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Make Your Container Gardens Pop for All Season Color

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Container gardens are not just for those with limited space or poor soil. They are your best bet when you want maximum visual appeal from your plants.

Large containers allow you to group together plants in dazzling combinations that might otherwise be impractical in a regular garden space. Tall pots raise the composition off the ground for more impact, not to mention the ease of planting and maintenance.

Container gardens win over groupings of potted plants, too, as they allow different colors, shapes, and textures to mingle and merge together to form real works of art. However, they take a bit of careful planning, as all the plants that go into the same container should have the same soil, water, and sunlight requirements. 

Thriller, Filler, Spiller Combinations

When it comes to container gardens, the thriller-filler-spiller method is always a winner. This just means having a large focus plant (thriller) in the middle, surrounded by some filler plants to provide body and contrast. One or two trailing plants spill over, softening the edges of the container and giving the arrangement an organic look.

Let’s look at some colorful container gardens for year-round enjoyment.

Tropical Twist

Gardeners in warm areas are spoiled if they have a sunny spot for their containers. Annual flowers are the usual choice for color in the garden, but containers planted with these seasonal beauties tend to lose their charm all too soon. You’re better off with carefully chosen perennials as the driving force behind your pots. 

Canna Focal Point

  • Thriller: Canna – The broad leaves of the tall canna plants, whether they are soli purple or burgundy, striped or plain green, are striking on their own.
  • Filler: Coleus (in contrasting leaf color)
  • Spiller: Sweet potato vine and calibrachoa – The jewel colors of the calibrachoa flowers should complement the canna leaf or flower color.

Caladium Focal Point

  • Thriller: Caladium/Alocasia – Their large, broad leaves in various patterns and color combinations are always eye-catching.
  • Filler: Sweet potato vine in a contrasting color sets off the focus plant.
  • Spiller: Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia) and Petunias add extra sass.

Hibiscus Focal Point

  • Thriller: Hibiscus – Blooms round the year. The saucer-sized flowers come in shades of yellow, orange, red, pink and white and their combinations, but even when there are no flowers, the dark green leaves look just as pretty. Bird of paradise (Strelitzia) or a palm can also take the place of hibiscus here.
  • Filler: Rex begonias – The foliage colors, patterns, and textures of these begonias have no match.
  • Spiller: Creeping Jenny/ Silver ponysfoot (Dichondra argentea)

In part shade or indoors

  • Thriller: Lemon and lime corn plant/Ti plant
  • Filler: Coleus in copper/purple/burgundy and lime green ferns
  • Spiller: Creeping Jenny/Asparagus

Thrives in shade, loves water

  • Thriller: Taro (elephant ears)- The gigantic leaves of Colocasia esculenta in solid green or purplish black (Black Magic)
  • Filler: Lime green ferns
  • Spiller: Trailing begonias with red, orange or pink flowers/

Sunny, drought tolerant

  • Thriller: Aloes/Yucca
  • Filler: Campfire Plant (Crassula capitella)/Red pagoda
  • Spiller: String of pearls or string of bananas

Plant it and forget it container gardens

If you’re looking for some easy-care container gardens, succulent compositions could be just right.

Snakeplant

  • Thriller: Snake plant (Sansievera laurenti), practically impossible to kill except by overwatering, provides height with its long, stiff, variegated leaves.
  • Filler: Blue Chalksticks (Senecio serpens) softens the edges, and provides color and body to the arrangement
  • Spiller: Burro’s tail hanging over the pot adds interest.

Sticks on fire

  • Thriller: Sticks on Fire (Euphorbia tirucalli) grabs attention with its intense coloring.
  • Filler: Black and green eoniums. They provide great contrast.
  • Spiller: Variegated pillow plant (Plectranthus prostrates) or trailing jade (Senecio jacobsenii). These would only require occasional trimming.

For areas with cold winters:

  • Thriller: Arborvitae or dwarf, compact evergreens
  • Filler: Coral bells (Heuchera sp.)/Holly
  • Spiller: Blue pear sedum (Hylotelephium)/yellow green Japanese sedum (Sedum japonicum/Sedum makinoi)
  • Thriller: Japanese box (Buxus microphylla)
  • Filler: Lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantine/Hosta
  • Spiller: Trailing juniper (Juniperus horizontalis)

You can use black, green or variegated tree eoniums in place of snake plant or sticks of fire in these arrangements. The campfire Plant (Crassula capitella) “Red Pagoda” and rosette forming echeverias also make good fillers.

-Susan Patterson

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