Plants in the Container – Thrillers, Fillers and Spillers

One of Polly’s Pots

You have the containers that you want to fill with plants and those containers have one or more holes in the bottom. You have covered the hole or holes with something that will keep the soil in but will let excess water trickle out and you have filled the container with good soil. Remember, the better the soil, the happier and healthier the plants will be. TheGardenLady wrote that you can buy potting soil in the stores. There are those purists who don’t like to buy their soil in bags, saying it is not alive and healthy. They prefer all compost. But gardeners will have success with good bagged soil. And when you have saved enough compost, the next time you make containers, you can use your own compost. That is why it is so very important to compost all your garbage and lawn clippings and leaves.

So what can you grow in a container? Just about anything that grows in the garden. If you have a container large enough you can plant trees. If you have very small containers you can plant alpine plants. You can plant just one plant in a container. For example, there are containers called strawberry pots where people like to plant strawberries. Or you can use them for planting succulent plants or herbs. (see here)  You can plant more than one plant of the same kind like Begonia ‘Dragon Wings Red’  that will create an impressive show.

And you can use your containers to grow a variety of plants. This is what I am hoping readers will do.

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Is there an eco-friendly way to repel woodchucks?

Family Dinner by anoldent

In June, TheGardenLady filled two huge planters with flowers to decorate the deck for an upcoming party. I planted the thriller and filler plants in the urns and my spiller plant was the ornamental sweet potato vine. The planters looked pretty and the spiller plants happily spilled down the sides of the urns and started vining up the side of the deck. I was so pleased with the look.

I was pleased, that is, until the other day when I noticed that the leaves of one of the vines were completely missing. I wondered what could have eaten the leaves so completely from one urn but not on the vine in the other urn. I didn’t think slugs or snails could have eaten the entire leaves- I had never seen slugs or snails on the vines but had seen some of the leaves riddled with holes. This was different. Now there was not a leaf on one of the vines. Since it is fall, I wasn’t worried about losing the annual plants. But I was mighty curious to find out what animal was dining on my sweet potato vines.

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Creative Vegetable Gardens

vegetable garden by mazaletel

When TheGardenLady recommends making an edible garden instead of merely a flower garden in the front yard, it should be as attractive as a flower garden can be. It should not be the long straight rows of one type of vegetable, the type of field a farmer would make to grow commercial vegetables. Just because you are using vegetables doesn’t mean that the artist in you cannot create a beautiful masterpiece. You can create a landscape with vegetables that are beautiful as well as edible. When one reads gardening catalogs it is apparent that vegetable plants of today are often as pretty as flowers. Go through the Park Seed Catalog or the Burpee Seed catalog or any catalog that has photos of the plants. You will find vegetables as pretty to the eye as they are to eat.

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Preparing Planters for Container Gardens

Seen on a Side Street in Bakewell, Derbyshire by UGArdener

You have chosen the containers or planters that you want to use to for your plants. Now we have to fill the planters with soil. You want to use planters large enough for the plants you want to grow in them. The plants will need room for their roots to expand. And if you are planting flowers and interesting plants, you will want to fill the containers with as many plants as possible for a really pretty effect. Since you will be fertilizing and watering throughout the season, you may be able to plant quite a number of plants in each pot. Just be sure that the pot holds enough soil.

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Container Gardening

Hypertufa Ball by Geek2Nurse

Growing plants in containers is popular for all sorts of reasons:

1) you have little available space to make a garden

2) you are elderly or handicapped so it is difficult to garden in a garden

3) the sun or shade on your property may not be where you are able to plant in the ground

4) you want to bring the plant in during the winter season

5) containers are just plain attractive and add another dimension to your garden

Where should one begin with container gardening? Collecting containers is a start. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get containers; but if you have a fortune- you certainly can find containers at all prices.

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Planting Ideas for Difficult Spaces

trough garden by Tchessie

A problem people have who want to garden can be no land or a very small bit of land or something on your property that makes it difficult to plant. You want plants, you want flowers so what are your options? Don’t despair: be creative!

Everyone knows that container gardening is very popular. You can buy or make attractive containers and put them on the steps leading to your building or on your balcony or deck if you have one.

