Whether you have a small space, a large entryway or a bland retaining wall or patio you’d like to jazz up, container plants, also known as outdoor potted plants, can bring a whole new world of color, texture, and interest to your space.

Container plant gardens can even be showpieces in your landscape, bringing an upscale, decorative accent that elevates your home’s appeal.

Outdoor potted plants can be moved around with ease or replanted each season if you want to change up your look.

But for successful container gardening, there are some things you need to keep in mind -- from light conditions to container positioning to the best plants to use.container plants along pathway

Container Gardening 101

Flower pots and urns can certainly bump up your landscape’s style.

In fact, container gardening is versatile -- it's a place where you can express yourself and add a personalized touch to your home.

A few guidelines and tricks can make all the difference when it comes to your container gardens.

Plant Container Choices

While the plants are, many times, the focal points of strong and stunning containers, the plant pots themselves also are an important part of the whole look.

Different plant containers can complement your style, your home, or add a contrasting element that stands out. A modern, sleek container can bring a clean, contemporary look. An antique, old world urn can accentuate an English garden. An earthy terra cotta bowl or pot can boost a natural feel.

Containers also support plant roots and soil for proper heat control, water retention, and healthy growth. The right vessels can even show off your container plants in the best way possible.Large container plants on patio

Sun Exposure for Container Gardens

While you may love certain container plants, you have to choose the plants based on the location of your containers.

This is because how much sun exposure your outdoor potted plants receive will dictate the success of your plants as long as you pair them correctly.

Here are some tips on container garden placement:

  • If your container location gets 6 hours of direct sun, choose container plants for full sun.
  • If your area gets 3 to 6 hours of direct sun, you can choose plants for partial sun/partial shade.
  • If your spot gets less than 3 hours of direct sun daily, choose container plants for shade.

Container Planting Rules

There is a classic design technique that has worked well in containers for years. And there’s a reason even professionals rely on it: It works.

You start with your “thrillers.” These are your tall, upright plants that are the stars of your containers. They are focal points. They thrill you with their booming blooms and sexy height.

Then you add your “fillers.” They are the plants that fill the space at the base of your container, complementing or contrasting your thriller and adding texture and interest.

Finally, you incorporate your “spillers.” These container plants cascade over the sides of your vessel adding another element of interest and lengthening your design.Outdoor potted plant with container gardening design

The Best Container Plants 

Ready to create some living garden sculptures? It’s time to choose the best outdoor potted plants for your landscape.

Thriller Plants for Pots:

  1. Canna lily - This stunner has tropical-like foliage that look like banana leaves with large flowers that resemble irises.
  2. Small ornamental trees, such as sumac or magnolia - The small golden leaves of sumac can add bold pops of color. Magnolias provide glowing, star-shaped, fragrant blooms in spring.
  3. Hydrangeas or other flowering shrubs - The pink or blue globe-shaped blooms of hydrangeas amid large, green leaves can be showstoppers in container gardening.

Filler Plants for Pots:

  1. Sunpatiens - These fillers pack a colorful punch offering blooms in rose, coral, orchid, and many more hues. They like full sun, as well as partial shade, and they don't mind heat and humidity.
  2. Begonias - These fillers mound nice and full with shiny, round, green leaves or reddish leaves, as well as an abundance of red, pink, or white blooms.
  3. Coleus - These tender, tropical plants are known for their leaves, which can be spotted, splashed, or artistically edged in shades of purple, yellow, pink, red or chartreuse.

Spiller Plants for Pots:

  1. Sweet potato vine - This classic spiller offers leaves in a deep purple or chartreuse that offer a great contrasting shade to the other plants in your container.
  2. Creeping Jenny - This one offers a chartreuse color in rounded, golden leaves on trailing stems with small, bright, yellow flowers.
  3. English ivy - Bring medium to dark green leaves with light green, pale yellow, or white veins to your container with this addition.
Outdoor potted plants with flowers

Add Container Gardens to Your Landscape in Chicagoland

Bright blooms can do so much for your outdoor space. When they come in containers, they can be moved around or rotated each season to create drama and intrigue. And plants also do a lot for your mood, bringing a smile to your face on the dreariest of days.

As you look at your pots, trying to determine what plants you prefer or figure out the best combinations to fill them can feel like a challenge. While the task is fun, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by all of the choices available. Container gardening, after all, is an art form.

Don’t be intimidated. Let KD Landscape help. We can bring our years of experience working with the most unique and intricate containers to your space, giving you something special.

Ready to see how KD Landscape can transform your suburban Chicago yard with containers? We’d love to share our design and installation expertise with you. Get started today with a free consultation. Together, we can prepare containers that bring a wow factor to your space all year long.

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