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How to design pots without stress

By June 3, 2016 No Comments

First, a quick flashback to 2014. Late in the day we pulled up at a seniors center and my municipal gardener boss asked us to quickly use up the flowers on the back of the truck. By planting four large pots. No guide, no plan. Go, go, go! I admit I panicked. How do you quickly arrange everything? Which plants go where? Colors? Oh my, I was sweating. Luckily it all turned out fine. I took a picture kneeling by “my” pot but the smile hid a ton of stress.

This event popped up in my head when I opened a recent issue of Landscape Management magazine (February 2016, page 16) and saw an article on pot design. The how to article conveniently divided the planting task into three categories.

  1. The pot should have a thriller in the middle to attract attention.
  2. Spiller plants spill out over the pot edges.
  3. Filler plants are placed in between the thriller and spiller plants.

Clearly this article was published a few years too late. I love the simplicity. Thriller, spiller, filler. Done.

Now for some examples before YOU start to panic.

Thriller plants could be: yuccas, cannas, fountain grasses, Angelonias, and dracaenas. For shade pots you can use ferns, hostas or heucheras.

Spiller plants could be: creeping jennies, vincas, bacopas, calibrachoas, lotuses and scaevolas

Filler plants could be most annuals.

Of course, proper design considers more than plants. Don’t forget other factors like wind, sun, fertilizers, water, upkeep, deadheading and yes, theft.

Now let’s practice:




City of Coquitlam iGarden

Thriller: Cornus sericea

Filler and spiller: Skimmia

Spiller: Hyacinth



Maple Ridge home owner

Extreme thriller: Ginkgo biloba tree

Spiller: Becopa

Filler: Pansies



City of Coquitlam park event- my kids helped plant this pot.

Thriller: Dracaena

Spiller: Calibrachoa and potato vines

Fillers: many

Don’t stress like me. Design your pots with confidence. Have some fun. Change things up.

Remember the three key elements: Thriller, Spiller, and Filler. Good luck.

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