How to design a flower planter you'll love!

We all know I love to garden but I noticed something about my gardening style a few years ago. I only plant flowers in planters! Weird, right? Unless it's an herb, all my flowering plants go in containers. I do have a few rock gardens specifically for flowers but there are absolutely no ornamental flowers in my regular garden. 

planting flowers in containers

I'm also not picky about what kind of planters I use. I will plant flowers in any container that can hold dirt! I've used everything from a broken bucket to a kitty litter box for planters. 

When choosing plants you want to consider their eventual size not the size at planting. Leave room for them to grow into their new habitat or they become root bound and their growth will be stunted. Unfortunately that means the first few weeks after you plant your container can look rather sparse. When it fills in though, you'll be glad you left space!

Planting flowers in containers is really easy you'll just want to keep a few points in mind. 

Designing your flower planter

As mentioned earlier, you want to consider the plants eventual size not the size at planting. Leave room for them to grow into their new habitat or they become root bound and their growth will be stunted. Of course by the end of the season they will probably be busting out of the container. Since we're using annuals that's ok because they're only going to last till first snow anyway.

You'll also want to choose plants that have somewhat similar light requirements. You can't mix shade loving plants with full sun and expect them both to thrive. Try to get close to the same amount of light required for optimal growth. 

Moisture requirements are important also. You don't want to mix plants that prefer dry soil with ones that love to have their feet wet. This is why succulents are almost always in their own containers. Their very low moisture requirements would cause many other plants to wither and die.

Get good soil. I made the mistake of using plain old garden soil mixed with some compost plenty of times and it never turns out well! I get good results with this Miracle Grow Potting mix for flowers. They also have an Organic option that I really like. You can still add some compost if you'd like, but unless you have amazing garden soil you'll want to buy soil for your planters.

Lastly is your color scheme. You can find so much advice on monochromatic color schemes or how to contrast plants and what looks best with what. Consider those guidelines not rules. 

Sometimes I just use whatever I have growing here and there. Other time I go to the nursery, grab a cart and start arranging plants in the cart till I get the look I want then buy them all. It's your planter and you have to be happy with it, so plant what makes you happy!

The thriller, filler, spiller method

When deciding on flowers for your container most people go with the thriller/filler/spiller method. The thriller is something tall for the center of the container like ornamental grasses. The filler is a bushy type of plant that will fill in all the holes but not overwhelm anything. The spiller is a cascading type, something that will grow out of the containers and spill over the sides. 

The all one plant variety method

Many people prefer to skip the calculations of sun and moisture and just go with different colors of the same plant in one container. This planter uses 3 different colors of coleus to achieve a full planter with just a few plants. 

Coleus planter, 3 colors.

Another important thing to consider when filling a planter is weight. This is especially important with large planters. Dirt is heavy and rocks are even heavier! I know everyone says to put rocks and gravel in the bottom of your pots for drainage and while I agree with the drainage I just can't agree with that kind of weight.

I have a secret though. To add drainage space to the bottom of a large planter, half fill it with empty water bottles before adding dirt. Bubble wrap works great too. I even put upside down plastic seedling containers in one of mine as filler. It works!

planter with empty bottles inside

If you happen to be using huge planters you will never need to move, then by all means add the rocks. If you may need to move your planters at some point though, use the bubble wrap'll thank me when it's time to move them!

Here are a few of my recycled planters

Ash bucket: you can read the whole story right here, but suffice it to say I wasn't going to let an old fashioned ash bucket get sent to the dump after a little dent! This is a good example of just tossing in whatever I had extra from my full sun collection. It turned out a little eclectic, but cute. Some ribbon and we were good to go! 

Ash bucket flower planter ideas

Plastic stand up wheelbarrow. This wheelbarrow saw it's last days when one of the kids tried to use it to clean out the chicken coop in the dead of winter. Frozen plastic wheels over frozen snow/ice on the ground equaled broken wheels. 

Unfortunately broken wheels cannot stop a teenager that wants to get a chore done with so he can get back to his video games and he continued to drag the wheelbarrow causing the gravel in the driveway to wear holes in the bottom on the container. 

It was ruined by spring. 

Since pieces were missing from the wheels and it had holes in it, I decided to turn it into a planter.  I wanted a very full look in this one so I went with mainly petunias since they always end up growing all crazy for me!

recycled planters

Mint containers: I have resorted to many different methods to keep the demon mint from overtaking my herb garden. The latest and greatest is a large square galvanized tub the home builder left he when we bought the place. I've pretty much tried everything over the years though, even a curved kitty litter box! Read about that here. 

Other then recycled planters, I think I have more galvanized metal planters than any other material. Wayfair recently did a Planter Tips From the Experts article and they featured my Fairy Garden which is in a metal planter, along with some beautiful planters from 10 other gardeners.We also offer tips and tricks for successful planters so head over and take a look.

Whatever planter you choose and whatever flowers you want to fill it with, I can't stress enough that you need to be happy with it. It might take a little experimenting or you might get your arrangement perfect the first try. As long as it makes you smile every time you see it, then it's perfect!


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  1. I was gifted some very large plastic terra cotta looking pots which I used for planting sweet potatoes last year. The flowers and leaves were pretty and then in the fall I had food. Also, I took plastic buckets that were used to store cooking oil at a donut shop, bored holes in their bottoms and spray painted them tan and used them to grow carrots and kale and flowers :)

    1. What great ideas! I have extra buckets in the garage, maybe I'll use those for the carrots this year. thanks for the tip!


  2. Thanks for the great tips! I can't wait to start work in my planters in the next few weeks!

  3. I plant my tomatoes in buckets every year; but I just couldn't when my mother suggested I use my worn out farm boots as a planter. For God's sake, it took me 5 years to wear those boots out & I never want to see them again but, please, have at 'er if you want them!
    I came to visit from the AIM link party; please feel welcome to stop on by the 4Shoes & let me know you've been. :-)

    1. Ha ha ha ha! I feel the same way about my old boots!

      Heading over to visit you now!


  4. Thank you for attending the #WednesdayAIMLinkParty. I shared your post on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and Twitter.

  5. Thanks so much for sharing these tips! Pinned to share.

  6. I love the concept of thriller, filler, spiller. We've got herbs in our pots, but I'll have to keep this in mind for if we get flowers. Thanks for sharing on the Waste Less Wednesday Blog Hop!

  7. I love what you did with this old wheelbarrow. It looks so pretty. It amazing how you can take old things and find good uses for them. Sharing on twitter & pinning. Congratulations on being featured on HHG&N bloghop.

    1. Thanks! I just hate seeing stuff go to waste so I had to reuse that clunky ole wheel barrow!
      Thanks for sharing!