By Chris Kennedy

You don’t have to be a gardener to plant containers, which is one of the things we love best about them. Start small in your pots and grow for a little curb appeal, to add color or texture to virtually any space and to show your style.

You can always get personal with your container choices, too. Salvage an old barrel, galvanized tub or bucket or window boxes. Mix up textures, colors or sizes or group them in monochromatic groups. The point is, this is your show and you can run with your ideas.

The same goes for the plants you choose. Grow what you love, by all means. Switching up your plants can be a fun way to mark the seasons and show your style, but you can also make longer-lasting plant choices that make it easier to transition from season to season. Keep the plants that work for you and fill in around them with fresh, seasonal choices.

Good to Know

There are few rules. But before you go all Picasso on us, here are some simple guidelines that will get you going in the right direction.

1) Start Fresh. This is your canvas, so make it a good one. Begin with rich potting soil filled with organic material. One of the best investments you can make.

2) Know Before You Grow. Always check plant tags. Or ask someone to help you. It’s important to determine if your container will be in full/part sun or complete shade. We can help you grow plants together that have similar light/exposure and watering requirements for the greatest success. Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty to choose from.  And remember, if you fall in love with a full-shade annual, you can always move your container. Containers = Choices.

3) Steal Ideas from Designers. Planting a container is kind of like designing or decorating a room. Think about your style (organic or natural, formal, eclectic, modern, etc.), the colors that make you happy and follow (or completely break) a few fool-proof design principles, including adding height, texture and transitions from one space to another. Here’s how to make it happen:

Start with some height or a ‘Thriller’ – Think of this as your focal point. This show-stealer can have natural height and/or you can mound your soil in the center of your container to elevate your plant. Thrillers are bold, beautiful, sometimes surprising, filled with texture and/or sometimes the only one of its kind in your container. Get this plant in place before you move on to your Spiller.

Thrillers that will make seasonal transitions:

  • Cordyline
  • Curly Juncus
  • Small shrubs
  • Grasses (many seasonal varieties)
  • Small trees


Create some fullness with ‘Fillers’ – Fillers mound or spread, filling in holes and covering leggy Thriller stems. These plants provide lush fullness and texture, a soft contrast to a spiky Thriller or dainty and delicate to a bold Thriller silhouette.

Fillers that will make seasonal transitions:

  • Marigolds
  • Geraniums
  • Lantana
  • Sun Coleus
  • Osteospermum (similar to daisies)


Soften the edges with ‘Spillers’ – These beauties cascade over the sides of your containers, concealing edges, adding movement and an eye-catching outline to your container composition.

You don’t need to reserve a lot of room for Spillers. We find ourselves wedging them into crevices and tiny holes for the perfect finishing touches. Try using them to add striking color contrasts or added pattern and texture.

Spillers that will make seasonal transitions:

  • Verbena
  • Lobularia
  • Calibracoa
  • Bacopa
  • Pansies
  • English Ivy


4) Feed and Water Generously. We just got done talking about how starting small makes things simpler for you, right? So more water and fertilizer? Yes, and here’s why: containers have limited space for moisture (in contrast to a full landscape bed), so they can dry out quickly.

Rule of thumb: check your container for moisture every couple of days by digging your finger just under the top layer of mulch or moss. (Note: during the hottest months of summer, you may want to check containers once or more daily.) If the soil is dry, give it a good, slow soak.

This is important. You’ve probably seen someone pour a pitcher or watering can over a container…and much of it overflowing the pot or draining out the bottom, carrying a good amount of soil with it. Watering too quickly will compact the soil and can cause a lot of the good stuff to run off. You want light, loamy soil for your roots, so ideally spray a slow, steady spray of water just under the leaves.

We recommend feeding with a water-soluble fertilizer like Neptune’s Harvest every 1-2 weeks (follow product directions) unless the soil is frozen, or you have holiday branches and other dried accents.

Having Second Thoughts?

Maybe this sounds like a lot of work. Honestly, you can do this and you’ll be happy you did. But if you need a little nudge, just ask.

And our best kept secret? Pre-planted seasonal Filler Uppers. Our designers plant up these fresh seasonal combos that you can drop right into your containers. And no one needs to know! Just ask if you need unique sizes or custom combinations and we’d be happy to accommodate.

Watch for more blogs and resources on proper planting technique, water and fertilizing guidelines, pruning tips, seasonal pointers and so much more. Until then, you’ll find some great resources here. And feel free to reach out to us in store or by phone at (781) 545-1266. We live for this stuff! 

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