Last month we shared with you our best container “spillers” and this month we’re going to talk about what we consider to be the 5 best container “fillers”. A filler plant is placed in front of the container centerpiece also known as the “thriller” and behind the spillers that grow at the container’s edge. As the gardening season unfolds they will spread in a circular or mounding fashion and will make the container look full. Fillers should provide a contrast in color and leaf texture to your thriller in order to make the thriller stand out and be the focus of your container.

Last month we mentioned several plants that we considered to be the best spillers but several of those choices are also very effective fillers as well. For example, petunias and calibrochoa can be used as fillers as well as spillers but we feel the following plants represent the best container fillers:

Lantana-This plant can actually grow into a shrub in really warm areas of the country but it is readily available in sizes that make it a great container plant. Yellow is a popular color but it also comes in orange, red, purple and white. The flowers are unique and often change colors as they mature. The foliage also has a nice lemon-like fragrance when you brush against it. It prefers full sun and can stand up to the summer heat that other flowers sometimes can’t tolerate.

Geranium-This may not be considered an exotic container plant but it is still a very effective filler. It is very dependable and can often be the last plant standing in the autumn. The flowers come in variety of colors including red, orange, pink and white and the flowers last for weeks before they have to be deadheaded. The foliage is also very interesting as it has a scalloped edge and some varieties have dark rings in the leaves. If you really like geraniums you can take cuttings of them late in the summer and grow them as a houseplant too.

Begonias-Both the common wax begonia which has small red, white or pink flowers with light and dark green foliage and tuberose varieties which come in a much wider variety of colors make great container plants. The tuberose varieties are particularly valuable as they bring color to shady areas of the yard while the wax variety can tolerate sunny and shady conditions. The flowers last a long time and the plants are self-cleaning meaning that deadheading isn’t really necessary. If you want to use tuberose varieties in your containers you may want to get a head start and plant them indoors and transplant them after the danger of frost has passed. 

Dusty Miller-This annual is grown primarily for its lacy silver foliage. It does get yellow flowers in the summer but they are often removed as they are not as eye-catching as the leaves. It grows in sunny areas although it will appreciate some shade in the afternoon in particularly hot locations. It tolerates dry conditions which make it a good companion plant with ornamental grasses, lantana and petunias. It is particularly striking when grown with plants that have red foliage or flowers.

Zinnia-While we’re all probably familiar with this flower there are some dwarf varieties that work very well in the filler role in a container. The profusion series in particular is a tireless bloomer that is still easy to keep from overwhelming your container. It comes in a variety of colors including orange, yellow, pink and white. Zahara and Magellan are other varieties that also are great container candidates. Zinnias are sun lovers that can tolerate hot, dry conditions.

Since this is my article I am also going to give an honorable mention to a few other flowers that are great fillers. Caladiums do well in the shade but there are new varieties that are able to tolerate some sun as well. They come in a wide variety of stunning foliage combinations. Another choice are impatiens which come in an array of colors and with the introduction of Sunpatiens can now be grown in sunny conditions as well as the shade.
I’m sure you have your container favorites too so please share them with us on our Facebook page!

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