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Cost-Saving Tips for Planting Seasonal Mixed Containers

Updated on March 28, 2013

Pretty up your home landscape without spending a fortune.

Mixed containers filled with seasonal plants add beauty to porches, decks, entryways, patios (even flowerbeds).

This year as you're planting pots, try the five simple tips below. They'll help you create gorgeous mixed containers--without spending a fortune.

Five Ways to Save

Inserting pot fillers like old plastic nursery pots and styrofoam will decrease the amount of potting soil needed & make pots lighter.
Inserting pot fillers like old plastic nursery pots and styrofoam will decrease the amount of potting soil needed & make pots lighter. | Source

These cost-saving strategies aren't just super easy. They also have at least one of these additional benefits:

  • They save money.
  • They use repurposed materials.
  • They save space.
  • They reduce the weight of planters (a real bonus for gardeners with bad backs).
  • They improve the appearance of container gardens.

1. Use Pot Fillers.

Using nondegradable fillers (like old plastic nursery pots) in containers reduces the amount of potting mix you’ll need, improves soil drainage and reduces the weight of your planters.

First, select the planter you’re going to use and then dig out a used plastic pot that’s smaller than the planter. Make sure the plastic pot is clean and that its drainage holes are unobstructed. Place it upside down in the container. Pour potting soil around it, and you’re ready to plant. If the container is very large, place several upside-down pots in the bottom.

(Although some gardeners use Styrofoam packing material, I prefer upside-down nursery pots because of their drainage holes. Nursery pots also provide stability for pots in a stacked container garden. And, if you're like me, you have lots and lots of old plastic pots to repurpose!)

2. Think Small.

Even if your container is big, you don’t have to buy the largest, most expensive plants at the nursery. After all, they’re going to grow!

Instead of selecting big container plants, buy 3-packs or 6-packs of small plants. They'll cost you substantially less.

Thrillers, Fillers & Spillers

To get the most for your money, plant three types of plants in each of your mixed containers—thrillers, fillers and spillers.

As their name suggests, thrillers are the most exciting plants in the pot. Something about them—their color, structure and/or texture—shouts, “Hey! Look at me!” Thrillers are also usually the tallest plants in the pot.

Fillers are either naturally bushy or (like coleus) can become so through pinching. Fillers surround the thriller and complement it.

Spillers are climbers that trail over the edge of containers, adding informality and elegance.

3. Arrange Container Plants Wisely.

Wisely arranging plants so that fewer are needed in order to produce a pleasing effect is another way to save money. Planters meant to be viewed from all sides generally require more flowers. To reduce the number needed, design your planters to fit nicely into corners and against walls.

When filling the containers, try these planting strategies:

  1. Place the tallest, most striking plant (the thriller) at the back of the pot.
  2. Plant a bushy plant (filler) in front.
  3. Add a trailing plant (spiller) on the side.

See the charts below for thriller, spiller and filler suggestions for summer planters.

3-in-1 Summertime Container Combos for Full Sun

Thrillers
Fillers
Spillers
Persian shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus)
‘Intensia’ phlox in magenta, hot pink, lavender or white
Wave Blue Spreading (Petunia X hybrid)
Purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum')
Coleus (Coleus blumei)
Sweet potato vine (Ipomoea)
Geranium
Dusty Miller (Senecio cineraria)
Licorice plant (Helichrysum petiolare)
Jewel of Opar (Talinum paniculata 'Limon')
Petunia
Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritime)
Summer snapdragon (Angelonia angustifolia)
Euphorbia ‘Breathless’ in red or white flowers
Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia)
Canna lily
Lantana
Calibrachoa
These summer plant combinations thrive in 6 to 8 hours of sun per day.

3-in-1 Summertime Container Combos for Shade

Thrillers
Fillers
Spillers
Geranium (Martha Washington variety)
Double Impatiens
Ground Ivy (Glechoma)
Angel Wings (Caladium)
Non-Stops (Tuberous begonias)
Asparagus fern
Dragon Tree (Dracaena)
Dragon’s Wing Begonias (Begonia x hybrida Dragon Wing)
Trailing fuschia
Coral Bells (Huechera)
Scutellaria
Wishbone Flower (Torenia, trailing)
These summer plant combinations grow best in full or part shade.
Select pots of various sizes when creating a stacked container garden.
Select pots of various sizes when creating a stacked container garden. | Source
Set the pots one inside the other, resting them on overturned plastic nursery pots surrounded by potting mix. Be sure to line up the drainage holes!
Set the pots one inside the other, resting them on overturned plastic nursery pots surrounded by potting mix. Be sure to line up the drainage holes! | Source
When the pots are stacked and filled, start planting, tucking in thrillers, spillers and at least one thriller.
When the pots are stacked and filled, start planting, tucking in thrillers, spillers and at least one thriller. | Source
This finished stacked pot is perfect for full sun.
This finished stacked pot is perfect for full sun. | Source

4. Create a Stacked Pot Garden

If you own flower pots in varying sizes, you can easily create elegant stacked planters. Stacked planters are pots planted within other pots. Most have two or three tiers.

Stacked pots have many advantages over individually planted pots. They take up less room, so they’re great for decks, balconies, entrances and small patios. Planted with herbs, they’re perfect for small kitchens, too.

Stacked pots also require less soil than single pots, and they use water efficiently. Plus, you’ll need fewer plants than if you were filling each pot individually. (If you place stacked pots so that they're viewed from one side only, you’ll need even fewer plants.) And if you use the same containers year after year, stacking them is an easy way to give them a whole new look.

HOW TO CREATE A STACKED CONTAINER GARDEN

Materials Needed:

2-3 planters, each larger than the last

Plastic plant pots with drainage holes

Potting mix

1 thriller

1 or more fillers

1 or more spillers

Directions:

Step One

Place one (or more) upside-down plastic pot in the bottom of the largest container. Make sure that the plastic pot is squarely set and that its drainage holes are unobstructed.

Step Two

Set the next largest container on top of the upside down plastic pot(s). Line up the drainage holes, and pour potting mix in the bottom container. Place one (or more) upside-down plastic pot in the second container. Again, make sure its drainage holes are open and resting over the container’s drainage hole(s).

For a two-tiered planter, pour potting soil in the second container and add plants at both levels. To create a three-tiered container, set a third, smaller pot on top of the plastic pot in the second container. Place an old upside-down pot inside it, too.

Step Three

Finally, tuck plants in at each level, reserving the tallest plant for the top pot.



5. Recycle Old Potting Soil.

You don't have to buy bags and bags of potting mix each time you plant new seasonal containers. You can reuse old potting soil--so long as you follow some basic safety guidelines.

For more information on safe soil-cycling practices, visit "How to Reuse Old Potting Soil Safely."

Comments

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    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      6 years ago from United States

      @Natashalh--How sad to leave your old garden behind! Hope you took lots of seeds & clippings. Thanks for commenting, Jill

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      6 years ago from United States

      Thanks for commenting & voting, Mary. I like to grow plants in containers too. Our winter was so mild here this year that the pots I planted in the fall are still going strong. Have fun getting your spring pots ready! Take care, Jill

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 

      6 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks for the tips! Last year I spent a lot on potting soil because I'd moved the previous year and was forced to leave my old garden behind.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      6 years ago from Florida

      Thanks for all these great tips. You did a great job explaining how to plant a stacked container garden. I grow a lot of flowers in containers. I voted this UP, etc.

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