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How To Plant Patio Containers Now

Thrillers, Spillers, and Fillers!

Today we’ll talk about how to plant patio containers now.

It’s my friend’s birthday this week. I am making something special that she will be able to enjoy all summer long.

I want to make a couple of beautiful flower planters for her patio and take them over tomorrow for her. And I want to show you how I’m doing it.

When we are done, I’ll have created two patio planters for my friend’s birthday.

And bonus! You’ll be able to make some for your own patio or to give as gifts.

Let’s get started on this fun project!

how to make patio containers
Our Creation

How To Select Your Pots

Choose the pots that you want to plant your patio containers into. The choices of material include plastic, composite, wood, terra cotta, ceramic, metal, and concrete.

You can even choose to use items that you have hanging around. Look at these!

container plants planted in Two Gray Kettles on Table
Container Planting Example

Here’s an example of someone’s ingenuity, planting flowers in two old tea kettles.

I’ve seen stunning container gardens planted in old claw-foot bathtubs, sinks, wheelbarrows, and rubber boots. At the nursery, I saw a pair of worn jeans standing by themselves, ready to be filled with flowers!

I guess variety is the spice of life, as my grandma used to say.

Think about the feeling you want to create with your container garden, then make your container choice. I’ve got a link to Amazon where you can go to see all the choices that are available to you here.

The most important part of your choice is that the pot has to have drainage at the bottom.

The Pot Choice I Made

green plastic pot with potting soil for patio container planting

I chose two medium-sized, plastic pots for my friend’s gift.

The pots are made of plastic. This material is light and durable, and easily hung up. But moisture evaporates more quickly out of plastic so the plants will need to be watered regularly.

These are convertible pots. You can see the optional handles that fit into the small grooves along to the top of the pot. Use the handles to hang the pot.

Or, if you don’t want to hang the planter, you can forget the handles and take them off. The pots can sit on a table or the patio if you prefer them there.

What Potting Soil To Use

You want to use potting soil for your planters. This will come in a bag and say something like “potting soil for containers…”

I’ve got a link to Amazon where you’ll see the different potting soil for containers that are available here. This can help steer you toward the appropriate potting soil.

Warning: Do not use garden soil or topsoil for your containers. It is too dense for planting flowers in and will harden into a solid piece that won’t retain moisture.

The soil that you use for your containers has to drain and aerate better than garden soil. Here’s one of my posts about choosing between the different soil options.

Thrillers, Fillers, and Spillers!

thrillers, fillers, and spillers for patio container planting
Thrillers, Fillers, and Spillers

This is an exciting flower container planting. How can you achieve the same effect?

When you plant containers, there are some basic steps you want to follow.

Your recipe for a successful container planting includes

  • A pot that is the right size
  • Good potting soil
  • The right location with sun or shade as needed
  • Harmony
  • Several types of plants that have different functions but work together perfectly

Your goal is to create a patio container that uses color, texture, and form to present a lush and intriguing composition that is a delight to look at.

How do you do this?

You want to include thrillers, fillers, and spillers in your pot.

What does this mean anyway?

Thrillers are the star of the show. Fillers fill the gallery. Spillers fall over the edge in excitement.

Let’s talk about each of these characters, and how they will fit into your patio container.

Thrillers Are The Star

Thrillers are taller, upright plants that draw the eye up. The centerpiece plant that is beautiful, they have colorful foliage, intriguing shape, or dramatic flowers.

Setting the stage for the rest of the plants, there are two options on where to place the thrillers:

  • Place at the center of the pot to show from all sides
  • Place at the back of the pot to be seen from the front

Select your thriller first. Plant it where you want it to go and then build the rest of the container around it.

I used coleus as the thriller for my friend’s pots.

But there are other excellent choices available, depending on your pot, its size and shape, and where you want to have it displayed. Options that I’ve used in the past include purple fountain grass, papyrus, calla lilies, celosia, and lantana.

Fillers Add Dimension

Foliage or flowering plants act as fillers that will complement, not overwhelm, the thriller. Fillers “fill” the pot between the thriller and the edge. Use rounded or mounded plants to make the container look full.

Select your fillers based on your thriller’s color, texture, or composition. Place the fillers around the thriller. Mix it up by using some foliage and some flowering plants.

I used Calibrachoa or million bells as fillers for my friend’s pots. Hummingbirds love these little flowers, and they need no deadheading through the season. Other options include petunia, caladium, and euphorbia.

Spillers Add The Waterfall

Spillers are fun plants that cascade over the edge of the pot, playfully tumbling toward the ground. They can also wind through the thrillers and spillers, but their main job is to soften the edge of the container, sprawling over the edge and perhaps touching the ground. Choose your spillers so that they echo or contrast the colors or textures of the thriller and the fillers.

I used “Marguerite” or sweet potato vine and purple Super Cascade petunias for the spillers in my friend’s birthday pots. There are many excellent spillers that you could choose from, including bacopa, creeping Jenny, and sweet alyssum.

Remember, some plants can be both fillers and spillers if they are mounding or trailing. Examples are verbena, bacopa, oregano, and sedum.

Planting The Containers

I chose two plastic containers for our patio flower pots.

Fill the pot almost to the top with good potting soil.

OK, so I’ve got two medium-sized planters. They are filled with potting soil.

Now what?

Decide where you want to place each plant. Arrange them before you dig your first hole.

I will use the coleus as the thriller, and I want it to be seen from all sides. The coleus will be planted in the center of the pot. My friend can place her containers wherever she wants to, and they will be beautiful regardless of which side is facing out.

Use the calibrachoa used as the filler for the pots, planted around the coleus. They have a mounding growth habit and will fill the pot nicely.

I am using the sweet potato vine and cascading petunias as the spillers. Planted around the edges of the pot, they can spill over the edges as they grow.

How Do The Plants Come?

two hands with gardening gloves holding a plant start in black plastic container
Coleus in Plastic Container

The plants come in plastic containers from the growers. Squeeze the plastic container gently at the bottom and sides to work the plant loose from the sides and carefully remove the plant.

Dig the hole where you want to place your plant. The hole has to be deep enough that the top of the plant’s original dirt is even with the new soil in the pot.

Place all your plants where you want them to be in the finished container.

Water the containers deeply so that each plant gets enough water at its roots.

Container plantings dry out more quickly than plants that are placed in the ground. Water them regularly every day, sometimes twice a day if the day was hot.

Completed Patio Containers

two patio containers with the flowers labeled in white
Completed Patio Containers

So, there you have it! We have planted two beautiful patio containers together. It’s easy!

Now you know how to plant patio containers or patio flower pots. You can go out, choose your pots and plants, and create a splendid patio container yourself. Be sure to include the thriller, the fillers, and the spillers when you do!

I made a list of plants you could use to create your container plantings. Get the list of plants here!

If you want to know more about planting container gardens, here’s a post that I wrote for you about it.

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