Containers overflowing with colorful flowers can add visual interest to a patio, balcony, or other small outdoor areas, add a welcoming touch to entrances, and create curb appeal without spending considerable money on landscaping. We have all you need to know about the best flowers for pots and containers and how to use them to make brilliant displays.
Types of Flowers for A Wonderful Container Garden
Well-suited flowers for container gardening have specific characteristics that make them better choices than others. Here are some factors that can make a flower a good choice for growing in a container:
Some flowers are naturally more compact and have a minor root system, making them better suited for growing in containers. Plant size is significant if you have limited space or are growing flowers on a balcony or patio.
Flowers that require less sunlight are an excellent choice for containers, as they can be easily moved around to ensure they receive the optimal amount of light. Some flowers, like petunias and marigolds, do well in full sun, while others, like impatiens and begonias, prefer partial shade.
Soil Type and Drainage:
Flowers in containers need soil that drains well to prevent waterlogging, so flowers adapted to well-draining soils are a good choice. Choosing the right soil type for your flowers and adding drainage holes to the container can also help ensure healthy growth.
Watering and Fertilizing Needs:
Flowers in containers require more frequent watering than flowers planted in the ground, so choosing flowers that are okay with a bit of drying out between waterings is essential. Also, certain flowers may require more fertilizer than others, so selecting plants with similar nutrient needs is necessary.
Flowers with attractive blooms, colors, and textures can add beauty and interest to a container garden. Additionally, low-maintenance flowers requiring less pruning may be more practical for container gardening.
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The Formula For A Beautiful Flower Pot arrangements
This formula for beautiful flower pots is the “spill, fill, thrill” method. For well-balanced displays, you select plants that spill over the edges, fill the middle, and provide a focal point or thrill at the center of the pot.
The best flowers for planters are the ones that can fill one of these roles and thrive in a container environment.
The formula is as follows:
Choose a trailing or cascading plant that will spill over the edges of the pot. These spillers include ivy, sweet potato vine, or creeping Jenny. The size of the spill plant should be roughly one and a half times the height of the pot.
Choose one or more plants that will fill the middle of the pot. These can be mounding or upright plants like petunias, geraniums, or marigolds. The size of the fill plant should be roughly equal to the height of the pot.
Choose a tall or striking plant that will provide a focal point or “thrill” at the center of the pot. It can be a plant like spiky grass, a tall flowering plant, or a large-leaved tropical plant. The thrill plant’s size should be rough twice the pot’s height.
By following this formula, you can create a balanced and visually appealing container garden that showcases the beauty of each plant while creating a cohesive display.
Best Flowers for outside Pots and Containers
Plant Description: Petunias are annual flowering plants in various colors and patterns. They have trumpet-shaped flowers that bloom in multiple hues. Some varieties have a sweet fragrance, while others have a milder scent.
Sunlight Requirements: Full sun to partial shade.
Filler, Spiller, or Thriller? Petunias are versatile fillers and spillers in container gardens. They are well-suited as spillers, thanks to their trailing growth habit and long stems that cascade over a pot’s sides. They can also function as fillers to add volume and color to the center of a container.
Note: Avoid large growing and super spreading petunias like “thunderclap” as they will quickly take over your container and look unwieldy!
Geraniums are popular flowering plants for their clusters of brightly colored flowers in various colors, including pink, red, white, and even bi-colored or striped varieties. In addition, they are hardy plants that can withstand hot, dry conditions.
Sunlight Required: Full sun to partial shade.
Filler, Spiller, or Thriller: Geraniums are typically used as filler plants in container gardens, as their compact, bushy growth habit adds volume and color to the center of a container. However, some trailing varieties can also be used as spillers, creating a cascading effect down the sides of a pot, window boxes, or hanging baskets.
Marigolds are annual flowering plants known for their bright, cheerful flowers and aromatic foliage. The flowers are typically large, daisy-like blooms with various colors, including yellow, orange, and red. The foliage is usually green but can also be tinged with a purplish hue.
Marigolds typically grow around 6-24 inches tall and wide, depending on the variety.
Sunlight Required: Full sun to partial shade
Filler, Spiller, or Thriller: Marigolds are typically filler plants, as their compact, bushy growth habit adds volume and color to the center of a container. They can also be spillers in taller containers, as their stems can trail over the sides of the pot.
- Learn More: Marigolds make one of the best companion plants to add to your garden. See our post on using these wonderful flowers as companions in your gardens.
