The basic recipe when selecting plants to combine in a planter is to select at least one from each of the categories of thriller, filler and spiller. I provide guidance on selecting the right thriller, filler and spiller for your particular container and growing conditions in my Container Garden Guide, but in this post I wanted to highlight some of my favourite filler plants for containers that receive 6 or more hours of direct sun each day.
These are workhorse plants. Keep them deadheaded and on the drier side and they’ll bloom from the time of planting right through to the end of the season, even surviving through light frosts. The plants are nicely bushy
Many people think of coleus as a plant for shade, and most varieties do well there, but some perform well in full sun. I’ve had good luck with two lime green varieties ‘Wasabi’ (an aggressive grower) and ‘Salsa Verde’ (with more typical coleus growth habit), my very favourite coleus, ‘Ruffles Copper’, and there are likely many more. Check out the plant tags on any varieties you’re considering at your local nursery, to see what that plant’s light requirements/tolerances are.
What I love about using coleus in containers is that it provides continuous colour, as the colour is in the leaves not the blooms, and it has a full growth habit if you keep it pinched back, meaning your planters will look colourful and lush.
Depending on the size of your container, the annual version of salvia (there’s also a perennial variety) could be a thriller or a filler. I like its purple blooms and more upright habit–sometimes you need a taller filler. It’s also an economical choice if you have a lot of containers, or a big container to fill, as you can often find it for sale in cell packs in the spring, and it grows quickly.
An old classic, but a classic for a reason–big, non-stop blooms, loves sun, good selection of colours. What more could you ask for in a filler plant?
For more on petunias, read Plant profile: Petunias.
I didn’t start growing this plant until a few years ago but I really like it in containers. It’s common name is African Daisy, so that gives you a hint that it does well in hot and sunny locations. I find that the flowers are cyclical, and therefore it doesn’t stay in continuous bloom for me, but I suspect that if I was more disciplined with dead-heading it would bloom consistently. I like that some of the petal shapes are unusual (alien-like, even) and the interesting, usually multi-hued, colours of the blooms.
Both of the photos below are Osteospermums–similar colours, but different varieties (and as you can see, I like to mix them together):
That rounds out my current list of standby filler plants for pots in sunny locations. There are others that I use here and there, and I’m always game to try whatever is new at the nursery, but I find myself picking up these five again and again. Do you have any sun-loving “go to” filler plants?