Gardening in containers has become a very popular activity and many gardeners have made it the centerpiece of their hobby. Regardless if you are a beginner or a container gardening aficionado most of us build our flowering pots around a design technique that is known as spiller, filler and thriller. We plan to cover all 3 of these components but this article is going to focus on the “spiller” part of the process. When you combine plants that fit each of these categories you’ll be able to create your own professional looking containers.

Spillers are the trailing plants that cover and cascade over the edge of your container. They are typically planted close to the edge of the pot and if you intend to have the pot be visible from all sides than you need to be sure you have spillers that are all around the container. Of course if your container is going to be up against a wall you would only need to add your spillers to the front of the pot. Now I am sure that everyone has their favorite container spillers but I thought I would share with you 5 that I’ve had a lot of success with over the years:

• Petunia-This is the gold standard of spillers for many gardeners including me. They come in a wide variety of colors that will meet the requirements of any color scheme you can think up and there are varieties of petunia that have been bred especially for container gardening. Starting with wave petunias and moving on to the supertunia and shock wave varieties if you have containers in full sun you can’t go wrong with petunias.

• Calibrochoa-I first came across this plant about 10 years ago when I mistakenly thought I was purchasing a new variety of petunia just with a smaller flower size. They look like a miniature version of a petunia and they have a lot of similar characteristics too. These plants love the sun and warm weather and their rapid growth and cascading qualities make them a no brainer for all types of containers. Add the fact that new colors of this flower are introduced every year and you’ve got a virtually perfect container plant.

• Bidens-This is a plant that I have only recently become familiar with but I love it! It has the knack for weaving its fern-like foliage in and out of its container companions and its bright yellow flower is eye-catching in the sunny conditions it prefers. I’ve grown Bidens in containers located in hot, sunny conditions and it has not withered there at all. As a matter of fact it self-seeded itself which was a pleasant surprise! If you are not familiar with this spiller you may want to check it out!

• Spider Plants-Although this is more commonly grown as a houseplant I have used them in shady containers for years. The foliage of a spider plant is a nice contrast with other container companions and by mid-summer the main plant will start to release “baby” plants that seem to just hang in the air and these babies can be harvested before the first frost in the fall and then replanted again next year! A never-ending supply of new plants; what can be better than that!

• Verbena-This plant is another strong performer in a variety of conditions. It does best in sunny conditions but also can tolerate partly sunny conditions as well. The last several years have seen the introduction of the Lanai series of verbena which are plants that seem ready made for containers. I like to cut the spent flowers off but even when I don’t this plant still seems to continue blooming profusely. I see this plant used in a significant number of special container garden combinations and its popularity seems to continue to grow.

Well, there you have it; our 5 top spillers. I’m sure you have to have some of your own favorites and please share them with us on our Facebook page. Please be on the lookout for an article next month where we will share our 5 favorite “fillers”.

Photos courtesy of Jill Mazur

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  • Mar 20

    Very helpful information!!

    Thank you for letting us know this content was helpful.

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