Tips For Container Gardening Design: What Is A Thriller, Filler Spiller

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By Mary H. Dyer, Master Naturalist and Master Gardener

What is a thriller, filler, spiller? This set of simple rhyming words – thrillers, fillers and spillers – removes the intimidation factor from container gardening design. Read on to learn how to create professional-looking container plant designs by grouping plants into these three basic categories.

Container Gardening Design with Thrillers, Fillers and Spillers

Container flower gardening need not be intimidating to those new to the garden world. In fact, a simple method for ensuring beautiful focal points in the home or garden includes the use of thriller, filler, spiller plants.

Thriller plants – Thrillers are the big, bold focal point of your container plant designs. This plant provides an eye-catching vertical element. Tall ornamental grasses such as purple fountain grass or Japanese sweet flag work well, but you can also use spiky blooming plants such as:

If you’ll be viewing your container from all sides, the thriller goes in the middle. If your view the container from the front, plant the thriller in the back.

Filler plants – Fillers are mid-size, mounding or rounded plants that surround and enhance the thriller and fill the space in the planter. You can use one filler or opt for two or three different plants in your container gardening design. The difficult part is selecting the plant from so many choices, but a few suggestions include:

Spiller plants – Spillers are splashy plants that cascade and tumble over the sides of the container. Have some fun with your container gardening design! For example, here are some popular choices:

Using thrillers, fillers and spillers removes the complication from container flower gardening, allowing to have fun and exercise your creative muscle. Just be sure to choose plants with the same sunlight and water requirements when selecting plants for your container plant designs.

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