African daisies, or Cape Daisies or Osteospermums, are beautiful flowering plants native to South Africa. They have daisy-like flowers in various colors, including purple, pink, yellow, and white.
The flowers typically have a dark center disk surrounded by petals with contrasting colors. The foliage is green and often lobed, with a slightly fuzzy texture. African daisies can grow up to 2 feet tall and 2 feet wide.
Sunlight Required: Full sun to partial shade, but bloom best in full sun.
Filler, Spiller, or Thriller: African daisies are filler and spiller plants. Their compact, bushy growth habit makes them ideal for adding volume and color to the center of a container, while their long, trailing stems can spill over the sides of the pot.
Pansies are a type of flowering plant that belongs to the Viola family. They have heart-shaped, overlapping petals that come in a range of colors. Pansy flowers come in many colors, with many varieties featuring bi-colored or multi-colored petals. Some popular colors include purple, blue, yellow, orange, and white. In addition, pansies can have petals with intricate patterns or contrasting colors around the edge.
Fun tip: Pansy flower petals are edible!
Sunlight Required: Partial to full sun, meaning they should get at least 4-6 hours of direct sunlight per day. They can tolerate some shade but may flower less in lower light conditions.
Filler, Spiller, or Thriller: Pansies are filler plants in container gardens. Their compact, mounding growth habit makes them ideal for adding volume and color to the center of a container, where you can plant them in groups to create a dense, colorful display.
- Learn More: See our complete guide on growing and caring for pansy flowers. Did you know pansies are edible? Check out our guide on edible flowers too!
Begonias are a diverse group of plants in various sizes and shapes. They have attractive, waxy foliage in green, red, silver, and variegated patterns.
The flowers are typically small and come in shades of pink, white, yellow, red, and orange. Some varieties produce large, showy blooms, while others have clusters of smaller flowers. Depending on the type, Begonias can range from just a few inches to over a foot tall.
Sunlight Required: Begonias prefer partial to full shade. They can tolerate some morning sun, but too much direct sun can scorch the leaves and flowers.
- Learn More: Planning on a shade container garden? Check out our guide on the best flowers for shade before planting; you may find a new favorite.
Filler, Spiller, or Thriller: Begonias are versatile plants that can be used as filler, spiller, or thriller, depending on the variety. Some smaller begonias, such as the Baby Wing and Dragon Wing series, are great fillers in container gardens. In contrast, the larger, upright varieties like the Angel Wing begonia can be used as thriller plants. Several trailing varieties, like the Illumination and Bonfire series, can be spillers.
- Learn More: See our guide on growing wax begonias from seed to flower, or this guide to the different types of begonias.
Impatiens are a popular annual flowering plant well-known for their colorful blooms. They have soft, succulent stems and attractive, bright green leaves. The flowers are typically small, ranging from 1/2 inch to 2 inches in diameter, and come in shades of white, pink, red, orange, and purple. Some varieties also have bi-colored or multi-colored blooms.
The plants can grow up to 12-18 inches tall and wide, depending on the variety.
Sunlight Required: Impatiens prefer partial to full shade, meaning they should get less than 4 hours of direct sunlight daily. They can tolerate some morning sun, but too much direct sun can scorch the leaves and flowers.
Filler, Spiller, or Thriller: Impatiens are versatile plants used as fillers or spillers in container gardens. They tend to grow outward instead of upward, making them ideal for adding volume to container gardens.
They can also be used as a filler in between taller plants. Some trailing varieties, like the Super Elfin series, can be used as spillers.
- Learn More: See our complete guide on growing and caring for impatiens.
Snapdragons are popular annual flowering plants known for their unique, dragon-like flowers. They have upright stems and glossy green leaves.
Snapdragon flowers are typically small, ranging from 1/2 inch to 2 inches in diameter, and come in shades of white, pink, red, orange, and yellow. Some varieties also have bi-colored or multi-colored blooms. The plants can grow up to 12-36 inches tall and wide, depending on the variety.
Sunlight Required: Snapdragons prefer full sun to partial shade and can tolerate some morning sun but not the hot afternoon sun. They typically need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily to thrive.
Filler, Spiller, or Thriller: Snapdragons make perfect thrillers in containers, as their tall, upright stems make them ideal for adding height and structure.
They can also be used as fillers between taller plants or standalone centerpieces. Some trailing varieties, like the ‘Twinny’ series, can be used as spillers.
