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A Beginners Guide to Designing and Planting Pots

May 2024

Large decorative planter pot filled with hibiscus,  sweet alyssum,  sweet potato vine, petunia, and verbena brings color and height to this poolside retreat.

Photo: Large decorative planter pot filled with hibiscus, sweet alyssum, sweet potato vine, petunia, and verbena brings color and height to this poolside retreat.


Are you looking to add pops of color in parts of your property all while giving your home seasonal interest for a longer period of time than a traditional in-ground plant installation can provide?

Then perhaps, you may want to consider the use of pots or other planting containers in your landscape design.

Using pots on your property is a wonderful way to add a lot of visual interest to a space.  Consider creating a more welcoming entry for guests by placing two pots at the front door to frame it out. Or if there is an area of your property that you would like to highlight, you could use a grouping of three pots of different sizes to draw one's eye toward it. Another way to utilize a pot or planting container would be by adding them to the corners of patios to soften the edges of the hardscape - making the transition from hardscape to green space flow smoothly. In addition, you can use plants in pots to create designated spaces that would not exist otherwise.


Selecting the pot that's right for your property

Once you've made the decision to use a pot or planting container as part of your landscape design, the next steps would be to decide on the size as well as the color and style of the containers.


The question over which size pot to select is a topic that frequently comes up in my discussions with clients. The most important thing to keep in mind when selecting one for your property to understand scale: what will best fit your needs and at the same time feels right on your property. We recommend asking a professional for help if this is something you are having trouble with.

(Click on photos to view larger picture)

Photo 1 (left): This low Moreland Campania cast stone urn was part of an early spring installation, its bright floral components of pussy willow, nemesia, ivy and dahlias, welcome visitors to the home.

Photo 2 (right): A tall fiberglass Bradford planter, another sleek, modern offering from Campania, showcases an impressive banana plant that is flanked by ivy. This eye-catching combination definitely draws the eye of the visitors to this home.


Color and Style

In our landscape designs, I enjoy using simple shapes and colors for pots. Doing so allows for more flexibility in changing your color palette and flower choices year after year. Campania has an excellent catalogue of pots which I enjoy suggesting to clients who choose to go this route when selecting containers for their property.

 On the other hand, for the homeowners who want something that falls more under the umbrella of artwork for their gardens or for those who want to go a little bold in their choices, there are some great alternatives for pots with great shapes, sizes, and colors. The company Indigenus is a great example and has many unique-looking products for art lovers and those searching for nonconventional and aesthetically pleasing additions to their property.

(Click on photos to view larger picture - images from company website)

Row 1 (left to right): Indigenus planters (images from company w: Bhaca, Soma, Aarde

Row 2 ( left to right):  Indigenus planters (images from company website): Tuber, Steen, Terra


What to plant in the pots that you have chosen

After the the size, style and color of the pot itself is decided upon, the next step the additions of the plant materials for the container.

Remember that your plant choices are crucial to maximize the life expectancy of the planter's contents. If you are looking for year-round growth, then selecting evergreen plants for your pot would be your best bet. But some homeowners enjoy a seasonal change in their pots. So if you find yourself leaning more towards colorful offerings in your pots which would vary throughout the year, I would plan on having the plants with in them for about three to four months before changing them up. It's best to think of it as you would the seasons itself: changing the pot content for the Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.

The most important tips I can give here when selecting the plants is to make sure you have a filler, a spiller and a thriller included in each pot. 

"Thriller" Plants

  • Thrillers are plants with height that add drama and a vertical element to the combination of material selected for a pot.

  • Thrillers can either be flowering or foliage plants or ornamental grasses.

  • Thrillers are generally put either in the center or at the back of the container.

  • If you place it in the center of the container, it will be viewed from all sides

  • If you place the thriller plant in the back of the container, it will be viewed from only one side.

Some eye-catching examples of "thriller plants": Tropicana Canna, Spikes, Hibiscus, Fountain Grass, Purple Grass, Mandevilla.

Filler Plants

  • Once you've chosen your Thriller plants, next start choosing your Filler varieties.

  • Fillers tend to be more rounded or mounded plants and make the container look full.

  • Fillers are generally placed in front of, or around, the Thriller variety.

  • Fillers plants should be placed midway between the edge of the container and the selected Thriller variety for the pot.

  • If the Thriller plant is in the center of the container, then the Fillers should surround the Thriller variety.

In need of some ideas for "filler plants"? Consider using: Verbena, Coleus, Petunia, Begonia.

Spiller Plants

  • Lastly, you add the plants which will complete the containers, aka Spillers.

  • Spillers are often trailing plants that hang over the edge of the planter.

  • Spillers are placed close to the edge of the container.

  • If the container is going to be viewed from all sides, Spillers should be placed on all sides

  • If the container is going to be viewed from only one side, Spillers should be placed in the front of the container

Good "spiller" plants that you could use to finish off your pots: Sweet Potato Vine, Ivy, Lantana, Ivy Geranium, Creeping Jenny


Here are some examples of Pots we've created for clients to give you some inspiration:


Make sure to follow us on Instagram, Facebook , YouTube, and TikTok to see our projects from start to finish!

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