Container gardening adds a splash of color to the landscape during the summer months. Youll have success by following these three tips: Look for the thrill, the fill, and the spill.

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Container Gardening

A lot of times, people struggle with how to design a container garden, but I’ve got a surefire method that you’ll have success. And that’s called, “look for the thrill, the fill, and the spill.” What that means, is that when you’re looking for a thrill, you’re looking for a tall plant that adds a lot of interest and variety to the container garden. That’s usually the plant that goes to the back of the container or to the center. So when someone is walking up to the front door or looking at the container it says “wow, look, I’m a container.” It makes a statement.

The next thing you want to look for is what we call the fill. That’s what fills up the center of the pot to give it a lot of excitement. A lot of different flowers like marigolds or foliage plants that just give color throughout the summer work great for that fill.

And the last part you want to look for is what is called the spill. And that’s the vining plants such as the vinca and other plants. As they grow during the summer, they cascade over the pot. What that does is help tie the container down to the ground to give it more of a sense of place.

So what I do when I go to the garden center is first look for the thrill. I look for that really exciting plant – something that is really going to draw attention. And from there, I start looking at the fill, so I can start filling up the pot. Normally, you’re going to need at least three varieties of plants – the thrill, the fill, and the spill. For instance, you may use just one thrill for that excitement.

Then you’re going to have four to six of the fill. Or, you may have just a couple different types of plants to be the fill that you’ll plant around the edges of the pot. The same goes for the spill. Depending on the plant, you’ll want perhaps two to three of the spill to help give that symmetrical look to the pot.

When you’re done you’ll have a layering effect – from the taller thrill or excitement, something in the center filling out the pot, and then something cascading over to tie it down to the ground. I think this will be a stunning combination for the summer.

This feature story prepared with Dennis Patton, Kansas State University Research and Extension Horticulture Agent, Johnson County. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at

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