A vibrant container display can bring instant colour and impact to your garden. But it can be hard to know which plants will work well together. To help you create gorgeous pots every time, we've created a recipe for success, it's called 'thriller, filler, spiller'.


By following this formula, you can be sure you have all the elements to create a beautiful pot, and you can mix and match to suit your taste and the plants you can find. Each month, we'll bring you a selection of the best plants to grow in pots, using this formula. Simply choose at least one plant from each section, opting for complementary or contrasting colours, for show-stopping pots guaranteed.

More container planting ideas

Follow our formula for creating gorgeous containers, that look their best in July.


This is your star plant, so you're looking for something that will give your pot colour and impact. Choose something that instantly catches your eye, as it'll set the tone for your whole container display.

Thriller: Lavender

Lavender in a metal container
Lavender in a metal container

This fragrant, evergreen shrub is a magnet for bees and shorter varieties of lavender are ideal for growing in containers, where you can give them the free-draining conditions they need to thrive. English lavender 'Hidcote' is hardy, while French lavender, Lavandula stoechas, will need some protection over winter.

Thriller: Rose

Rosa 'Little White Pet'
Rosa 'Little White Pet'

Miniature, dwarf and ground cover roses make floriferous container plants. Roses are hungry plants, however, so to keep them healthy and flowering, choose a large container, fill it with a loam-based compost and water and feed regularly.

Thriller: Penstemon

Plants you can't kill - Penstemon 'Pink Endurance'
Penstemon 'Pink Endurance'

Penstemons will give you flowers right through summer, and most will keep on flowering until the first frosts. They come in a range of colours, including white, pink, purple, blue and red, to suit every colour scheme. With tubular flowers, they look like miniature foxgloves, and are loved by bees.

Thriller: Salvia x jamensis

Salvia x jamensis 'Hot Lips'
Salvia x jamensis 'Hot Lips'

Salvias make fantastic garden plants, flowering for months on end. They come in an array of colours and forms and many, including the shrubby types, such as Salvia 'Hot Lips', and compact varieties like Salvia nemorosa 'Caradonna', make an eye-catching centrepiece to a container in a sunny spot.


This is likely to be a less showy plant than your thriller, but makes the whole display look fuller and more interesting. For a harmonious display, choose a plant in the same or a similar colour to your thriller, or for a bolder look opt for a contrasting colour.

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Filler: Begonia

Begonia Apricot Shades
Begonia 'Apricot Shades'

If you're looking for a bedding plant that will give you months of flowers in a pot or hanging basket, begonias are hard to beat. Their flowers come in a huge range of colours, and there are dainty types as well as the multi-petalled, flamboyant forms – some are even scented. They grow best in light shade.

Filler: Tobacco plant

Nicotiana 'Havana Appleblossom'
Nicotiana 'Havana Appleblossom'

The trumpet-like, night-scented flowers make tobacco plant, or nicotiana, a great choice for planting near a seating area. While some varieties can grow up to 1.5m tall, others are only around 60cm and make elegant container plants. There are white, pink and lime green varieties.

Filler: Marguerite

Red argyranthemum with purple petunias and purple bedding verbena
Red argyranthemum with purple petunias and purple bedding verbena

Floriferous and easy to grow, marguerite, or argyranthemum, will keep popping out daisy-like flowers all through summer and until the first frosts. At around 40-50cm high, they make great container plants, or can be grown in borders. They're tender, so either replace every year or overwinter in a frost-free greenhouse.

Filler: Artemisia

Artemisia ludoviciana Silver Queen
Artemisia ludoviciana 'Silver Queen'

Western Mugwort, or artemisia, is grown for its delicate, silver, aromatic foliage, which makes the perfect filler plant in a container of brightly coloured flowers. It is a hardy perennial, and many varieties are semi-evergreen, adding interest to your pots for much of the year. It will cope with erratic watering in a container or makes a great groundcover plant in a well-drained border.


These plants spill over the edges of the pot, giving the display a softer, more natural look and ensuring there's no bare compost on show. They're also useful for filling in any gaps.

Spiller: Lobelia

Lobelia erinus
Lobelia erinus

Trailing varieties of lobelia are ideal for spilling over the edges of pots and hanging baskets. Their dainty flowers come in shades of blue, white, pink and purple. They will produce a profusion of flowers from the beginning of summer right through to the first frosts. The trailing or bedding types of lobelia are tender and will need to be overwintered in a frost-free place.

Spiller: Erigeron


Mexican fleabane, or erigeron, looks lovely spilling over the edges of containers or creeping down the sides of steps or walls. It bears masses of small, daisy-like flowers, from May to November, which open white but turn pink as they age.

Spiller: Sweet potato vine

Ipomoea 'Blacky'
Ipomoea 'Blackie'

The dramatic leaves of the sweet potato vine, or Ipomoea batata, will cascade over the edges of pots and hanging baskets. There are varieties with dark, almost black leaves, and others with lime green or red-tinted, bronze foliage. The leaves can be heart-shaped or lobed. It can flower in very good British summers, but it's the leaves that are the stars of the show. It is a tender perennial, so either over winter somewhere frost-free, or you may even be able to harvest a portion of sweet potatoes!

Spiller: Anagallis monellii

Anagallis monellii
Anagallis monellii 'Skylover'

This dainty, trailing plant is perfect for growing in pots and as a border edging. It is one of the best blue flowers you'll find in any garden plant. It flowers from June until the first frosts and needs little or no deadheading to keep producing its lovely blooms. It is a tender perennial and flowers best in full sun.

Next month: Recipe for beautiful August pots

Exclusively for subscribers, we'll bring you the best plants to create containers that look gorgeous in August, using our 'Thriller, Filler, Spiller' formula.

And using the same formula, find our pick of the best plants for: