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.
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- Choosing plants for pots
- 10 plants for hanging baskets
- What to plant in September
Follow our formula for creating gorgeous containers, that look their best in September.
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.
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Phormium is an evergreen shrub that makes a great choice as a 'thriller' for your autumn pot. With its bold pink-striped leaves it will look good all year-round, but in the more subdued cooler months, these sword-shaped leaves get their chance to shine. Phormium tenax makes the best choice as it is quite compact and will grow well in a pot.
Thriller: Heliotropium arborescens
Heliotropium arborescens is a compact cultivar of heliotrope, with sweetly scented tiny flowers which form in a dome or flattened flower head. If you're keen to attract wildlife to your containers, this is a great choice as the blooms are particularly attractive to butterflies. It will continue to flower throughout September, with regular dead-heading.
Cordyline will make a bold statement in your container with it's strong architectural structure. The green-leaved forms are the largest and fastest growing cordyline, these can reach around 5 metres high. So for a container the best choice is the coloured and variegated varieties. These are less vigorous, will grow well outside, and can withstand temperatures down to around -5c.
For floral interest in your container in early-autumn, violas make a great choice. They have a long flowering season, and with so many to choose from you'll find the perfect one whether looking to plant a hanging basket or a large patio container. For an autumnal pot you might like to choose tones that suit the season, such as Viola 'Sorbet Orange' or Viola 'Sorbet Orange Jump'
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.
Filler: Calluna vulgaris 'Annemarie'
Calluna vulgaris 'Annemarie', or heather, is a dwarf-shrub with stems full of tiny green leaves and flowering spikes. It works really well as a ground cover and in a container. In the summer it will produce pink urn-shaped double flowers but as it is also evergreen it will provide interest in your pot throughout the cooler months.
Heuchera are grown for their foliage which comes in a range of colours such as red, green and even silver. They will grow well in shady spots as they are native to the woodlands of North America, and will work really well as a filler in a container. Some varieties also have a trailing habit so could also work as a spiller in your pot display.
Filler: Valerianella locusta
Why not add an edible to your container? Not only will you have vibrant foliage in your container, but you'll also be able to harvest leaves throughout the autumn. Valerianella locusta, or lamb's lettuce, is an excellent choice of autumn salad as, unlike other salad crops which can develop a bitter taste in cooler temperatures, lamb's lettuce slows its growth so the leaves stay tasty despite the chill in the air.
Filler: Ajuga reptans 'Braunherz'
While the flowers are long gone on the Ajuga reptans ‘Braunherz’ by September, it still has plenty to offer your container. Its striking purple-bronze foliage makes it the perfect filler plant, and will provide effective background foliage to any colour you add to your pot.
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.
To soften the edge of your pot, hakonechloas are a perfect choice. They are a genus of low-growing ornamental grasses and will form gently arching mounds. Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ is a particularly striking variety, with bright yellow and green striped foliage, which can take on a red hue when growing in full sun. And in late summer, flower spikes that are pale green and slender, will appear.
Spiller: Festuca glauca
Festuca glauca, with its beautiful blue foliage, is an invaluable addition to any container. While it could be your thriller, thanks to its striking colour and summer flowers, we like using it as a spiller plant. If planted at the edge of a container, its foliage will spill out over the edges to great effect.
Sedum, or stonecrops, are fleshy-leaved succulents that will spread like a mat. They're great for filling up your pots and will spill over the edges, too. They require little maintenance, but sedums do not like being in cold, wet soil, so as the weather changes ensure that they do not become waterlogged.
Spiller: Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’
Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’, commonly known as creeping Jenny, is a fast growing plant often used as ground cover around ponds. It also works well in a pot, if kept moist, as its bright green foliage will quickly spill over the sides of a pot.
Next month: Recipe for beautiful October pots
Exclusively for subscribers, we’ll bring you the best plants to create containers that look gorgeous in October, using our ‘Thriller, Filler, Spiller’ formula.
And using the same formula, find our pick of the best plants for: