Learn How to Use the Thrill, Fill, and Spill Container Gardening Method

Updated on May 28, 2020
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Rebecca is a retired special education teacher. She earned a master's degree at Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, GA.

This article will provide information on the "thrill, fill, and spill" method of container gardening made famous by "Better Homes and Gardens."
This article will provide information on the "thrill, fill, and spill" method of container gardening made famous by "Better Homes and Gardens." | Source

In the spring of 2010, Better Homes and Gardens magazine introduced the "thrill, fill, and spill" method of creating a container garden in one of their issues. Since then, the design has been the mainstay of container gardens everywhere.

At homes, squares, and malls, you are likely to see container gardens on every corner. Think about the container gardens you see all around the neighborhoods and towns. You will see that the design for these container gardens fit the thrill, fill, and spill bill.

This article will explain how the method works and provide plenty of information and suggestions for how you can use it to create your own wonderful container gardens.

Steps to Create a Thrill, Fill, and Spill Container Garden

The thrill, spill, and thrill container garden method creates an aesthetically visual effect. The design’s roots may lie in a sort of structure popular in the thrill, fill, and fill floral design.

The first step is obvious. Choose plants that will have the same growing needs in the way of light, water, and fertilization. Pick something for the thrill, the fill, and the spill.

Pick something stunning, some floral “eye candy” so to speak, to be your focal point. Cone-shaped evergreens and climbers such as clematis are good choices.

How to Choose What to Plant

After the eye candy or focal point, concentrate on fill-ins that will complement your choice as the thrill. In this arrangement, Dusty Miller makes a great silvery fill-in that will complement the delicate pink clematis blossom. It grows up to 12 inches tall and gets really bushy. Sometimes two or three different fill plants may be nice, but I think the Dusty Miller will be enough here.

For the spill, choose plants that tend to cascade and spread like vines and groundcovers. For my spill, the little petunia-like blossoms of calibrachoa will grow and cascade down the container. It's sort of romantic, isn’t it?

The charts below give a few ideas for flowering plants to use in container gardening. Choose plants that will need about the same type of care. Have fun and pick what you think would look good together.

Clematis provides the thrill for this container garden.
Clematis provides the thrill for this container garden.

The Thrill

My eye candy, or thrill, is a saucy pink clematis growing up a trellis. This vine plant, with its delicate pink flower, needs full sunlight. It is an easy-to-grow vine plant that loves to climb trellises and posts.

Plants for the Thrill

Asiatic Lily
Full sun, at least 6–8 hours
Looks similar to day lilies, grows up to 3′
Partial sun, keep soil moist
Colorful foliage, red, green, white variegated leaves, 2 or more ” in diameter, can grow 1′ to 2′ high
Full sun, easy to care for
Flame-like spikes of brilliant reds and pinks, grows 6″ to 8″
Full sun, tolerates wet soil, tropical
Showy pink blooms the size of a baby’s head, grows 4′ to 10′
Mexican Feathergrass
Full sun, water regularly
Beige-colored cascading ornamental grass, grows 1′ to 2′ high
Full sun, hardy in both hot and cold extreme temps, grows 6″ to 10″
Clusters of deep, rose-colored flowers with black throats
Needs 6–8 hours sun, somewhat sandy soil, good drainage
An herbal bush, may rarely have pink or blue flowers, grows 1″ to 6″
Full sun, tolerates heat and dryness
Pink or red flower clusters, fuzzy leaves, grows 1′ to 2′ tall
Full sun, moist soil, regular feeding, needs something to climb
Bright, gold-colored double carnation-type flowers, grows 6″ to 4′ tall
Climbing plants are good choices for the thrill.
Climbing plants are good choices for the thrill.

The Fill

Dusty Miller (Senecio cineraria) is a silvery, fern-like plant commonly grown in landscaping and container gardens. It too requires full sunlight. It's easy to grow and very hardy. It bushes out, making it great for the fill of this container garden.

Plants for the Fill

Full to partial sun, loamy soil, keep moist
Pink, white, purple, red, daisy-like flowers, grows 8″ to 8′ depending on variety
Dusty Miller
6 or more hours of full sun, water once weekly, fertilizer every 2 weeks
Silvery, fern-like plant, grows 8″ to 12″ tall
Full sun, easy to grow
Bright, gold-colored double carnation-type flowers, grows 6″ to 4′ tall
Full sun, but some shade when very hot
Morning glory-like pink, white, red, or purple blooms, grows 6″ to 4′ tall
Star zinnia
Full sun, loamy, well-drained soil
White, yellow, orange, daisy-like flowers, grows 1′ tall
Shade to full sun, depending on variety
Very colorful leaves, many varieties grow 1′ to 6′
Shade plants, keep moist, doesn’t tolerate heat well
Small, colorful red, pink, white, orange flowers, grows 6″ to 8″ tall
Prefers indirect sunlight, misting
Pink, purple, or creamy splashes of color, grows 12″ tall
Dusty Miller is the fill for this container garden.
Dusty Miller is the fill for this container garden.