- Learn More: See our guide to growing wonderful snapdragons.
Zinnias are an annual flowering plant known for their brightly colored, daisy-like flowers. They come in many colors, including pink, red, orange, yellow, white, and bi-colored or multi-colored blooms. The plants produce both single and double flowers.
Tip: Remove spent blooms on keeping your zinnias blooming all season long.
Sunlight Required: Zinnias prefer full sun and need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily to thrive.
Filler, Spiller, or Thriller: Zinnias are wonderful fillers or thrillers in container gardens, depending on the variety.
Some shorter varieties, like the ‘Profusion’ series, are fillers or standalone centerpieces.
Taller varieties, like the ‘State Fair’ series, are thrillers you can add for height and structure.
Calibrachoas, or Million Bells, are trailing plants with small petunia-like flowers that bloom abundantly throughout the growing season. They come in many colors, including pink, purple, red, yellow, white, and bi-colored blooms.
The leaves are small, green, and slightly fuzzy to the touch. Calibrachoas are compact plants growing up to 8-12 inches tall and 10-14 inches wide.
Sunlight Required: Calibrachoas prefer full sun and need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily to thrive. They can tolerate some shade, but shade may impact how much the plants bloom.
Filler, Spiller, or Thriller: Calibrachoas are spillers in container gardens, cascading over the sides of the container.
In smaller containers, a Million Bells make perfect fillers and spillers! Their compact size and trailing habit make them versatile additions to any container garden.
Coralbells, or heucheras, are an excellent choice for container gardening. Their small upright flowers and colorful foliage add a pop of “Wow!” to pots.
Plant Description: Coralbells are clump-forming perennials that produce lovely colorful foliage in various shades, including red, purple, pink, green, and silver. They have delicate sprays of tiny flowers on tall stems in the spring and summer.
Sunlight Required: Coralbell plants prefer partial shade but can tolerate full sun in cooler climates.
Filler, Spiller, or Thriller: Coralbells make wonderful filler plants for container gardens, providing colorful foliage and texture that can complement other plants.
- Learn More: Learn how to grow and care for coral bell flowers.
Canna lilies, or canna, are tropical plants with large, vibrant, colorful flowers.
Their foliage comes in various shades of green and sometimes burgundy or bronze. Canna lilies are perennials in warmer climates and annuals in cooler regions.
Sunlight Requirements: Canna lilies require at least 6 hours of sunlight daily to produce the best blooms. They may need afternoon shade in hotter climates to prevent their leaves from scorching.
Filler, Spiller, or Thriller: Canna lilies are thriller plants that add height and a bold, tropical texture to containers. You can also plant them alone in large pots for a single bold arrangement.
Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima) is a popular annual flower often planted in gardens for its delicate and sweet-smelling flowers.
The plants feature small, delicate clusters of white, pink, lavender, or purple flowers on spreading stems that can reach up to 12 inches long. Its leaves are small, oval-shaped, and bright green.
Sunlight Required:: Sweet alyssum requires complete to partial sun exposure, with at least 6 hours per day.
Filler, spiller, or thriller: Sweet alyssum makes both a fantastic filler and a spiller in container gardens. Its spreading stems, and tiny flowers can spill over the edges of the container, creating a beautiful cascading effect. Alyssum is a filler plant that adds texture and color to mixed container plantings.
Sweet Potato Vine
Sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas) is a trailing plant with heart-shaped leaves that come in various colors, from bright lime green to deep purple.
This fast-growing plant can quickly fill out a container with its lush foliage, making it a popular choice for container gardening.
Sunlight Required:: Sweet potato vine is a sun-loving plant that requires at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily to thrive. However, it can also tolerate some shade, especially during the hottest part of the day.
Filler, Spiller, or Thriller: Sweet potato vine is a versatile plant that can play different roles in a container garden. Its trailing habit makes it an excellent spiller, as it can cascade over the edge of a pot and soften the container’s lines.
It can also act as a filler, as its foliage can quickly fill a container and provide a lush backdrop for other plants. Finally, some of the more colorful varieties of sweet potato vine, like ‘Margarita,’ are perfect as a thriller to add a pop of color to a container arrangement.
- Learn More: Our list is not exhaustive; many more flowers will grow well in containers and thousands of combinations. Check out Proven Winners for great ideas and inspiration for combinations of flowers for your containers.
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