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Container Gardening

Container garden, Toronto, Canada by Happy Sleepy
Container garden, Toronto, Canada by Happy Sleepy

TheGardenLady received this question from Joyce.

We have a long raised planter that gets quite a bit of sun but only in the afternoon. It’s very shaded most of the day.  I tried impatiens there last summer but they got too much sun. Any suggestion for colorful easy to grow and fairly low growing annuals? Would pansies or geraniums work?

Container gardening is fast becoming one of the most popular ways to garden. All sorts of plants are good to grow in planters.  See here.  Let your imagination run wild. I will give some suggestions of flowering plants.  But consider planting vegetables or herbs in your container or a combination of both.  Watch this video.  Visit local nurseries to see what they have planted in containers both to see what grows well in your area and to see what combinations look good.

FrontPorchSpringGardenMay08 065small by _Anaya_
FrontPorchSpringGardenMay08 065small by _Anaya_

Afternoon sun is the hottest sun. Most flowering annuals as well as vegetables and herbs need the hot afternoon sun. These plants want approximately 5 or 6 hours of the afternoon sun. Do you think your planter gets that much sun? Try to see how long the sun shines on your container. If it gets lots of afternoon sun, you have lots of choices.

If you are buying plants, try to get healthy plants from the stores. One brand that prides itself on selling healthy plants is called Proven Winner. A list of stores in Maine that sells this brand is this. If you should have a problem with the plants, I would think the stores would back these plants.

Container Gardening by edgeplot
Container Gardening by edgeplot

If you are buying plants or using seed packets, check to see the height the plants will grow to be sure that you get plants the height you want. For example, if you decide to plant zinnias, they come in differing heights. Look for a dwarf variety if you want short plants.

You asked about pansies. Pansies would look lovely in planters. One summer when I was in Freeport, I was impressed with the planters in front of many stores filled with pansies. But understand that pansies are a cool weather plant. They hate hot weather and will not last in the heat. So if this summer is hot, you will be out of luck. Pansies like full sun but will tolerate partial shade.

Geraniums (whose Latin name is Pelargonium) are an excellent choice. They love full sun but will tolerate partial shade, though they may not bloom so profusely. They are drought resistant which might be good for you since containers can dry out more quickly than a garden. There are so many different kinds of geraniums. Consider scented geraniums- Pelargonium species and cultivars with fragrant leaves, ivy-leaved geraniums Pelargonium peltatum with a trailing habit and Pelargonium zonale a bushy plant with red, pink, purple, orange or white flowers and often multi-colored foliage. Remember to dead head the flowers to keep your geraniums blooming.

Some other afternoon sun loving flowering plants you can use are calendula, petunia, marigold, salvia, Calibrachoa, Nasturtium, lantana, melapodium, and if you can find these two unusual annuals- creeping zinnia Sanvitalia procumbens and Tassel flower- Emilia javanica.

Consider using plants with different colored foliage like Dusty miller -Senecio cineraria. Put in plants of different heights so that there is a tall plant in the center and plants that hang over the edges. You can mix tropical indoor plants with the annuals or vegetable plants with the annuals-like cherry tomatoes and marigolds.

The choices are extensive. I wish you luck.

Please share photos of your container with TheGardenLady’s readers.

Growing Plants in Containers


TheGardenLady received this question from Yoonsin Park:

I live in a condo with a small patio.  Due to that I can only have container plants.  I don’t want to get larger & larger containers as the plant grows.  I just want to get one container and the plant to retain itself in it.  What is the best way to do that?

Container growing is one of the hottest methods of having an outdoor garden. There are a profusion of books on the subject. lists 1514 books on container growing. One authority on the subject is Sydney Eddison whom TheGardenLady had the good fortune to hear lecture and see the slide show of her container garden.  Read this article by Eddison.

This summer at the Perennial Plant Conference at Swarthmore College I had the pleasure of hearing, seeing her slide show and meeting, briefly, Rita Randolph of Randolph’s Greenhouses in Jackson, Tennessee. Rita’s canvases are her containers which she sells; some you can  see on her website.

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