, allow room for growth.Filler plants, such as spikes, sweet potato plant and grasses add height to the back if your thriller plant is in the center. In some designs, fillers and spillers may serve interchangeable functions in the container garden.

Choose the Container

The color and size of the container is a large part of the finished appearance of your project. Choose a container to compliment your décor and plant material. Solid color pots allow colorful foliage and flowers to stand out. Patterned or multi-colored containers work best with solid color foliage.

Will the container be a single attention getter or blend in smoothly as part of a plant grouping? Perhaps you're making two identical pots for both sides of the front door. Keep these tips in mind when choosing your pots.

  • · Black pots attract the sun and heat and will have to be watered more often in the summer.
  • · Terra cotta pots breathe, allowing some water to escape.
  • · Buy containers that have room for your plants to grow and develop a good root system.
  • · Pots must have drainage holes in the bottom.

Container gardens need water more often than plants growing in the ground. Many potting mixes these days include water retention capabilities; take advantage of these when planting the container.

Follow these simple steps and you'll be rewarded with a long lasting container of seasonal blooms and color.