Creating a Thriller, Filler, and Spiller Effect in a Container Garden

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By: Chelsea Lipford Wolf

Creating a great-looking container display is as easy as picking out a thriller, filler, and spiller group of plants at your local garden center. And of course you’ll need a durable, beautiful planter as well.

Using a thriller, filler, and spiller in one container is a beautiful way to get a big pop of color in a small, concentrated area.

Plants that fall into the “thriller” category are plants that grow vertically and not very wide. Look for ones with tags that estimate growth from 12 inches and up. Some examples include Angelonias, Snapdragons, or ornamental grasses.

When looking for a filler plant, you want something that doesn’t grow tall. Plants designated as “mounding” are great for filling in your container. Heavy-flowering plants like Petunias work well.

Lastly, select a plant that “spills” over the edge of your planter. Sweet potato vines, ivies, or Iobelia will grow out and down to complete your planter.

The real key, though, is in selecting plants with similar care and maintenance. You’ll want all three of your plants to need the same amount of water and sunlight as each other. So either all require 6+ hours of sunlight or all of them should require partial sunlight


And watering is important since they’ll share soil. If you have a plant that requires daily watering and one that only needs water once a week, one of them will most certainly suffer from over- or under-watering.

After you have all of your plants selected, you’re ready to plant them. Find a planter with a large opening so you’ll have enough room for all of your beautiful flowers. If it doesn’t already have a drainage hole, add one with a drill and drill bit.


Filling up any planter with potting soil will make it heavy, sometimes even too heavy to move. Use the plastic pots some of your flowers come in at the bottom, before adding the soil, to reduce the amount of soil you’ll need.


Next, plant your thriller either in the middle of your planter or in the back. Here the Pericallis Senetti is centered.


Use your filler plant to, you guessed it, fill in the planter. If your thriller is in the back, plant your filler in the middle third of your container. If your thriller is in the middle, surround it with your filler. Here the Petunias are used to add color to the otherwise green space near the bottom of the Senetti.


Finally, place your spiller near the edge of the planter. The Bacopa here is a very full, trailing plant with multiple colors of blooms.


Don’t forget to pack the soil around all of your plants to ensure they’ll thrive in their new surroundings. Place your planter where it will receive the appropriate amount of sunlight and water well for the first few days.


Then you’ll be able to enjoy your new creation as it grows and gets better-looking all season long!

The 22″ Sand Planter is available exclusively at Lowe’s.

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