Container Plant Design by Pat Naughton

 Container plants should meet one of three criteria. They should be thrilling, filling, or spilling. A stunning planter should contain all three. Before selecting plants, the location and season need to be considered. Certain plants do better in shade than full sun. Some plants can’t handle the heat of summer.

 Thrillers are tall plants that add height to the container and draw attention. Ornamental grasses are often overlooked as thrillers. Grasses do well in the summer in full sun. Dwarf fountain grass* has bottle brush seed heads that in the winter have a nice wavy wheat flow. For a shady area look for a tropical plant like elephant ear. Winter thrillers are a little more challenging since they must be able to withstand a hard freeze. A few of winter thrillers that do well in this area include rosemary, nandina, and ivy topiary.

 Fillers build body to the arrangement. Herbs make excellent filler plants. Perennial herbs such as oregano, mint, dill, fennel, tarragon, and chives* make excellent full sun summer fillers. Plus, you get the extra benefit of fresh herbs for cooking. For a shady area in the summer, try cuban oregano*. It is a member of the mint family and has a strong fragrance of oregano when crushed. Add a little color with coleus* in a shady area and nasturtium* in a sunny area. Nasturtium is edible and adds color to salads.

 Spillers flow down the container to give the entire container of full look. The classic spiller is creeping jenny*. This yellow flowering plant does well year-round in full sun and partial shade. Another yellow flowering spiller is golden globe loosestrife*. A purple flower option is Pennyroyal* which makes a colorful spiller. It is also called mosquito plant since its scent is quite pungent when crushed and repels mosquitos. All do well in the summer in full sun to partial shade.

All the plants marked with “*” will be available for sale at the Brunswick County Extension Master Gardener Volunteers “Spruce Up You Container Sale” March 25th 9:00 a.m. till noon. The sale will take place at the growing pad located behind the Brunswick County Extension Office, 25 Referendum Drive, Bolivia.


Spring shade container of Japanese cedar, coral bell, and petunia.