Saturday, June 10, 2017

Front Porch Planter Ideas

Years ago a gardening friend gave me one simple piece of advice for designing the perfect arrangement for porch planters. You need to have:
  1. Thrillers
  2. Fillers
  3. Spillers
So, what does that mean? Well, building the perfect planter is somewhat like scripting an action movieyou need excitement for sure, but a movie filled with nothing but explosions is going to get boring after 10 minutes or so. There needs to be a filler--dialogue, scenery, music. And the spiller? The movies or stories that best hold my interest have a secondary plot line--it's not all about just one person (even "Waiting for Godot" introduced other people into the tale). 

A few weeks ago I created some new planter arrangements for my front porch (Winter had FINALLY departed). There is a grouping of two planters on the left side of my porch (against the railing):

Oh goody, you get to see a picture of my right foot!

And a grouping on the right, against the wall of the house:

And then there is a large planter in the garden adjacent to the front entrance:

This is the largest of the planter boxes and the guiding theme for the others. Unlike the planters on the porch, this pot will not move--it is quite large (and heavy) so the "thriller" used is an evergreen shrub which will be a permanent fixture. As the surrounding annuals fade away (nothing lasts forever) I will find other companions for it to go along with the season.

Although only two types of flowers (lobelia and sweet allysum) are present in all five, all planters are united by using the same color palette. 

I have two more criteria in addition to thrill/fill/spill that will make your planters winners--color and texture. My neighbor creates beautiful planters that are a riot of colors, but whenever I try to copy them, I feel that my hot combo is more of a hot mess; therefore I tend to stick with colors in my comfort zone. All of the plants in my garden (1 acre+) are in the purple/orchid/pink/white/
blue range. 

Texture is using plants with a variety of shapes and/or foliage. Look at the rex begonia (below) and you'll see what I mean.

The plants I used are:
#1 - Variegated Euonymus
This is the "thriller in the largest of the planter boxes.  Eunymus is an evergreen shrub which means that it will not lose its leaves in the Fall. 

#2 - Calibrachoa
This sweet little plant has several other names--sometimes referred to as a miniature petunia (it isn't) or called "million bells". It does not get any taller than 4 inches, but grows quickly and vigorously. It "fills" and "spills" with great abandon.

#3 - Bacopa
Bacopa is a study plant that will reward with exuberant "spilling." Several years ago I had one that not only grew in springtime and through summer, it continued to bloom in autumn and was still holding on at Christmas. I can't promise that your bacopa will last that long, but it IS a long-lasting annual.

#4 - Sweet Allysum
She fills and spills and rewards with heavenly honey-like fragrance. Allysum self-sows and might surprise you with babies in other little corners of your yard before summer is over. But don't worry, it won't become a nuisance. Be sure to keep your allysum evenly moist. They tend to be a bit thirsty, probably because they are quite small and do not have deep-burrowing roots.

#5 - Lobelia
Lobelia is one of the few flowers in nature that are a TRUE blue. They come in  pale blue, pure blue, and dark (almost navy)  plus several that are variegated white and blue. There are two varieties of lobelia--an upright (which will work as a filler), and a cascading variety that makes a great spiller. 

#6 - African Daisy
African Daisy (osteopermum) was used in the smaller pots as the thriller. It stands head and shoulders above the surrounding flowers and comes in shockingly bright hues of purple, red, orange, and yellow--all with a blue center.

#7 - Rex begonia
Rex begonia is a stunning filler, and one I love to use for its unusual colors and texture. It will flower, but the blooms are insignificant. With rex, it's all about the leaves.

#8 - Petunia
Petunias come in a dazzling array of colors and color combinations, from pure white to almost midnight black. In fact, I think the only hue missing is true pure blue. They are terrific fillers, but grow large enough that they can be used as a spiller as well.

#9 - Dusty Miller
Dusty miller is a beautiful filler and a terrific foliage specimen. Its flowers are insignificant (little yellow beads). In mild climates the dusty miller can become a perennial, growing and spreading year after year.


  1. Very pretty, Linda! I used to do a lot of container we have a very large, natural container called the backyard. :)

  2. Bill, I've heard rumors that you grow a veggie or two back there. I am definitely more than a bit jealous. Our "container" is filled with a number of 4-footed (hoofed) friends who would make quick hash of anything we attempt to grow for our table. Gonna hit 90+ tomorrow. Stay in the shade dear friend.

  3. Shucks I read your Dad story also. I hope you are aware that your garden stuff makes normal guys like me feel inadequate. It really is kind of mean of you to parade your awesome talent.
    On the other hand I forwarded this link to friends and family.
    My boy and I will do some gardening today as play. Some succulents like Aloe Vera. Our humble orchids, and we just stand and watch our roses. We have one named for all my children and wife.
    Linda thank you for this delightful place that is totally safe and full of love.

  4. Oh so pretty and wonderfully informational! Saving the link to this post for future reference. My thumb is only a very pale green with tinges of brown around the edges, so need all the help I can get!
    Lu C

  5. Eric, that is so very kind of you. Not awesome, I've just had a few more years practice than you. Enjoy your roses. I dare not plant them--they are candy for the deer.

  6. Lu, you can do this. Two more bits of information (1) all of the plants that you select need to have the same water requirements, and (2) they all need to be happy with the same amount of light. The ones that I chose are happy with partial shade, which is just right for living on a covered porch.

  7. Linda, your containers are beautiful! I love that you've added whimsical hardware to really add interest. You did a great job! Love the colors!

    The rex begonia is really pretty. I'll have to see if they're available in my zone.

  8. Hi Shauna - This is the first time that I have tried to use a rex begonia. It seems to be surviving and believe it or not the deer are leaving it alone. Now that we are in Autumn (not according to the calendar, but according to what our climate feels like) I have ripped out the annuals and replaced them with chrysanthemums.