Container Gardening Ideas That Will Turn Your Outdoor Space into an Oasis

More than thrillers, spillers and fillers

When looking for ideas for planting a gorgeous garden container, you'll often come across the rhyming advice of using a "thriller, spiller and filler". The advice to combine a bold, upright plant (thriller) with mounding plants (filler) and a cascading plant (spiller) is tried-and-true, but doesn't offer the broad scope we need to create a truly stunning container garden. To accomplish the transformation you're looking for in your outdoor space, you need container gardening ideas that work together to create a lush oasis that reflects your sense of style and love for the outdoors. Here's a few tips that will help you create that verdant, colorful space you've been dreaming of.

Choose a color scheme or consistent style


Love the industrial look of metal, black and wood garden boxes and containers? Perhaps bright pops of color strike your fancy. Or the creamy tones of pastels. Whether your taste skews towards eclectic or contemporary, let it shine as you curate your containers and accents for your outdoor space.

Your sense of style isn't only on display in your container choices, but in your plant choices, as well. Choose native flowers and grasses to create a naturalistic, pollinator-friendly planting. Go bold with plants that boast blooms of rich, saturated colors. Stick to planting foliage plants and vegetables for a lush, green look. A medicinal and culinary herb container garden has its own sense of earthy style -- and lends itself to everyday use.

Get creative with a trellis


Add visual interest, style and drama to your space with a vertical element. Tall grasses, vertical planters and trellises can satisfy the architectural need for height and structure in your garden -- whether it's a container garden or not. Of these choices, cultivating a climbing plant with some sort of trellis is special because it offers endless possibilities for style, interest and artistic flair. Whether you weave together flexible branches you find around your yard, buy an intricate metal trellis or use twine, you're adding an artistic element to your garden that can't easily be outdone.

Flowering climbing plants that do well in large containers include Sweet Peas, Morning Glory, Clematis, Jasmine, Climbing Rose, Mandevilla, Passion Flower and Moonflower. Foliage climbing plants for containers include Ivy and Virginia Creeper. Try growing cucumbers, squash, melons, peas and pole beans up a trellis in your vegetable garden, whether it's in containers or not.

Grow herbs and vegetables


Create a kitchen garden right outside your door with a mixture of big planters, mid-size containers and little pots. One of the coolest things about growing a kitchen garden in containers is that, with enough sun and moisture, you can have fresh herbs and produce steps from where you prepare and eat your meals.

You can grow almost any herb in a small pot, but some vegetables are easier to grow in containers than others. Make sure you have containers that are 14-18″ deep to encourage a healthy root structure. Vegetables that are especially well-suited for growing in a container include carrots, beans, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, potatoes and zucchini.

Group pots together


Once you've collected enough garden pots, create container groups that make a dramatic statement when placed near each other. Artful container grouping increases the visual impact of your container garden. If you're aiming for a big "wow" factor, try following that tried-and-true guideline of having thrillers, fillers and spillers. Use a tall, upright plant like a Bird of Paradise or Fountain Grass to form the "thriller" backbone of your container cluster. Then, add containers of "filler" and "spiller" plants around it.

If your goal is a useful, convenient container group, cluster all of your kitchen herbs and vegetables together. You can cluster similar types of plants together and have themed container gardens. Succulent and cactus gardens always look cool, and you can use an Agave or Aloe plant as your "thriller", depending on the size of your container cluster.

When you first plant your containers, keep them grouped closer together. As your plants grow, slowly move them apart to allow enough sun, airflow and room to grow. You can also experiment with placement as plants grow, bloom and change. This is what's so great about container gardening -- nothing is permanent. The goal is always to have fun with your garden and to learn as you go. Any gardener will tell you there's always more to learn!
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