Best Container Garden Ideas – How to Style a Container Garden

Planters, window boxes, and hanging baskets provide splashes of color on patios, around pools, or scattered throughout your landscape. No garden is complete without them! They’re ideal if you have poor soil or when you need to protect plants from hungry garden visitors such as rabbits and deer. Strategically-placed planters can also screen a view or provide a sense of delineation for different outdoor rooms. As the summer wanes and annuals begin to fade, it’s also easy to remove spent plants from containers to tuck in a few seasonal favorites such as chrysanthemums or ornamental kale.

But there are a few tricks to designing containers so they’re lavish and eye-catching. Sparse is never a good look, so place plants fairly close together. You must also remember that containers tend to dry out more quickly than landscape beds, so you’ll need to check them frequently in hot weather. Pots made from materials that are porous, such as terra cotta, also dry out more quickly because moisture evaporates more quickly than from non-porous materials such as metal. Here’s how to create extraordinary planters by following these simple design tips:

Follow the spiller, thriller, filler design concept.

Your focus should be to combine different forms of plants to provide dimension, depth and interest to pots. There are three key categories of plants when styling your container: Spillers are plants that tumble over the edges of pots; thrillers are plants that provide height or a dramatic effect; and fillers are plants that add mass and fullness. By combining plants from each group, you’ll create a pleasing appearance that works no matter what the season. It’s also fine to plant all of one type of plant in a container if that’s more aesthetically pleasing to you.

Combine plants with similar needs.

Keep plants with similar needs in one pot. In other words, you shouldn’t plant a sun-lover such as calibrachoa with a shade lover such as lobelia. Perennials such as hosta and lavender can also be incorporated, although they may not return next year if you live in a cold climate because the pot doesn’t insulate roots like the ground does. However, there’s a slight exception to this rule: If you choose a perennial that’s at least two USDA Hardiness zones tougher than yours, it may survive to return next year. For example, if you live in zone 5, choose a perennial that’s hardy to zone 3. (Find your zone here). The same rule applies to shrubs, which make excellent container plants.

Choose colors you love.

Like interior design, color combinations are personal preference, but complementary colors on the color wheel, such as orange and blue, are rather striking together. Or go monochromatic with various hues of a similar shade in one pot. Don’t be afraid to mix in plants that are grown strictly for their colorful foliage, such as caladiums or heucheras.

Match the plants to the container style.

Consider the style of the container when choosing plants. A salvaged copper boiler looks amazing with cottage garden flowers draping over the edges, while striking upright grasses look at home in metal containers with an industrial edge. You may also wish to choose planters that coordinate with the style of your home.

Trust your instincts.

Remember that your planters are a reflection of your own creativity and personal style. There really are no steadfast rules except one: Choose what you love because your garden should always bring you joy!

Here are a few of our favorite plants from each category for inspiration: