How to Plant Flowers in a Pot, Planter or Container

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Planting flowers in a pot or container is a great way to bring color and beauty to your home or garden. This simple guide will share the best tips, techniques and ideas for creating a beautiful planter full of blooms!

As my children have grown up, I’ve found more and more time to spend adding real live plants to the inside and outside of my home. I used to be totally on board the “faux”tanicals train. But my new passion started with a few, easy-to-care-for indoor plants and it’s grown into a new hobby!

How to Plant Flowers in a Pot

So, a few years ago, I started buying inexpensive planters and learning a little bit about annuals, perennials and more! I learned about the filler, spiller, thriller technique for creating a beautiful layered potted plant. And the rest is history!

It also helped that the previous owner of our home had some pretty flower beds and I had to figure them out on the fly. 

But if you don’t have big flower beds to maintain, a simple pot or container is a perfect place to start if you’re new to gardening. It’s not a big investment and you can start out small with just 1-2 pots and grow from there!

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Thriller, Filler, Spiller planting method

The Thriller, Filler, Spiller Method

This formula of layering plants together (as seen above) is an easy way to create an effortlessly beautiful container garden. Essentially you’ll choose 1-2 types of plant from each category and position them all in the container together. 

Thriller plants: This is a taller plant that add height and drama to the planter. It is usually planted toward the back/middle of the pot. Examples of a thriller include, spike dracaena, Mandevillas, canna lilies, verbena, salvia or even a boxwood topiary.

Filler plants: This is a rounded, mounding plant that will fill in the planter, but won’t be as tall as the thriller. These include flowers like petunias, begonias, angelonia, heuchera, geraniums, impatiens and pansies. 

Spiller plants: This flower or vine will trail over the sides of your planter, creating a beautiful movement of color. Examples of a spiller include: creeping Jenny, sweet potato vine, ivy and trailing lobelia.

Planter with hydrangea flowers
This faux concrete planter is less than $20!

The thriller, filler, spiller method isn’t the only way to plant flowers, though! You can also use a single flower or bush to make a beautiful planter!

Choose the Best Flowers

Selecting the right plants for the right spot takes some research before heading to the gardening center. Select the space you’ll want your planter, then take notes of how much sun it gets throughout the day. 

Does it get full sun, part sun or mostly shade? Is the sun in the morning or afternoon? If your planter will go on the front porch, it will probably be in the shade most of the day. So, choose a plant according to its sun or shade needs. 

Many times the nursery will arrange the plants by the climate needs. This is helpful when looking for layering plants to go together in a large container. If your planter will be in the shade, buy plants in the shade section; or if your planter will be in the sun, buy all of them from the sun section!

And just a quick tip I’ve learned recently. If adding ferns to your covered patio or porch, you’ll want to use a Boston Fern. But if you’re planting a fern in a large container in your outdoor spaces, you’ll want to choose a Kimberly Queen Fern. So, paying attention to sun or shade needs will help you choose the right plant for your space every time!

This fluted planter is less than $30!

What You’ll Need to Plant Flowers

  1. Flowers or Seeds – specific to the climate needs of where they will be planted
  2. Planter – I recommend 12-16 inches in diameter to start (see my favorites at the end of the post)
  3. Potting Mix Soil – I love this brand!
  4. Gardening Gloves – I love these!
  5. Small Trowel or Spade
  6. Planter filler, optional – ie. cut up pool noodles, buckets, cardboard boxes, packing peanuts, etc.
  7. Watering can or water source nearby

How to Plant Flowers in a Container, Pot or Planter

Naturally, you’ll want to consider a few preliminary options before starting your beautiful potted garden. These helpful ideas and tips will keep your flowers looking gorgeous through the season!

Let’s jump in!

1. Choose the right pot

Select a flower pot that is the appropriate size for the type of flowers you want to plant. I would start with a container about 12-16 inches wide. Ensure it has drainage holes at the bottom to keep the plant from drowning. Water is a good thing, but too much will kill the plants!

2. Gather your materials

You’ll need potting soil, flowers or seeds, a trowel or small shovel,  gardening gloves, filler (optional) and water. Having a hose or water access nearby is helpful, too! So choose the location of your planter accordingly. 

gather materials to plant flowers in a pot

3. Prepare the pot

Fill the pot with good-quality potting soil, leaving some space at the top to accommodate the flowers and water. I love the Miracle-Gro Potting Mix and replace it every six months when I change my planters.

If you have a really large pot, maybe add some filler to the bottom of the planter so that you don’t use as much potting soil and the pot won’t be too heavy. I used a mixture of cut-up pool noodles and paper, I’ve also used packing peanuts, cardboard boxes or buckets turned upside down.

Add filler to pot before soil

Keep the soil level about 2 inches below the rim of the container, so that it doesn’t spill over the sides when watering.

Add soil to pot before planting flowers

4. Dry Fit the Plants

Space out the plants in the container. Before planting, get a good idea of how the plants will look together by dry-fitting them in the container. 

Dry fit flowers in planter

5. Prepare the flowers

If you’re using young plants or seedlings, gently remove them from their containers and loosen the root ball. Gently loosening the root ball will keep the roots from continuing to wrap around themselves and get root bound. If you’re using seeds, follow the instructions on the seed packet.

Gently loosen the root ball of the plant

6. Plant the flowers

Dig a small hole in the soil, deep enough to accommodate the root ball of the plant. Place the plant into the hole and cover the roots with soil. Gently press the soil around the plant to secure it. Make sure there are no air pockets in your pot.

Planting flowers in a pot or container

7. Repeat the process

If you’re planting multiple flowers in the same pot, space them appropriately to allow for growth. Make sure to provide enough room for each plant to thrive.

8. Water the plants

After planting, thoroughly water the flowers to help settle the soil and provide moisture to the roots. Water until you see water draining out of the bottom of the pot. If you’re using a hanging basket, the water will drain out faster and the soil will dry out faster, so you’ll need to water more often.

Planter filled with thriller, filler, spiller plants

9. Provide care

Place the potted flowers in an area where they receive the appropriate amount of sunlight for the specific flower type. Follow the care instructions for the particular flowers you’ve planted, including watering, fertilizing, and pruning when necessary.

10. Monitor and maintain

Regularly check the soil’s moisture level by sticking your finger about an inch deep. If it feels dry, water the flowers. Be mindful not to overwater, as it can lead to root rot. Take the guesswork out by using a soil moisture meter to see if your plant needs watering, or not.

11. Enjoy your blooming flowers

With proper care, your potted flowers will grow and bloom, adding beauty to your surroundings. Remember to deadhead faded flowers to encourage more blooms.

By following these steps, you’ll be able to plant flowers in a pot and create a stunning display of colors in and around your home. Happy gardening!

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I plant flowers in pots?

Typically you’ll plant flowers in the spring after the first frost. But you’ll need to look up your specific zone for planting and find out when that is based on your exact location.

How far apart do you plant flowers in a pot?

Annual plants in containers can be closer together than plants in a flower bed. So, if the flower recommends 6 inches apart, then you can plant them 3 inches apart in a container. You can always plant them even further apart than that, since they will fill in as the season goes along.

How many flowers can you plant in one pot?

You can plant as many plants as will fit in your pot with some room between each one. But this will depend on the size of the planter. A good rule of thumb is three to four plants in a 10 to 12-inch planter, four to six plants in a 14 to 16-inch planter and six to eight plants in a 16 to 20-inch planter. This will fill out containers nicely while allowing room for the plants to grow without excessive crowding.

Our Favorite Planters for Beautiful Container Gardening

If you don’t have a local nursery or garden center, you may want to order some planters online. There is such a wide range of styles and prices, but I’ve selected some of my favorites for every budget. Honestly, some of the least expensive options are my favorites!

My two very favorite planters are this large, 16-inch fluted white planter and this faux concrete planter, both from Walmart. This isn’t sponsored, but the prices are so good and they look fantastic! You’d never be able to tell they were so budget-friendly. I highly recommend!

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