February 1, 2023

How To Design Beautiful Planters

Turning Planters into Bouquets

beautiful planter
Okay, so you’re driving around town and feeling awfully covetous of your neighbors’ beautiful planters. They seem so full, vibrant, and full of interesting color combinations, styles, and heights and you decide to head to the local greenhouse and make your own planters. However, once you get there, you become overwhelmed with all the choices of flowers and plants, you end up coming home with a large pot and three or four sparse plants and you realize nobody can see these flowers from the street. So you head back to the greenhouse and shell out for one of their beautiful, but marked-up, pre-made planters and stick it on your porch.

Fear not, I am here to help you so that you can feel the pride of designing your own beautiful planters to help landscape your home with a personal touch. Let’s get started.

Location, Location, Location!

One thing to keep in mind before even heading to the plant store is to determine where your planter will go. You must take into consideration things like sunlight exposure, wind, watering, and background.

Plants need sunlight, soil, and water to grow. We all know that. However, not all plants’ needs are created equal. Some plants demand full sun and prefer to keep their feet on the dryer side. Other plants can not stand too much sun and prefer constantly moist soil. Here are some examples:


Remember that the evening sun is a strong light source. The sides of your house that face West and South get the most exposure to sunlight and tend to be a little hotter than the rest of your yard. So if your deck, porch, entrance, etc. is where you want your container to go and they face either of these directions, then pick sun-loving plants like Vinca, Portulaca (Rose Moss), snapdragons, petunias, Zinnias, Calibrachoa (Million Bells), Bacopa, and sun-loving Coleus, and Sweet Potato vine.

Shade/Part Shade

If you’re placing your containers under a roofed porch, under a shade tree, or any other place that doesn’t get strong sun (for the most part the North side of your house) go with a combination of these shade lovers: German Ivy, Evovulus, Double Impatiens, Streptocarpella, and shade-loving Coleus.

Some of my favorite plants that I find you just can’t go wrong with our Geraniums. Geraniums are pretty low maintenance and seem to do well in a variety of situations. I also love throwing in some Euphorbia (Diamond Frost) in almost every container I do. The full spray of small flowers adds a lot of fullness to the containers making them look like professional arrangements.

Do not limit yourself to the plants mentioned above, these are just a few examples. Go in with an open mind and read the tags found with the plant, and whenever in doubt ask a greenhouse worker. They are there to happily assist you with any questions you have and will help to steer you in the right direction.

Also, never forget about the water source. Is the place you want your container to have access to rain or will you have to water by hand? Is this space accessible by hose or will you have to carry water? The last thing you want is to make a beautiful planter just to have it die because it was too difficult to water!

Choosing a Pot

pot planter
Maybe you have a pot in mind or maybe you are planning on buying a pot at the store. Pots come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors.

The main thing I want you to keep in mind is scale and color. I hate it when I see a large deck with one tiny spot in the corner. Don’t be shy about picking out a variety of sized pots and arranging them so that they really fill the space and give the eye something interesting to rest on.

But also, don’t get too overzealous so that you have no space to get in your house or that you spend all your time watering! Also, use the color of your house as a base when choosing the colors of the pots. Make sure that the pot doesn’t disappear into the background, while at the same time doesn’t crash.

Never limit yourself. The pots are great, but I’ve seen some really interesting ideas. Growing up out in a rural area of Iowa, my parents would take me on nature hikes, and usually, we would stumble across an illegal dumping site. People would throw out just about anything. My mother took an old bathtub, an old horse trough, large tractor tires, and once even an old wringer washing machine, drilled some holes in the bottom, and filled them up with plants placing them strategically around our yard. This was a very creative way of reusing these broken items–helping out mother nature and creating interesting communication pieces.

Designing Your Planter

rectangular planter
Okay, so you’ve got your container and you know where it’s going. Now, what are you going to put in it? I think it’s important to bring the pot/container, if possible, or at the least to know its dimensions. If you’re buying the pot at the store that sells the plants, just take it into the greenhouse with you. If you’re bringing a pot in from home, just let the people working there know you are bringing the pot in to pick out plants. People do this all the time.

Go to the part of the greenhouse you need to go to. Are you picking sun lovers or shade lovers? Greenhouses usually sell like plants together so avoid any mistakes or disappointments by going directly to the plants you need.

Remember this rule: you need height, fillers, and flowing. The height of your plants depends on the size of your pot. Ideally, the entire planter should be 1 part pot to 2/3 part plants, meaning the plants should be around 2x taller than your planter. Some good-height plants include large Coleus, Spikes, Fountain Grass (for large pots), and Cannas.

Next, you want filler plants. These plants will be mid-height and contain color. I like to pick a color scheme using either different shades of the same color for the flowers or using contrasting colors. (Contrasting colors lie opposite each other on the color wheel). Next, you will want what I call flowing plants. Flowing plants vine out and spill over the container. Examples include vinca vine, Bacopa, Verbena, and Sweet Potato vine.

Once you have a variety of plants that you like taking a few from each category (height, fillers, and flowing) put the pot/container down on the ground, and arrange the plants (still in their pots) around until you find an agreeable arrangement. If the planter will be up against a wall, put the height plants in the back, fillers/mid-sized plants in the middle, and flowers along the front or sides.

If your planter is round you can arrange the height plant in the middle, and alternate the filler plants and flowing plants around the pot. Be sure to try lots of different combinations of plants to find your favorite. And there you go! You now have a beautiful planter that you made yourself. Once you’ve made a few, you will begin to feel more confident in experimenting. Have fun!

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