1606 N 600 Rd, Baldwin City, 66006

Plan Your Combos: Thrillers, Fillers, & Spillers







Use this handy reference to create the best summer container designs you’ve ever planted!


1. Choose a Thriller

Thrillers are plants with height that add drama and a vertical element to a combination. They can be flowering or foliage plants. Thrillers are generally put in the center (if viewed from all sides) or at the back (if up against a wall) of the container.


Annual Flowers & Foliage

  • Amaranthus
  • Angelonia
  • Angelwing
  • Begonia
  • Caladium
  • Canna
  • Celosia
  • Coleus (tall varieties)
  • Datura
  • Geranium (zonal and exotic)
  • King Tut Papyrus
  • Marguerite Daisy
  • Nicotiana
  • Purple Fountain Grass
  • Verbena bonariensis

Annual Flowering Vine on a Small Trellis or Obelisk

  • Black-eyed Susan vine
  • Candycorn vine
  • Firecracker vine
  • Mandevilla


  • Cardoon
  • Eucalyptus
  • Lavender
  • Lemon grass


  • Banana tree (Musa basjoo)
  • Elephant ear
  • Variegated Shell Ginger

You might also consider perennial grasses (maiden grass or switchgrass), unique hardy shrubs (‘Black Lace’ elderberry) and native plants like smooth sumac and giant cabbage leaf coneflower. Hardy plants can sometimes winter over successfully in containers (use red twig dogwood, grass or an evergreen for four-season interest), or plan to plant hardy plants in the landscape in fall.

Click here for plant descriptions.

2. Select Fillers

Fillers tend to be more rounded or mounded plants and make the container look full. They’re generally placed in front of, or around, the Thriller variety and should be placed midway between the edge of the container and the Thriller.

Here’s a sampling:

  • Ageratum
  • Coleus (short to medium varieties)
  • Diamond Frost Euphorbia
  • Evolvulus
  • Fuchsia (upright)
  • Heliotrope
  • Impatiens
  • Lantana
  • Nemesia
  • Pentas
  • Polka-dot plant

Click here for plant descriptions.

3. Add Spillers

Spillers are trailing plants that hang over the edge of the planter, so they’re planted closer to the edge of the container. If the planter is going to be viewed from all sides, Spillers should be placed on all sides, but if it’s is going to be viewed from only one side, Spillers should be placed in the front.

Try these suggestions, or wander the greenhouse for trailers that catch your eye.

  • Bacopa
  • Begonia
  • Chenille Plant
  • Creeping Thyme
  • Fuchsia (trailing)
  • Geraniums (ivy)
  • Golden Creeping Jenny
  • Ivy
  • Lantana (trailing)
  • Million Bells
  • Petunia
  • Philodendron
  • Pothos
  • Purslane
  • Silver Falls Dichondra
  • Torenia
  • Variegated Lysimachia
  • Verbena
  • Wire Vine

Click here for plant descriptions.

4. TADA!