Fall Fill, Thrill and Spill

Annuals| Fall Gardening| Perennials

Fill, thrill and spill is a planting technique that will help you create a gorgeous container planting.  If you have been following us for a while, you may remember that we had a seminar and posted about this technique in the spring.  We hope you heeded our advice and had great success with your containers over the spring, summer and fall. But now your containers need to be refreshed.  You can review our previous post for more planting specifics, but the jist is this: choose three (or more) types of plants to create the thrill, fill and spill effect.  The annuals you chose in the spring will need to be replaced with heartier varieties, but if you planted perennials in the spring, some of them will do well in containers through the winter months (and even for years to come). We suggest using a variety of annuals and perennials, and choose plants with colors and textures that complement each other.  


The thrill plant should have height and be a “show-off”.


Annuals that work well for the thrill effect are

  • Taller varieties of Ornamental Cabbage or Kale (there are shorter varieties that will work well for “fill”). The colors in the center of Ornamental Cabbage and Kale become more vibrant as it gets colder.
  • Snapdragons have great height and will flower until it gets very cold and then flower again in the spring.
  • Spike Dracaena (pictured above) is perfect to add dramatic height to your container as well.

Perennials for thrilling:

  • Brilliance Autumn Fern or Christmas Fern is a great choice!
  • Sweet Flag “Grass” has a lovely chartreuse color and is very low-maintenance.


The fill plant should add color, texture and spread to give some “body” to the plants in your container.

Annuals to choose for filling:

  • Pansies!! Lots of them!  Pansies will hold flowers through the winter and start reblooming when we have warmer days again (even as early as January).  They could last until as late as April! What an annual bang for your buck!
  • Shorter varieties of Ornamental Kale or Cabbage.  
  • Erysimum has beautiful blooms and green foliage that last through the winter.
  • Dusty Miller adds a nice silvery foliage.
  • Dianthus has fun color blooms.

Perennial fill choices:

  • Heuchera comes a variety of colors and in the fall, they have these adorable blooms that look like bells.
  • Carex Evergold is a grass that has gold and green hues.
  • Germander will remind you of a small boxwood, and as an evergreen, it will look great all year.


For winter spill choices, you are limited to choosing from perennials.  But the great thing is that these spillers will work all year long.  
  • Perennial Vinca (also known as periwinkle) has beautiful green leaves and comes in a variety of bloom colors.
  • Creeping Jenny is a favorite.  There are a few varieties–some pale green, some darker green and some yellow.   Creeping Jenny is so easy to grow and will usually multiply so that you can divide it and use it in other containers or gardens as well.
  • English Ivy is a popular choice that does great in containers.

Check out Judy’s flat of plants that she is taking home to create her container (hopefully she will share an after-pic later).  She chose Sweet Flag (a grass-like perennial), ornamental kale, snapdragons, dianthus, and of course, LOTS of pansies.

In addition to these plants in your thrill, fill, spill containers, use seasonal accents like pumpkins or gourds in the fall and sprigs of holly berries at Christmas.  Happy planting, friends! We would be happy to help you choose great combinations for your containers, so swing by and we will help you bring green (and many other colors) home! 🙂