To create a dimensional planter with character, use the method of “Thrillers, Spillers, and Fillers.”
THRILLER! (Shouting loudly like it’s 1995…) I don’t even know how to do Michael Jackson’s Thriller dance. And it shows 🤗 So instead, let’s talk about container planting and leave the dance moves to MTV. (Sidenote: do they show music anymore?)
Try this fun method for easy DIY container planting. Create your own mix for unique designs and one of a kind planters! Thrillers, Spillers, and Fillers provide height, full blooms and color, and draping movement to any container.
Let’s get started, step 1-2-3.
Select a planting container. Ideally, you want a container that is both wide and tall. The width of the container will dictate how many annuals you can use in your planting. I love standard terra cotta pots or repurposing old buckets for timeless options.
Fill the bottom of the container with 2-3” of rocks or gravel for drainage. Add soil to within an inch or two of the planter top. Around 6-8” of soil depth is needed for most annuals once mature.
So, what’s an annual?
Good question! Annuals are plants that complete their life cycle in one year or one growing season. They are typically known for their showy blooms, making them worth the time and effort of replanting every year. They are a colorful addition to your porch or landscaping beds and add so much overall charm (that look we are going for).
Pick these up at your local greenhouse or home improvement store. They are usually sold in 4-6 packs and on flats. Annuals typically need to be planted in the late spring after the last frost. Pansies are one exception; you can plant those early. Refer to the farmer’s almanac to get an idea of which zone you live in and when the last frost occurs. Here in Ohio, the rule-of-thumb is to plant after Mother’s Day, although I grow too impatient and normally plant early. If you do plant early, plan to watch the weather closely and if there is a chance of frost or freeze, be prepared to carry all your planters inside.
Add your Thriller/s
The first component of your planter is the thriller. A thriller is something tall and upright that will bring height to the center of the planter. This plant needs to be taller than the other plants you select. A plant that is 1-1/2 times the container height (at it’s mature height) is perfect. But don’t overthink it, or get too picky. Just grab a tall plant.
Some great options for thrillers are Canna lillies, grass plants, Salvia, or Cosmos. Depending on the size of your planter, I would use one in the center or a center grouping for larger boxes/planters. If the planter is one sided, place the thrillers along the back of the box. I planted a Persian shield by Proven Winners.
Add your Spillers
Movement and dimension are created within your planter by using spillers. Spillers literally spill over the edges of your container. Choose a plant that is known for vining or hanging. This element adds an old world feel to your containers; think a quaint english cottage basking with flowing vines and lush window boxes. Gahhhhh
Great options for spillers include sweet potato vine, petunias, or ivy. I used Pretty Grand Summer Petunias.
Add your Fillers
Fillers are the final component. These are plants that are mid-sized with a pretty bloom or vivid color. They “fill” in the gaps. You can use more than one filler if your container size allots.
Colorful fillers choices include: coleus, ageratum, begonias, lantana, or geraniums. I used Blue Hawaii 5.0 Ageratum.
General Planting Tips:
Try not to overcrowd your planter and allow for room to grow, but still be thick and lush. I planted 7 annuals in a 16” planter. That’s the maximum I would go. I used 1 thriller, 3 spillers, and 3 fillers. As the container grows, don’t be afraid to remove plants if they are getting too maxed for space.
When selecting your annuals, choose plants that require the same sun/shade. Each plant has its own light requirement to grow best. There will be a sun icon on the plant tag that depicts whether it does best in full sun, part sun, or shade. Consider where your planters will live prior to planting them! My front porch gets afternoon and evening sun, (which is hot-hot), so I opted for full sun varieties.
Use a single annual in a container as a stand alone mix. I love snapdragons planted alone (seen above as a companion to my mixed planter). I used Snapshot Mix Snapdragons.
Get creative with your container. Anything can be used as a planter as long as it can hold adequate soil and provide proper drainage.
Here I planted Petunias and Dusty Miller (spiller and filler) in an old coal bucket. Being sure to add gravel to the bottom of my bucket before adding the soil. (Petunia variety is Tritunia Blue Veined.)
Your options are only limited to your imagination. Happy planting (and dancing)!
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