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Insider Info - Garden Container Combinations


Elegant garden planters overflowing with flowers create a summer oasis on your deck, patio or balcony.  They can even be seen in your landscape garden as well.  There are step by step instructions for exact combinations to copy; however, it is more fun to do your own.  Just experiment, it is easy to move the plants to the garden or start over next year with a different combination.


You can plant one plant per container and keep things very simple and then arrange three planters together for a great combination.  Just remember to group plants that need the same amount of sunshine each day.  Great combinations can be found when you use three plants per container, however; again they should all need the same amount of light, soil and water conditions to thrive together.


To be more daring, here are a few suggestions to create focus, balance, interest and proportion in your container garden.  Roughly divide your planter, pot or container into four equal parts.  We don’t know who named the categories but they work – “thrillers”, “fillers”, “accents” and “spillers”.  Choose one plant from each category for each planter, the exact number of each depends upon the size of your container.  For the largest container, you may wish to consider one or two thrillers, two or three fillers, one or two accents and two or three trailers.  For a small garden pot, just plant one of each category. 


Wander about your garden center and see which plants fit into each category.  Thrillers are usually the tallest and are often the most exciting element in your container.  The thrillers are usually upright and add height to your plant combinations.  They also add flair and can be either foliage or flowers.  Start with the thrillers and then choose the rest of your plants.  Here are some suggestions for the thriller – Salvia, Variegated Grasses, Dwarf cannas, Rose mallow, Snapdragons, Coleus, Smoke bush or Butterfly iris.


The best plants to use as fillers are those with fine texture foliage or small flowers. They fill in the combination but more importantly set off the foliage and flowers of your bolder thriller in the arrangement.  Some examples of fillers are:  Dusty miller, Blue daisy, Scented geraniums, Pansy, Flowering Tobacco, Ageratum and Verbena.


The contrast or accent plant adds the element of “wow” to your combinations and often feature very bold foliage.  Look for leaves that are variegated or an unusually color such as your bright greens and burgundy.  They may also have large flowers that are the feature plant in the container.  Some accents may be: Petunias, Marigolds, Cosmos, or Heliotrope. 


The spillers are easy to find and soften the edges of the planters.  The give the feeling of overabundance or fullness to your container and may “spill over” onto your adjacent pot.

There are so many spillers, such as Bacopas, Licorice plant, Ornament sweet potato, Greater periwinkle, Fan flower, Ivy or Dianthus.


The best container combinations include a very carefully chosen selection.  Include a variety of leaf and flower shapes and colors together with different plant forms.  The old standby is of course your wonderful geranium as your thriller and accent plant, edging with sweet alyssum and lobelia trailing over the sides of your planter.  Be creative and come up with your own combinations.

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