We can all admire the big containers of flowers that are so popular at Tagawa Gardens this time of year. But with a few tips and tricks, you can make these beautiful overflowing flower pots yourself! Friends and family will think they’ve been done by a pro!
Choose plants that play together well
Make quite sure the assortment of plants you choose all prefer the same growing conditions: sun plants for sun, shade plants for shade.
Trying to grow a shade-loving begonia with a sun-love geranium just isn’t going to work. Grown in the wrong conditions, the begonia will fry and the geranium will be weak and spindly. If you manage to get any geranium flowers at all, they’ll be far inferior to an identical plant grown in full sun. All of the plants in each container need to have very similar light and watering preferences.
Make sure the plants you use have been “hardened off” or properly acclimated for several days before you plant them. Going straight from the Tagawa greenhouses to the dry air, wind, full sun or deep shade, and temperature variations on your deck or patio without having time to adjust can stunt or damage plants for the rest of the season. We have free handouts throughout our garden center on how to acclimate these plants. Don’t go home without a copy of your own!
Decide what type of design you’d like
For the record, my best advice is this: plant containers that you’ll love! As long as a pot of annuals is full and thriving, it can look pretty and appealing. Other than proper care, don’t let a set of “rules” ruin your fun!
That said, there are a couple of fairly established ways of creating a container that can be helpful in getting very professional-looking results.
Think “thrillers, fillers, and spillers”
I asked Mary Anne of our Annuals staff to show me how she puts together a mixed flower container using an approach called “thriller, filler, spiller”.
Thrillers are the plants that go in the middle of your container. They can go to the back of the pot if the finished container will be viewed from only three sides, such as up against a wall or fence. Mary Anne chose a bright yellow statice as her thriller.
Thrillers are the tallest element of the design. Tagawa’s Custom Container staff often use a tall blooming plant like cuphea (a.k.a. “Vermillionaire”) or canna lilies as the thriller in their creations. I often like to plant tall flowers like deep blue or red salvias next to soft supple grass… something like “co-thrillers.”
Ornamental grasses make excellent thrillers all on their own. We have dozens to choose from in our Annuals department.
“Fillers” are plants that surround the thriller. Most often, two or three varieties of flowers, perhaps more depending on your preference, work well as fillers. I put in a lot of fillers with their root balls touching, but I don’t jam any of them in. It all depends on how many plants the container can accommodate tucked in side-by-side. Mary Anne chose orange-red bidens for one of her fillers.
Fillers can be almost any medium-height plants that work with the light and watering preferences of your container as a whole. Petunias and geraniums are common choices, but there are so many other options, too: sweet, tough angelonia, short- to mid-height snapdragons, upright verbena, airy “Diamond Frost” euphorbia… even good old marigolds. Smaller ornamental grasses work well, too. The list goes on and on. I think choosing fillers can be one of the best parts of creating an overflowing flower pot. They give the finished planting so much personality!
“Spillers” are just what you’d think. They’re the graceful, draping plants that grow over the edge of the container. One of my personal favorites is “Silver Falls” dichondra with its tiny velvety leaves that grows to resemble a lovely waterfall.
Again, so many choices for spillers! Sweet potato vine, callibrachoa with its tiny petunia-like blossoms, “Mezoo” a.k.a. “Livingston daisy.” It’s a bi-color succulent with small leaves that puts out marble-sized magenta flowers. Cascading-type petunias can be beautiful spillers, too.
Thinking “thriller-filler-spiller” can actually make the planting process easier than just gathering up a bunch of beautiful annuals and then getting home and realizing you don’t quite know how to tie them all together. I find it helpful to actually set the plants out on my shopping cart and “design” right in the middle of our Annuals Department.
Given a couple of weeks, Mary Anne’s finished container will be lush and beautiful! Hopefully, by breaking down the process, you’ll find it easy to recreate similar containers at home!
Or… think “roundy moundy”
Some of the most beautiful flower containers are the simplest… maybe go with just three lush Supertunias and nothing else in a large pot or hanging basket. They’ll create a mounded overflowing look of nothing but flowers. Or a dense arrangement of all coleus of different heights and patterns. No thrillers, fillers, or spillers in sight!
With a design like the coleus seen above, just notice which types of coleus are the tallest, and plant accordingly.
As I said in the beginning, a container full of healthy flowers can always bring a smile. But if you’d like to try a more focused approach, just go for it! Tagawa’s Annuals Department staff is full of helpful ideas. Be sure to understand how much sun or shade a container in a specific location will get. Look at that spot at different times of the day and notice how the sun moves. Measure the height and depth of the container(s) you’ll be planting up before you come to shop.
Once you’ve finished planting, feed your flowering annuals regularly! Feeding once a week with half-strength fertilizer can make a huge difference! These lovely summer flowers are hungry, especially when we grow them in containers.
Then stand back and admire your handy work… and savor the compliments that come your way!
Hope to see you at Tagawa’s and happy planting!