Ideas in Bloom: Designing a gorgeous spring container garden

  • Written by Heather Smith and Kate Domoszlay
The crocuses have spoken: Spring is here. If you’re looking for a nice, manageable project to get you back in the garden groove, creating your own container garden is a perfect choice. Molbak’s plant design experts have some great advice to keep you focused and inspired.

Before you even get to the store, ask yourself a few key questions:Will your container serve a specific purpose?What kind of exposure will your container get?

What look do you want to achieve? Are you attracted to structured architectural arrangements, or do you prefer softer shapes with colorful, trailing blooms? Do you want your container to lend a bold, tropical touch to your landscape, or an understated Northwest look with foliage that is rich with colors and textures?

Once you decide on a direction, think about a container that aligns with your look. For example, a structured arrangement would look great in a sophisticated angular pot. A wheelbarrow or antique coffee can might be the perfect home for a whimsical, cottage-themed arrangement. And an old dinghy might lend a clever, maritime nod to your Northwest garden. Don’t be afraid to get creative.

Now it’s time to head to the garden store and make some plant choices. You may be overwhelmed at first, but don’t worry. You’ve considered the form and function you want your containers to take. You’re closer to finding the right plants than you think. You’re ready to flex your creativity, and your green thumb, and put together your very own artful design.

A simple way to select plants and design elements is to think about your arrangement in terms of thrillers, spillers and chillers. "Thrillers" are vertical elements that take center stage. "Chillers" are mounding elements that complement the thrillers. And "spillers" are trailing elements that pull together the entire design. By combining thrillers, chillers and spillers into your arrangement, you automatically achieve a balance that’s appealing to the eye.

Once you select the right plants (and make sure they share the same exposure requirements), follow these steps to put your masterpiece together:

Fill your container with Molbak’s Potting Soil and measure out the recommended amount of Osmocote premier fertilizer for your container’s size. (See package for details.)

Place enough soil to set your plants into the container, and sprinkle the Osmocote into the root zone area.

Place the plants starting with the tallest plant, and stair-step the other plants around the edge of the container, starting with the mounding plants and ending with the trailers set at the edge of the pot. (Remember to leave a little room so your plants have room to grow.)

Add soil in and around the roots so that the soil level matches the level of the plants.

Water thoroughly.

 To keep your plantings happy, make sure to water when the soil surface is dry to the touch and/or when you insert your finger into the soil and the top inch or so is dry. Water thoroughly until water comes out of the bottom drainage hole.

The final step: Place your containers around your garden and home, and take pride in knowing that the creative genius behind these creations was none other than you.Happy gardening!

Morning sun, afternoon shade? All day shade?  The answer to this question will help you focus on the right plants for where your container will live. For example, do you want it to be a focal point in your garden? Do you want it to complement a plant that’s already in the ground? Would you like it to add a touch of whimsy or color to your tabletop?


(vertical focal points)

Trees with winter color

Evergreen or conifer shrubs

Tall grasses such as Miscanthus Variegatus

Shorter grasses such as Pennisetum rubrum or Ornamental Millet (Purple Majesty)







(mounding elements)









Mounding Petunias

Upright Fuchsias



Spillers (trailing plants)

Trailing Petunias

Lotus Vine




Ivy Geraniums


Sweet Potato Vine (Ipomoea)


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