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Spring is in full bloom and now is the perfect time to refresh your entryway, porch, or patio with colorful container plantings!

By sprucing up your pots with fresh color, you can bring new life to containers that may have sat dormant or with static evergreen plantings throughout the grey months. Whether you have a strong vision for what you’d like, or you prefer some design assistance, we’re here to help add seasonal vibrancy to your outdoor space.

Important considerations before getting started with container gardening:

  • What type of sun exposure will the container get?
  • Which design style will best complement the surroundings?
  • How much maintenance are you able to give this planting?

Utilize the simple formula of Thriller, Filler, and Spiller to create dynamic container plantings that look fabulous all season long!

container gardening tips

Container Design Ideas & Inspiration

Container gardens are most impactful when they complement the aesthetic of your home and existing plantings and they feature a color scheme that you enjoy!

We’ve put together some guidelines for how to choose a pot and select plants for container gardens in Modern and Zen gardens, Traditional and Classic landscapes, Bold and Tropical environments, and Romantic and Floral settings.

Of course, the best rules are meant to be broken, and you can find your own signature style by incorporating plants beyond those outlined below.

Modern & Zen Container Gardens

Generally, modern container plantings are more focused on form and texture rather than flowers. When choosing a modern container, look for simple or angular shapes, matte finishes, dark colors, and geometric patterns.

1. Modern thrillers should be architectural in form and add height and structure to the planting. Thriller plant suggestions:

  • Japanese Maple*
  • Azara*
  • Yucca

2. Modern fillers should provide textural contrast to the thriller and add another layer of color to the foliage, be it chartruese, silver, rich green, or even purple and black. Use more than one filler to add depth. Filler plant suggestions:

  • Coleus*
  • Carex Grass
  • Angel Wings Senecio

3. Modern spillers should add drama with their texture and length as they drip down the containers. Find a leaf pattern or color similar to one used for the thriller or filler, and use contrasting textures to add complexity. Spiller plant suggestions:

  • Wire Vine*
  • Forest Grass*
  • Licorice Plant*

*Suitable for shade; may also grow in sun on north-facing wall

Container gardening mood board for modern and zen styles in Spring and Summer

Traditional & Classic Container Gardens

A traditional container planting usually relies on an evergreen, structural central planting with simple complementary plantings that sit low and don’t detract from the thriller. Traditional style containers tend to be square or round in shape and feature uniform, neutral colors. They can also include interesting edges, lips, or repeated patterns.

Spring and summer container plantings with flowers and shrubs at the Lake Oswego Garden Center of Dennis' 7 Dees

1. Traditional thrillers should be tall and are typically evergreen. Topiary, or tree-form plants are an excellent selection for thrillers in classic container plantings. Thriller plant suggestions:

  • Sky Pencil Holly or Columnar Yew*
  • Columnar Conifer
  • 3-Tiered Privet

2. Traditional fillers should provide contrast through the color and shape of their foliage. Consider using a repeated flower to make a strong but traditional filler statement. Filler plant suggestions:

  • Zonal or Fancy-leaf Geraniums
  • Heuchera*
  • Dusty Miller*

3. Classic spillers should add a bit of drama as they cascade over the edges of the container. Spillers are also a great place to introduce simple flowers, especially if the filler was primarily composed of foliage plants. Spiller plant suggestions:

  • Bacopa
  • Million Bells
  • Ivy-Leaf Geranium*

*Suitable for shade; may also grow in sun on north-facing wall

Container gardening mood board for traditional and classic styles in Spring and Summer

Bold & Tropical Container Gardens

Bold and tropical container plantings can bring drama, color, and exuberance to a patio or act as an eye-catching accent in the landscape. When selecting a bold container, opt for simple shapes and bright colors in high-gloss or matte finishes.

