Annual Container Tips

Table of Contents

Combine Thriller, Filler and Spiller Plants

Combinations of different annuals are a quick way to set the mood of any outdoor space and containers make it easy to do throughout the season. Coordinate or contrast colors and textures for the desired “feel” in no time at all. The possibilities include calming or energizing, tropical or desert, cottage soft or architecturally edgy.

Container plantings are a simple way to stunning results when you use a mix of heights and forms in the classic thriller, filler, spiller formula:

Thriller Plants

close up of cordyline 'Red Star' plant in garden

Upright (thriller, vertical) plants
add vertical interest and a sense of height to planting arrangements, making them more lively and dynamic.

Filler Plants

close up of purple-veined petunias

Mounding (filler, anchor) plants
are used to create stability in planting arrangements. They bring a sense of balance to even the boldest combinations.

Spiller Plants

white bacopa trailing from a planter box

Trailing (spiller, spreading) plants
are the final “accessory” in planting arrangements. They fill in gaps, soften edges and tie all the elements together for a truly finished look.

Grow Plants with Similar Needs Together

several planters filled with a combination of oxalis, calibrachoa, alyssum, impatiens, ornamental grass, and elephant ear

Be sure to match by water and sun needs when mixing annuals in a planting, so all can be at their healthiest. If your plant selections have similar sun requirements, but differing water needs – plant them in individual containers that can each be watered separately. You can then arrange a mix of containers and easily rearrange or change them out as the season progresses for a fresh look.

Caring for Your Potted Plants

combination planter with corydalis, verbena, calibrachoa and ipomoea

Annuals containers need regular and consistent feed and water and a touch of cleanup to keep up their dazzling displays. Liquid feed, with every other watering or slow-release feed twice per season work for most varieties.

Containers should be checked daily for water needs. When you do water, it may run freely from the bottom of a basket or container <strong “=””>before the potting mix actually starts absorbing any water, especially if it has been allowed to dry out completely. Think of how a dried-out kitchen sponge can need a good soaking before it stops repelling water and starts to take it in. Do not use water flowing out the bottom as your only indicator of enough water! Instead, feel the mix to confirm it really did get moistened or check for heaviness before and after watering – as a thoroughly watered container should have some weight to it.

Many varieties are considered <strong “=””>self-cleaning and quickly drop their spent blooms. For those that don’t, remove the finished blooms and any seed heads that start to form so the plant can direct energy to new flowers. You can remove flower buds from plants being grown for their leaves without any threat to the plants’ health.

For more tips about how to keep your container garden looking great, check out our Secrets of Success for Outdoor Potted Plants.

beautiful pair of mixed flower containers on either side of a stone stairs leading to house door


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