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
- 10 plants for hanging baskets
- Top 10 plants for containers
- Choosing pots and containers
- Choosing plants for pots
- Planting in pots
- Winter plants for pots
Follow our formula for creating gorgeous containers, that look their best in June.
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.
There are annual and perennial varieties of scabious – all are loved by pollinating insects. The flowers are shaped like little pincushions, hence its common name of pincushion flower, and come in shades of white, blue, pink and purple. It grows best in full sun.
Gaura are deciduous perennials, with pretty white or pink flowers strung along tall, thin stems. They look great in containers, combined with grasses and trailing plants, or work equally well in a border. They will grow in sun or partial shade, but don't cope well in very wet soil, so if your soil is very heavy, a container is the ideal place for your gaura.
Thriller: Salvia nemorosa
This striking, clump-forming salvia is awash with violet-blue flowers from May to July. It will thrive in a pot or border in a sunny spot, and needs good drainage to ensure it survives over winter to dazzle you again next year. Cut Salvia ‘Caradonna’ back after flowering to encourage a second flush of flowers.
Thriller: bedding Geranium
Bedding geraniums (also known as pelargoniums) provide a burst of colour throughout summer. They’re easy to grow and thrive in terracotta pots as well as bedding displays, some can even be grown in hanging baskets. They work well planted or their own or combined with other plants such as lavender and nemesia. Some types of bedding geranium also have fragrant leaves.
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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Petunias are hugely popular plants for pots and rightly so. They flower from May until the first frosts and come in almost every colour imaginable. Some varieties are trailing, making them ideal for hanging baskets and, in a pot, they can act as both filler and spiller.
Achilleas, or yarrows, are traditional border perennials, but they also make great container plants. They have feathery foliage and beautiful, flat-topped flowers that bloom right through the summer. They range from white and yellow to shocking pink and deep red, and the flat flower heads make the perfect landing platform for pollinators, particularly hoverflies.
Filler: sweet rocket
Sweet rocket, Hesperis matronalis, is a pretty biennial, bearing white or purple flowers similar to honesty. The flowers’ sweet fragrance is most pronounced in the evening, so plant it in a pot near where you sit outside in the evening, so you can enjoy the scent with dinner or a glass of wine. Deadhead spent blooms to prolong flowering,
Filler: Orlaya grandiflora
White laceflower, Orlaya grandiflora, has lovely fern-like foliage and clusters of pure white flowers, similar to lace-cap hydrangeas. It flowers over a long period, often until the first frosts. It’s a great choice for pots and wildlife gardens and is particularly attractive to hoverflies.
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.
For long-lasting colour in a container, heucheras are hard to beat. Their leaves come in a huge range of attractive shades from bronze to purple, reds, greens and even black. Also called coral bells, they thrive in shade and produce delicate spikes of tiny flowers in summer. To add contrast to your display, try Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’ with its deep purple leaves.
Diascia, with their cascades of small flowers, are popular plants for containers and hanging baskets, where they will spill prettily over the edge. They'll flower all summer long in shades of pink, orange and white. They are perennial, but frost-tender, so if you want to keep the plants for next year, you'll need to overwinter them indoors.
Nemesias bear fragrant, colourful flowers from late spring right through to autumn, in a range of colours, including orange, red, pink, purple, blue, and white, often with contrasting centres. Trailing varieties of nemesia are ideal for hanging baskets and spilling over the edge of containers, while bushy types are good in pots and borders. If you want to keep your perennial nemesias to flower the following year, move them to a frost-free spot to overwinter.
Spiller: Alchemilla mollis
Alchemilla mollis has frothy lime-green summer flowers and neatly pleated fan-shaped leaves. It's ideal for pots in sun or shade, or as a ground cover plant in borders. Cut back foliage hard in late summer to encourage a new flush of leaves. It has a tendency to self-seed.
Next month: Recipe for beautiful July pots
Exclusively for subscribers, we'll bring you the best plants to create containers that look gorgeous in July, using our 'Thriller, Filler, Spiller' formula.
And using the same formula, find our pick of the best plants for beautiful May pots.