1. Tropical thrillers should be tall and make use of bold leaves, color, or ideally, both! Thriller plant suggestions:

  • Banana
  • Cordyline
  • Fatsia japonica*

2. Tropical fillers should introduce a heavy helping of color and texture to the central thriller, and multiple filler options should be incorporated. Filler plant suggestions:

  • Upright Fuchsia*
  • Coleus*
  • Asparagus Fern*

3. Tropical spillers should add more excitement through the use of color, texture, and are a great place to add some vibrant flowers. Spiller plant suggestions:

  • Sweet Potato Vine*
  • Trailing Fuchsia*
  • Trailing Begonia*

*Suitable for shade; may also grow in sun on north-facing wall

Container gardening mood board for bold and tropical styles in Spring and Summer

Romantic & Floral Container Gardens

Romantic style container plantings tend to utilize flowers along a strict color scheme with foliage that provides movement or textural interest. When selecting a romantic container, go for soft tones and earthy colors like green, grey, white, or terra cotta. Choose natural materials such as stone with matte or rougher textures.

1. Romantic thrillers should be a way to establish a strong form with the addition of flowers. Thriller plant suggestions:

  • Jasmine
  • Camellia*
  • Tree-Form Hydrangea

2. Romantic fillers should provide texture and introduce a new complementary color to the combination through flower or foliage. Filler plant suggestions:

  • Mexican Feather Grass
  • Senecio Angel Wings
  • Upright Fuchsia*

3. Romantic spillers should add cascades of flowers to flow over the edges of the container and should echo the existing color palette. Spiller plant suggestions:

  • Million Bells
  • Bacopa
  • Tuberous Begonia*

*Suitable for shade; may also grow in sun on north-facing wall

Container gardening mood board for romantic and floral styles in Spring and Summer

Container Garden Planting Steps

Step 1

Start with quality potting soil.

Step 2

Water plants before planting them into the container. Toss plants (plastic pot and all) into a bucket of water or compost tea until soil is completely saturated, or make sure they are well-watered before beginning your planting.

Step 3

Add soil and arrange plants. Fill the bottom two thirds of the pot with potting soil, add fertilizer, and start placing plants in at proper soil level, beginning with the largest plant and working down to the smallest, while adding soil around each plant’s roots. Leave about ¾ to one inch of space before the top edge of the container to allow water to sit on the soil surface before it gets absorbed.

Step 4

Water your container! Once the container planting is finished, water it thoroughly to settle the soil.

Container Garden Care & Maintenance

Water, deadhead, fertilize… repeat!

Watering Container Gardens

Watering is the most important part of container garden maintenance, so learn to love it!

  • You will need to water your containers at least once per day during the hottest months, occasionally skipping a day, as needed.
  • Water most pots until it runs out of the drainage holes to be sure the soil is thoroughly saturated.
  • Containers in shade may need to be watered less frequently than those in more sunny areas.

Fertilizing Container Gardens

Container plantings have limited resources to obtain nutrients and rely heavily on being fertilized for peak performance.

Deadheading & Pruning

Most flowers bloom better when spent blossoms are removed before they can form seed heads—this process is known as deadheading.

  • Some small and large plants will look better with occasional light pruning or pinching back to promote a fuller growth habit or intentional form.
  • Unsightly blooms, branches, and leaves can be cut back to allow the plant to regenerate after a stressful period like heat or missed waterings.
  • Don’t be afraid to trim plants that are crowding other plants in the container to maintain balance!

Containter Garden Pest Control

Healthy plants that are well-fed and well-watered are less prone to pest problems.

  • Consider treating for pests before they wreak havoc on your container by incorporating preemptive organic sprays.
  • For plants prone to budworm like Petunias and Geraniums, spray with BT (Bacillus thuringiensis, a naturally-occurring bacteria that is pet and people-safe) every two weeks beginning in late June or early July to protect new growth from the voracious caterpillars.


Lake Oswego Garden Center

Too Busy to Design Your Own Container Garden?

Drop-in container plantings are ideal for garden lovers with busy schedules or for those who prefer not to get their hands dirty. This means using a plastic pot that can discretely fit inside your decorative one and is pre-planted with seasonal combinations! You’ll have instant, colorful, curated arrangements that can be easily refreshed or switched out through the seasons.

Every planting is a learning experience, and we are here to give you guidance—don’t be afraid to try something new and HAVE FUN! Stop into your local garden center for container design inspiration, pre-planted drop-in containers, and even custom container planting services!

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