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From the garden of Beth DiGioia, Resident Gardener


 There are few things that dress up a porch or patio more than a thoughtfully planted and placed container. Whether you choose foliage or flowering plants, evergreens or succulents, they are a welcome addition for adding height, color and texture to the space. Once you know the basics, you’ll be designing beautiful containers in no time. Here are some tips to get you started: 

  1. Choose containers that are in scale with the space and choose plants that are in scale with the container.  A pleasing proportion is 1/3 container to 2/3 plant height at maturity (but if you want to highlight the container, the proportion is reversed).container_gardening_mckinney_tx
  2. Bold plants (such as geraniums or ornamental cabbage) and evergreens (such as boxwood or crotons) can stand on their own; one plant per container.  container_gardening_mckinney_tx
 When combining plants, the arrangement is most pleasing when there is a thriller, a filler and a spiller, and the number of plants used are in odd number groups (3, 5 or 7). 


  •  A thriller is a centerpiece plant; something big, bold and beautiful.  They are the starting point in the container design.  When the container will be viewed from all sides, put the thriller in the center.  If the container will be up against a wall or fence, put the thriller in the back.   
  •  Filler plants are generally round and mounding plants that fill in the middle ground of the container and make the container look full and lush.  Fillers are generally placed in front of or around the thriller (midway between the edge of the container and the thriller).  
  • Spillers are trailing plants that spill over and soften the edge of the container.   
  1. Texture refers to the overall size of the leaves, but also can refer to how smooth or rough the surface of the leaves are.  To create drama, use a combination of textures.  As a general rule, fine textured plants are placed in the front and the bold textured plants are placed in the back. container_gardening_mckinney_tx
  2. Color falls into two categories: hot and cool and both can affect mood.
  • Hot colors (red, yellow, orange) draw attention, and are fun and festive, so they’re good in areas where people congregate in a party atmosphere.
  • Cool colors (pink, blue, purple and white) are calm and serene.  They are good in areas where the desired mood is relaxing, soft music and quiet conversation.
  • White is a good color in a place that is enjoyed in the evening because the (lack of) color will shine in the dim light. 

 When assembling the container, the root balls of the plants should almost touch. Before shopping for plants, make a template the size of the container. Collect plants and place them on the template to allow you to creatively play with plant combinations and to assure you have enough plants in the container. Take care to choose plants that enjoy the same light requirements and moisture levels. 

*Covered porches and tree shaded patios may receive only a few hours of sunlight a day.  Every space is different, but here are some plants that you might want to try:   

Thrillers:  Alternanthera, Coleus, Croton, Dracaena, Geranium, New Zealand Flax, Pelargonium, Plectranthus, Purple Fountain Grass and Spiderwort. 

Fillers:  Abutilon, Ajuga, Blue Fescue, Caladiums, Dianthus, Dusty Miller, Euphorbia, Heuchera, Hosta, Impatiens, Lambs Ears, New Guinea Impatiens, Rue, Sedge, Tuberous Begonia, Veronica and Viola. 

Spillers:  Bacopa, Fuschia, Ivy, Lamium, Lobelia, Lysimachia, Million Bells and Vinca. 


You can even add a few seasonal decorations to your containers!

All you have to do now is sit back with a cool glass of tea and enjoy your beautiful containers! 


New to container gardening?  For more information check out my blog #ContainerBasics. 


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