Porches and patios can come alive with creative container gardening


With limitless colors and textures, no porch or patio should sit bare this season.


The home with a front porch container display always feels a bit more welcoming; the back patio with a well-designed pot of plantings always feels a bit more relaxing. Designing these eye-catching planters can be intimidating and stressful, especially if you are new to gardening. With a few simple tips and techniques, anyone can create a stunning container that will boost your curb appeal and make passersby double-take to admire your creation.

When choosing your container, ensure adequate space for root growth and ample drainage holes for water to drain out of the container’s base. Fill your container with a high-quality potting mix from your garden center; never use soil from your garden or yard. You can reuse potting soil from last year, if the plants previously grown in it were healthy and disease-free. Although, nutrients in recycled potting soil will be depleted; replace lost nutrients with additional potting mix or compost.

Your color choice will set the stage for the container’s look and “feel”.

To liven-up an area, use warm colors, like red, orange, and yellow

To relax in a calm, serene space, consider cool colors like blue, pink, and purple

Use existing color schemes in the home and surrounding landscape to inspire plantings

When planting a container, include a “Thriller”, “Filler”, and “Spiller.”

  • “Thriller” – adds height and drama to the arrangement: Guara, Angelonia, cannas, palms, and ornamental grasses
  • “Fillers” – fill in at pot level to create a lush horizon of foliage and flowers: Euphorbia, lantana, dusty miller, alternanthera, and pentas
  • “Spillers” – cascade over edges and trail around containers, encouraging the eye to travel down or around a container: Calibrachoa, verbena, creeping jenny, and dichondra

Before purchasing your plants, consider the quantity of plants required to fill the container. There is no need to overpack the planter. Ensuring plants have space to mature allows for better root growth, increased air circulation around the plants, and overall healthier plants. As summer progresses, plants will fill in to create a lush, gorgeous display. For specific support on plant sizes and spacing, resource plant labels.  With an overall quantity in mind, use the rule of three’s—plant in odd-numbers, in groups of at least three—to determine the quantity of each plant selection.

Consider the versatility of container gardening this season. Go beyond a patio pot with eye-catching plantings that fill in empty spaces or optimize limited space; avoid inadequate soil conditions and accent your landscape; or create focal points and privacy screens. The possibilities are endless with a pot in-hand and a little imagination.


Brittnay Haag is a horticulture educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving Livingston, McLean, and Woodford counties.