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Basics of Container Design: Thrillers, Fillers, and Spillers

June 14, 2021
Written by Aaron

Using thrillers, spillers, and fillers in your garden pots is incredibly fun and a great way to express your creativity. All you need is some sun, soil, and plants that get along well together. The possibilities are endless when it comes to container garden design. Use this guide to make the best choices for your planters this season.

Container Garden Design Layouts

We all want breathtakingly beautiful gardens! When it comes to designing your garden pots with thrillers, spillers, and fillers, there are some guidelines you can follow to create cohesive and gorgeous container gardens. Keep this guide in mind so you can avoid some amateur mistakes—but remember, gardening is about experimentation and creativity! You will find out through trial and error what works and doesn’t work for you. Designing your garden should always be about making your life easier and more enjoyable. Here’s a breakdown of the elements of beautiful container gardens.



Think of these as the focal point of your container garden. Thrillers are the tallest plants and should go in the centre or back of your garden pots. Opt to plant them at the back of your containers if you’re placing them along a fence or wall. Some spectacular and tall plants to use for thrillers are:

Spillers Eising Garden Centre


Spillers are aptly named because they trail or “spill” down the sides of your garden pots. You’ll want to plant these romantic beauties along the perimeter of your garden containers so they can quickly and easily drape over the edges. Some favourite spiller plants include:

  • Sweet potato vine
  • Creeping Jenny
  • Petunias
  • Myrtle
  • Creeping Phlox
  • Lobelia
  • Silver Falls

Coleus Eising Garden Centre


You can probably guess what filler plants are; they fill the space between the thrillers and spillers. These are generally plants that don’t get too unruly and won’t compete with other plants. Some great examples are:

  • Coleus
  • Ornamental cabbage
  • Caladiums
  • Impatiens
  • Geraniums
  • Coral bells
  • Silver ragwort


Now you know the difference between thrillers, spillers, and fillers, you can get creative with varieties and colours. 

Container Gardening Strategy Eising Garden Centre

Container Gardening Strategy

Get strategic as you plan your container garden. As you choose which plants to place together, you’ll need to know what each needs in order to thrive. Choosing thrillers, fillers, and spillers that won’t compete with each other is key to beautiful and thriving garden pots.

Light: Measure the light for the location you hope to place your containers. Choose plants that can thrive under those light conditions. Keep in mind that your “fillers” or any low-growing plants may get shaded out by your tall-growing thrillers.

Water: You’ll need to find plants that have complementary water needs. When you are planting thrillers, spillers, and thrillers in one location, they will be sharing the same soil and if you are watering one, you’ll be watering them all. Choose plants that have similar watering needs and consider the rain conditions in the area you live in. If you are expecting a dry season or need plants that can withstand some neglect, select as many drought-resistant plants as possible. 

Pest Control: If you really want to step up your garden game, find out what pests and diseases your plants are susceptible to. Knowing the ins and outs of all the thrillers, spillers, and fillers that share a space in your garden pots will help you troubleshoot and prevent infestations of pests and disease.

playing with colour Eising Garden Centre

Playing with Colour

Playing with colour is one of the best parts of planting thrillers, spillers, and fillers into your garden pots. You may already have a clear vision of what colour schemes you want to incorporate into your garden, but if you need some guidance and inspiration, try some of these ideas. 

  • Go monochromatic. Keep things simple by sticking to one colour. For example, yellow is one of 2021’s hottest colours. You can plant thrillers, spillers, and thrillers of every shade of yellow and gold. Whichever colour you choose, you’ll likely be able to find many different plants that create visual interest with different textures, heights, and growth patterns.
  • Choose a warm or cool palette. If you want to branch out from the monochromatic look, you can stick to either a warm or cool palette. Warm palettes have orange, gold, yellow, red-purple, bright green, and fire engine red. Cool-toned gardens would have hues like indigo, lavender, emerald green, silver and blue.
  • Study the colour wheel. The colour wheel is a tried and true method of choosing plants for your garden pots. It can show you complementary, analogous, and triadic colours that will look stunning together.


We hope this guide can help you get excited and inspired about the plants to use in your garden pots this year. We’d love to hear about your design choices! If you’re looking for thrillers, spillers, and fillers for sale in Ontario, come visit our garden centre!


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