Did you miss our Thrill, Fill and Spill Seminar last weekend?  If you aren’t familiar with this technique and weren’t able to attend the seminar, keep reading!  The Thrill, Fill, Spill technique helps you to create gorgeous plant combinations for your containers.  

First, let’s quickly break down what each term relates to.


Thrill is the plant in your container with height, pizzazz, wow!  Our eyes are naturally drawn to height. Your thrill plant needs to have height, color and pop!

Theatrical Thrillers:

  • Dracaena Spikes
  • Cordyline
  • Snap Dragons
  • Salvia

 (Snap Dragons)


The Filler, while you might think of a “fill-in”, the filler is anything but a boring replacement.  Your filler is what will give your container the body that it needs. Your filler plant needs colors and greenery that complement the thriller and delight your eyes.

Fabulous Fillers:

  • Lantana
  • Petunia
  • Vinca



The Spiller (no, not your party-fouling friend) is the final piece to completing your container masterpiece.  But don’t think of it as the afterthought. Think of it as a cascading beauty that draws the eyes back down to reality.  It can also contain color and greenery that complements the thrill and the fill.

Sensational Spillers:

  • Bacopa
  • Sweet potato vine
  • Scaevola (fan flower)

(Sweet potato vine)

Location, Location, Location

Now that we know the terms, you need to think about placement–and not just the placement of the plants in the container, but also where you will be placing the container itself. Containers are used primarily for three purposes:

  • Curb appeal (Think your front porch or the entrance to your home)
    • Planters for curb appeal need to have bright, striking colors that draw the eye.
    • You may want something more fun and whimsical, or something more formal–the look you are going for is what will determine the plants you choose.
  • Sitting area enhancement (on your patio or deck)
    • Sitting area containers can serve a series of purposes.  
      • They are beautiful and can be fragrant as well.
      • You may even want to make them productive and add herbs that you can use in your cooking or to help keep the bugs away.  
        • Excellent herbs for containers:
          • Lemongrass
          • Rosemary
          • Bee balm
          • Lavender
  • Focal interest in the garden
    • A container may be just the thing your garden needs to give it the look you want.
    • The great thing about a container in the garden is that it is easy to move around if you want a change.

Once you have decided the location, watch your space throughout the day.  Is it in FULL SUN, PART SUN/SHADE OR ALL SHADE?  Knowing your lighting is critical to the plants you will pick for your container.  This is one of the most critical aspects overlooked!  If your container spends 4-6 hours of the day in the sun, choose FULL SUN plants.  If your container spends 4-6 hours of the day in the shade, choose SHADE plants.

The Container and Plant Placement

Next, choose the size of your container.  The size of the container needs to best fit the need you are going for.  The size of the container will also determine how many plants you need.  Placing your plants is easy once you have decided which plants to use.

Thriller: Place thrill plants in the middle or to the “back” of the container…wherever you want the focal point to be.

Filler: Place fill plants round the thriller.  Choose two for smaller container and three for a larger container.  

Spiller: Place spill plants alternatively with the filler. Same thing–two for smaller container, three for larger.

Rule of thumb for container plant spacing:

Check the spacing instructions on the plant label insert and divide that by two.  For example, if it says that when you plant vinca, there should be 8”-12” between plants, only factor 4”-6” inches for containers.

Click HERE if you would like a visual of plant placement.

If you have read this and you still feel overwhelmed or not sure where to start, we would LOVE to help you pick out your plants (and a container too) at our garden center.  Either way, we can’t wait to see you soon! 🙂