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How to Design a 'Wow' Container Garden


Article by Heather Markway

Photography by Heather Markway

'Tis the season for adding flowers to your home for an extra pop of color through the summer season! Nothing is more welcoming than a planter of live flowers to greet guests to your home or add coziness to your patio space.

I'm sharing how to design a wow container garden using three key elements. Utilize these three players and you're guaranteed to have a beautiful arrangement you will love all summer long!


Thriller is the namesake for the tallest plant in your container design. This plant should be the focal point, as it provides a strong vertical element to the arrangement. If you will view the container from all sides, plant the thriller in the middle. Place the thriller in the back if the planter will be viewed from the front only. Thrillers are the drama to a container planting.

Some of my favorite summer thrillers are:

  • Canna
  • Caladium
  • Elephant Ear
  • Angelonia
  • Cordyline


The filler role is fulfilled by mounded or rounded plants that surround the thriller and fill the space between the focal point and the lower portion of the planter. Although they hold space, they don't have to be boring. These plants can have colorful blooms or a fun texture to add to the overall container design. Plant fillers around the base of the thriller.

Consider some of the following summer fillers:

  • Diamond Frost Euphorbia
  • Coleus
  • Lantana
  • Impatiens
  • Begonia


The spiller does exactly as it states-it spills over the side of the container. Any type of cascading or trailing plant works perfectly in this role. The spiller adds another dimension to the container design and provides the lower tier of interest that softens the edges of the container. These plants should be planted at the edge of the container. If the planter will be viewed from one side, position the spiller at the front.

Any of the following plants are great spillers for your summer containers:

  • Sweet Potato Vine
  • Trailing Petunias
  • Calibrachoa
  • Moneywort
  • Tradescantia zebrina

Now that you know the three elements to a wow container garden, get to planting! Don't forget to share your creations with me on social media by tagging @lifegardenstyle.