Thrillers fillers and spillers

Container Gardens: Thriller, Spiller & Filler Plant Options

Starting a container garden is easy and a great way to add a flourish of vibrant color to any landscape – especially smaller ones. Think of your container garden as a miniature flower garden or floral arrangement. The selected plants should give your container both width and height. To create a well-rounded, appealing container garden that stands out, utilize the “thrillers, spillers, and fillers” plant selection technique.

To coax the very best results from your container garden, be sure to fill pots with Miracle-Gro® Potting Mix and feed all of your plants regularly with Miracle-Gro® Water Soluble All Purpose Plant Food. Together, this power pair gives your plants just the right root environment and nutrition to grow bigger and produce more blooms (vs. unfed). And when next season rolls around, no need to replace the old potting mix. Instead, simply revive it with Miracle-Gro® Refresh 1™ Soil Revitalizer so you can keep wowing people with gorgeous designs.

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.

There’s a special place in my heart for container gardening. Besides loving being able to change the floral design seasonally, I’ve been a bit thrust into the world of container gardening thanks to the abundance of Seattle’s small spaces. Our outdoor areas seem to just keep shrinking, too; big yards have become smaller yards have become balconies….

If you’re gardening in containers, by virtue of circumstance or by a special interest, you know they’re uniquely valuable because of the range of options available. Container gardens are beautiful, versatile, and you can have them just about anywhere!

We’ve talked about building a container garden for sun; “but what about shade?!” you ask. Read on, dear container gardener. Here are your tips for building a beautiful and thriving container garden for shade with the thriller, filler, spiller method. You may recall that this is a three-part solution to demystify planting container design arrangements. If you’re new to the idea of the thriller, filler, spiller style, I can tell you that you’re going to love how easy it makes arranging a container.

If you need help choosing a container, this blog post can help. If you’ve already chosen your container, here’s a handy guide on how to build the rest!

I’m not sure my container plantings are always gorgeous, but they usually turn out pretty nice due to one trick I learned years ago – use at least one “thriller”, “filler”, and “spiller” when planting the container. And if you’ve got room, throw in a “chiller” to make it exciting. I read about the concept long ago, but every year as I’m picking out plants for containers, it seems someone asks how I go about planning a beautiful container planting.

These photo shows a container that was planted a couple of days ago, and that demonstrates the concept. The “thriller” in this case is a Spike Dracena – the thriller is always a tall plant which gives the container the visual element of height. The “filler(s)” (I used two in this case), are the Diamond Frost Euphorbia and Laguna Sky Blue Lobelia, – filler(s) should be as wide as they are tall and fill up the width of the container. The “spiller” here is a potato vine – the spiller always spills over the edge of the container. And finally the “chiller” here is the Dusty Miller – it’s a “cool” plant that will draw attention to the planting.

This is a young grouping that needs to fill out; however, I think it’ll be quite beautiful once it’s more mature. There are other things to consider when putting together a beautiful container planting (colors, container, soil, site, etc.); but, this is the one thing that most helps me put together successful looking contaners year after year. For any blooming plants (as opposed to those being used for foliage), it’s also helpful to choose varieties that bloom from “planting to frost”.

Sun Shade
Thriller Cannas, Cleome, Geranium, Hibiscus, Ornamental Grasses Astilbe, Coleus, Foxglove
Filler Euphorbia Diamond Frost, Lantana, Lobelia Begonia, Browalia, Hosta, Impatien
Spiller Calibrachoa, Petunia, Sweet Potato Vine, Verbena Coral Bells, Fuschia, Ivy
Chiller Coleus, Dusty Miller, Geranium Bleeding Heart, Lobelia, Oxalis

The table above gives some ideas for plants that can be used in the different categories for sun or shade; but, there are hundreds more possibilities. That’s part of the fun, it’s really hard to go wrong with the “thriller, filler, spiller, and chiller” concept. And, this is the time of year that garden centers and nurseries put their annuals on sale, so it’s a great time to try new combinations – I love using sale plants to liven up our deck and patio. Check out beautiful container plantings you see – I bet lots of them are using this concept.


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