Perfect Pairings for Containers A ‘Done in a Day’ Spring Project

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Spring is the perfect time to add a pop of color to your outdoor space. Bold blooms and bright leaves are emerging, offering a colorful canvas of plant choices. Picking the right pairings for your container plantings can feel intimidating with so many options to choose from, but simple strategies offer perfect pairings for containers every time!

A great general rule for container plantings is to use the “thriller, filler, spiller” formula.

Thrillers add height and drama to the planting. They can be placed at the center or back of the container, depending on the viewing angle. Both foliage and flowering plants work well as thrillers.

Filler plants tend to have a mounding or rounded form that fills up the center of the container. Place fillers between the thriller and spiller in the container.

Spillers are placed at the edges and/or front of a container and spill over the edge, carrying the design downward.

The Perfect Pair: Stunning Shrubs

Dwarf shrubs bred for petite size make fantastic “thrillers” – and long-lasting sources of color — in a large container. Encore® Azalea’s Autumn Majesty® is a dwarf shrub that offers an abundance of purple ruffled flowers, while Autumn Starburst™ dazzles with coral-pink centered blooms edged in pure white; and these blooms repeat in 3 seasons. A unique new upright growing gardenia, Diamond Spire, allows you to add a classic shrub to patio containers, and it reblooms too. Balance these shrubs with texture, using a grass-like Carex, such as Southern Living Plant Collection’s EverColor® Carex or soft spilling bedding plants to complete the container’s look. The best part of this perfect pairing? After a season or two of service in the container, you can transplant the shrub to your yard.

The Perfect Pair: Contrasting Colors

Looking for a container recipe that’s bold and beautiful? Mix vibrant complementary colors and rich texture. Deep, leafy purples and tart yellow-greens are a match made in heaven. Try Purple Pixie® Dwarf Weeping Loropetalum and ‘Lemon-Lime’ Nandina for two container-friendly options. Plant this perfect pair in a tall container like an urn or pedestal planter to give Purple Pixie® foliage room to spill, and while the compact, non-invasive ‘Lemon-Lime’ lends brightness and soft textured movement to the combo.

The Perfect Pair: Pretty Pots

Plants can be perfect pairs without sharing the same pot! Create a sense of continuity by pairing complementary colors and forms in containers nestled near one another. Try giving a showstopper flower like Ever Sapphire™ Agapanthus or Ever White™ Agapanthus its own container, then clustering a few containers of single plants in complementary colors – in this instance, ‘Lemon-Lime’ Nandina and ‘Sunshine’ Ligustrum – to frame the flowers and extend the collection’s impact.

Whether on a patio, porch, or balcony, containers are a perfect way to switch up your home’s exterior each season. And with so many options in spring, container combinations showcase all of the colors and textures this season has to offer.

 Encore® Azalea is the world’s best-selling multi-season blooming azalea. Its 33 varieties and range of sizes enliven landscapes with rich, colorful blooms in spring, summer and fall. Visit to learn more.

 The Southern Living® Plant Collection provides gardeners with innovative new plants designed to solve specific landscape challenges and to excel in Southern gardens. Want your gardens to look like the pages of Southern Living? These plants deliver.

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