The Spill

Calibrachoa is the perfect spill for my container garden. These tiny, petunia-like flowers grow quickly when fertilized and will cascade over the planter in an enchanting way.

Plants for the Spill

Creeping Fig
Full to partial sun, needs minimum watering
Green leafy vine, grows 25' to 30' long
Needlepoint Ivy
Full sun, tolerates some shade, loamy, moist soil
Ivy vine; pointy leaves, grows 6″ high then spreads
Easy to grow, prefers full sun, moist soil
Usually blue flowers, some pink, white, or red, compact in height, cascades
Trailing Geranium
Full to partial sun, don’t over-water
Pink, white, red blooms, grows up to 2′ long
Vinca Minor
Full to partial sun, don’t over-water
Blue or lavender small blooms, spreads out 1.5'
Purple Jew
Very hardy, full to partial sun
Purplish leaves with occasional 3-petaled pink flower, spreads to 2′ long
Swedish Ivy
Full to partial sun, keep moist but not soggy
Vine; scalloped, veined leaves, occasional small, white bloom, grows to 3′
Sweet Alyssum
Full to partial sun, moist soil
White, pale pink, lavender blooms, hairy gray-green leaves, low in height, cascades down
Moss Rose
Full sun, sandy soil, good drainage
Succulent plant with tiny flowers in variety of colors, grows 3-8″ tall and 1′ wide
Sweet Potato Vine
Full to partial sun, moderate watering
Light green vine, grows out up to 6′
Full sun, ample water and fertilizer
Tiny, petunia-like flowers in deep red, coral, purple, cream, grows 5″ to 10″ tall and 12″ wide
Calibrachoa will cascade as it grows and provide the spill.
Calibrachoa will cascade as it grows and provide the spill.

Other Thrill, Fill, and Spill Container Gardens

Thrill, fill, and spill container gardens don’t have to be limited to flowering plants only. Flowers and veggies alike can come together in an awesome thrill, fill, and spill container garden design. Tomato and pepper plants are often used as the thrill while a mixture of herbs and flowers provides the fill. Sweet potato vine is perfect for the spill.

Look for It All Around the Town

Growing flowers with the thrill, spill, and fill method is widely used. Stroll around the square with me and get inspired to make a container garden. These are all freshly planted and will grow and fill out over the summer. I'll be checking back to see their growth.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      10 days ago from New Delhi, India

      I like your container gardening ideas and suggestions. I have great interest in gardening, and would follow your detailed information. I wasn’t aware of this gardening method. Thrill, spill and fill container gardening sounds interesting.

      Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 

      5 weeks ago from Germany and Philippines

      I love this thrill, spill and fill container gardening article. You have chosen those beautiful plants. Thanks for sharing. Well done.

    • rebeccamealey profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Mealey 

      5 weeks ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Oh, thanks! Glad you liked it.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      5 weeks ago from USA

      You have some beautiful examples and detail exactly how to achieve the effect. The tables are also very helpful. Very nicely done!

    • rebeccamealey profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Mealey 

      6 weeks ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thank you Rajan!

    • rebeccamealey profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Mealey 

      6 weeks ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks, Peggy! I'll bet yours pretty.

    • rebeccamealey profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Mealey 

      6 weeks ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Glad to hear that! Thanks, Genna!

    • rebeccamealey profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Mealey 

      6 weeks ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks, Beth! Happy gardening!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      6 weeks ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      This is such a great idea. Thanks for sharing details on which plants would do best for each type of gardening. Lovely photos.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      6 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      Containers filled with these types of plants are so much fun to see in commercial as well as home gardens. I have a couple of them on our patio. Thanks for suggesting all of the plants that can be a part of these thrill, spill, and fill containers.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 

      6 weeks ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Rebecca, you have no idea how much I loved this hub. I am a container gal...Spill, Thrill and Fill is so appropriate. I have made mistakes with my container growing, which is why I find this hub so helpful. Thank you!

    • bethperry profile image

      Beth Perry 

      6 weeks ago from Tennesee

      Lovely plants! I have a couple of these containers and enjoy them very much.

    • rebeccamealey profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Mealey 

      6 weeks ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks, Linda. I hope the ideas were useful, and thanks for commenting.

    • rebeccamealey profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Mealey 

      6 weeks ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Hi Pam. Living in Florida, you have so many options for container gardening. All year! Thanks for commenting.

    • lindacee profile image

      Linda Chechar 

      6 weeks ago from Arizona

      Rebecca, these are gorgeous full plants and flowers in large containers. The lists are my favorite choices. They are colorful summer container gardens that fill and spill over the edge.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      6 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

      Containers filled with beautiful flowers are lovely to see. I like your article and I think this is a great way to get your flowers at least started or to keep them in a container in warm weather.


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