How to Plant Stunning Planters with Annuals: A Guide to Thrillers, Fillers, and Spillers

How to Plant Stunning Planters with Annuals: A Guide to Thrillers, Fillers, and Spillers

Creating a beautiful and dynamic planter is an art form that can transform any outdoor space into a vibrant oasis. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a beginner, understanding the principles of using thrillers, fillers, and spillers, along with considering textures and blooms, will help you design captivating containers. Let’s dive into the steps and techniques for planting planters with annuals, and explore some examples of what you can use to create your own stunning arrangements.

Choosing Your Soil: The Foundation of a Great Planter

Before we get into plant selection, it’s essential to discuss the soil. For large containers, using a cheaper filler soil at the bottom can help reduce costs. However, the top half should be filled with a high-end potting mix, such as our Kolze’s Potting Soil. This premium soil provides the necessary nutrients and drainage to keep your annuals healthy and vibrant throughout the growing season.

The Thrillers, Fillers, and Spillers Technique


Thrillers are the focal point of your planter. These are typically tall, eye-catching plants that add height and drama to the arrangement. When choosing thrillers, consider plants with striking textures and bold blooms.

Examples of Thrillers:

  • Salvia (Salvia guaranitica): With its bright beautiful towering form, salvia adds a dramatic flair and hummingbird attraction.
  • Canna Lily (Canna spp.): Known for its large, tropical leaves and vibrant flowers, the canna lily is perfect for a bold statement.
  • Ornamental Grasses (such as Purple Fountain Grass, Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’): These add height and a soft, flowing texture.


Fillers are medium-height plants that fill the space around the thriller. They add volume and complement the thriller without overshadowing it. Look for plants with lush foliage and consistent blooming.

Examples of Fillers:

  • Petunias (Petunia spp.): Available in a wide range of colors, petunias provide continuous blooms and a bushy habit.
  • Geraniums (Pelargonium spp.): With their bright flowers and sturdy stems, geraniums are classic fillers.
  • Coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides): Known for their stunning foliage, coleus can add vibrant, contrasting colors.


Spillers are trailing plants that cascade over the edges of the planter, adding a flowing, dynamic element. They soften the edges and create a cohesive look.

Examples of Spillers:

  • Sweet Potato Vine (Ipomoea batatas): With its vibrant foliage and vigorous growth, this vine adds a lush, trailing effect.
  • Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’): This plant’s golden leaves spill beautifully over the edges.
  • Bacopa (Sutera cordata): Featuring delicate blooms and a trailing habit, bacopa is a charming spiller.

Creating a Balanced Design: Textures and Blooms

When designing your planter, consider the textures and blooms of the plants. Mixing different textures—such as the boldness of salvia, the soft petals of petunias, and the trailing stems of sweet potato vine—creates visual interest. Additionally, choosing plants with blooms that complement each other in color and form can enhance the overall aesthetic.

Example Planter Combinations:

  1. Tropical Paradise:
    • Thriller: Canna Lily with orange blooms
    • Filler: Red and yellow Petunias
    • Spiller: Sweet Potato Vine with chartreuse leaves
  2. Classic Elegance:
    • Thriller: Ornamental Grass (Purple Fountain Grass)
    • Filler: White Geraniums
    • Spiller: Creeping Jenny
  3. Bold and Bright:
    • Thriller: Salvia
    • Filler: Hot pink Coleus
    • Spiller: Bacopa with white flowers

Planting Your Planter

  1. Prepare Your Container: Ensure your planter has drainage holes. Fill the bottom half with a cheaper filler soil and the top half with Kolze’s Potting Soil.
  2. Position Your Thriller: Place the thriller in the center or back of the container, depending on its intended viewing angle.
  3. Add Fillers: Plant the fillers around the thriller, ensuring they have enough space to grow.
  4. Finish with Spillers: Position the spillers near the edges of the container, allowing them to trail over the sides.
  5. Water and Maintain: Water thoroughly after planting and maintain a regular watering schedule. Deadhead spent blooms and trim as necessary to keep the arrangement looking fresh.

By following these guidelines and utilizing the principles of thrillers, fillers, and spillers, you can create stunning planters that will be the highlight of your garden. Experiment with different combinations of plants, textures, and blooms to find what works best for your style and space. Happy planting! Kolze’s Product Menu Here. Follow Kolze’s On Facebook.

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Tyler S
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