Container Gardening the Thriller, Filler, Spiller Way

Have you heard of the “thriller, filler, spiller” method of planting container gardens?  I’ve come across it many times while reading gardening magazines, but have never really given it a try myself.  Having come down with a major case of spring fever, I went to the garden center Saturday morning and looked for the right plants to give this method a try, finally!

The idea is that you put three plants into your container:

  • the “thriller” is something dramatic, maybe tall and spiky, or oddly shaped
  • the “filler” is something that will fill in spaces and get very full, and
  • the “spiller” is something that will grow out and down over the edges of the container in a trailing way

Here’s my first shot at a thriller – filler – spiller – container garden:

container planter gardner thriller filler spiller



In my terra cotta pot with the wonderful green patina, I planted:

  • Twisted Arrows Rush – the thriller, a spiky grass in which some of the blades actually corkscrew!
  • Early Bird Chili Dianthus – Maybe not the best choice for a filler, because Dianthus usually grow up more than out, but there wasn’t a lot to choose from this early in the season, and the color really won me over
  • Scopia Gulliver Bacopa – this trailing bloomer is already a lovely and delicate spiller


I love the change it made on my front porch!  Before, just a vintage cooler that sat there all winter:




After, with the addition of a Boston Fern on a vintage plant stand I received last Mother’s Day:

container planter gardner thriller filler spiller



I think once it all fills out it will be very nice.  Have you ever tried the thriller – filler – spiller method?  What plants do you like to use?  I think closer to summer I’m going to do another one with red, white, and blue.

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Y’all have a great week, and check back tomorrow for the History & Home link party.   Take care~ Dawn


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16 thoughts on “Container Gardening the Thriller, Filler, Spiller Way

  1. Hi Dawn, definitely staples over the years for me, I do several container plantings in my garden each year. I did a post on planning containers not too long ago, with several suggestions for combinations. Yours looks great and should fill in nicely.
    Rita C at Panoply

  2. I positively adore what you’ve done with your thriller, filler & spiller! Makes me wanna head to the nursery and pick up a few plants and get started!

  3. I was not born with a green thumb AT ALL, and had not heard the expression “thriller, filler, spiller”. Now that you’ve shared this, a container garden doesn’t look as intimidating as I thought! Thanks for sharing. Your front porch looks great (I love the plant stand!). Have a wonderful week, Dawn: spring is on its way!! Rosie

  4. love this tip – the different shapes and heights really make for a nice effect and simplified like this it seems easy to achieve. must try it soon for my balcony 🙂

  5. So Pretty. It will be gorgeous once it fills in. Flowers always make such a beautiful difference.

  6. We are SO NOT READY for plants on the porch here in Chicagoland, but yes, I’ve followed that rule for pots. Yours looks wonderful and I love the plant stand with the fern on it. I put a fern on my front porch too — in late May, of course!

  7. Yes, this is the method I follow – most of what I plant is in containers. You will love the bacopa. You remind me it is time to uncover my fern from its leaf pile to see if it survived the winter we had.

  8. I like it! You must show us again when it is all full. Can’t wait to see how it turns out. Last year I planted a container full of flowers and just loved it. It lasted until late fall on my covered porch and was just beautiful. I’m getting impatient waiting on our cold weather to go away so I can try it again this year.

  9. So pretty! Really like the planter stand also. I am anxious to fill my pots up with blooms and greenery.
    Thanks for stopping by. I see you treasure the vintage pyrex like my daughter. On the run but will bookmark your site and will be back to visit and check out more of your posts. Thanks for sharing.

  10. You have some really attractive plants there! I love the thriller! Tall and dignified to set the stage for the filler and to add contrast for the spiller. Your porch looks great. I love the vintage plant stand. I would of snatched that one up in a heart beat!

  11. That’s how I plant my pots, but I’ve never heard it referred to that way. Cute! It will be very nice when it fills out. Thanks for sharing it with SYC.

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