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Six Domicile Best Spiller Plants For Your Container Garden



Container gardens are best when they include “thriller,” “filler,” and “spiller” plants to create a burst of life and fill empty spaces.
Spiller plants like English Ivy, Sedum, Tradescantia, Sweet Potato Vine, and Trailing Verbena can add color, texture, and versatility to container gardens.

When selecting and caring for spiller plants, consider their growth requirements, root space, watering needs, and sun exposure to ensure they thrive in your container garden.

The best container gardens are comprised of “thriller” plants as your showpieces, “filler” plants to fill in blank spaces, and “spillers” to drape over the side, giving the impression that your container garden is bursting with life.

Spiller plants also disguise the edges and sides of your planters, giving you an opportunity to dress up an otherwise shabby or uninteresting container or pot. Discover six plants that are up to the task!

English Ivy
English Ivy at the Chicago Botanic Garden

When you picture vines, English Ivy is the first thing that comes to mind. It’s notorious for making itself at home on brick, wood, and just about any other material it can sink its roots into. English Ivy comes in many varieties, showcasing variegation ranging from solid dark green, to mottled white, and neon green, thriving in hardiness zones 4 to 9.

Ivy thrives in many conditions ranging from shade to moderate sunlight, though it prefers to stay out of harsh, direct light. This classic spiller plant can thrive under a porch or awning receiving as little as four hours of sunlight per day.

When repotting Ivy you’ll want to select a container at least 1 inch bigger than its nursery pot. If you are combining Ivy with other plants, give it at least an inch of space around the root ball. Always use a container with drainage and provide supplemental watering once weekly during the summer.

Ivy is considered invasive in many regions, so restricting its growth in a container garden is a great way to enjoy the plant without damaging your local ecosystem!

Sedum stonecrop growing on rocks outdoors

Sedums, also known as Stonecrops are great spiller plants, since they grow in an almost tentacle-like formation. Some trailing varieties include ‘Burro’s Tail,’ ‘Ogon,’ and ‘Angelina’ sedum plants. Sedums come in an amazing array of varieties, shapes and colors, some even staying pink, gray, or blue all year round, giving you an opportunity to add color to your container garden.

These plants do particularly well with at least six hours of bright sun, in arid environments, with a wide geographic range over hardiness zones 3 through 10. They also collect water in their thick leaves to tolerate dry spells.

Sedums require well draining soil, and can fall victim to over watering as they are drought tolerant. To prevent this, be sure to use a terra-cotta or ceramic pot as the material is very porous. As long as you receive rain weekly or biweekly, sedums shouldn’t need additional watering.

When planting sedums in an arrangement make sure there is at least 2 inches of space around their root ball. Sedums work well with other drought-tolerant and semi-succulent plants like euphorbia, and cacti.


Tradescantia are a rewarding addition to a container garden. This colorful creeper rapidly establishes itself, propagates with ease, and can easily tolerate bright sun, requiring at least six hours a day. Tradescantia thrives in zones 4 through 9 and is considered a herbaceous perennial, as it will return year after year. Some other common names for tradescantia varieties include spiderwort, zebra plant, wandering dude, and inch plant. Some of these species sport bright stripes in shades of white, green, and fuchsia, while others have fuzzy leaves, adding fun texture wherever it is planted.

This plant adapts readily to containers 6 inches and up, provided there is 1 to 2 inches of space around the original root ball. Increase the container size if you are combining tradescantia with other plants. Keep your plant moist, watering only when the top two inches of soil are dry. Decrease watering in the winter when the plant is dormant.

Sweet Potato Vine
ornamental sweet potato with light green spade shaped leaves

Sweet potatoes, though they are grown in vegetable gardens, live a double life as an ornamental vine. Sweet potatoes are hardy in zones 9 through 11, and are considered an annual. Sweet potatoes are not taxonomically a potato, and qualify as a “tuber.” Many kinds of sweet potato are edible, and you can dig up the tubers in the fall before frost hits, but check to make sure the variety you have selected is intended to be eaten before diving in. Some types are grown and sold exclusively for ornamental purposes including ‘Mardi Gras,’ ‘Sweet Caroline,’ and ‘Jade Masquerade’. Cultivars like these are the same species as sweet potatoes grown for edible purposes, but they haven’t been selected for production or flavor. Plants sold for ornamental purposes may also have been treated with pesticides or fertilizers not intended for edible use.

Ornamental sweet potatoes can do well in smaller hanging baskets, or coconut coir planters along a porch railing. When combining with other plants, give your sweet potato about 12 inches of space around its root system. If you want to harvest the tubers, however, you’ll want to choose a much larger container, ideally 15 to 20 gallons, with adequate space for the roots to establish.

During the first week to two weeks, water your sweet potatoes every day. After this initial period you can switch to watering about ½ an inch of water per week. Sweet potatoes love slightly damp, but not waterlogged soil. Place your container in a bright location that receives a minimum of six hours of direct light a day, but preferably eight to 10 hours.

Trailing Verbena
A white Moth Rests on a purple burst of verbena flowers

While many varieties of verbena are upright growers, there are some varieties like ‘Homestead Purple’ or ‘Appleblossom’ that trail delicately over the edges of containers for a splash of color.

Trailing verbena’s bursts of flowers resemble miniature hydrangea blooms, and come in a great variety of colors and sizes. Thriving in zones 4 to 11, attracting pollinators to your garden, from spring through fall.

Plant verbena in a container where it will receive six to eight hours of full sun daily. The container should have drainage and soil that promotes rapid drying. If you have a more clay based soil amend it will well-rotted manure, compost, or peat moss. Verbena doesn’t tolerate wet roots, so water deeply only when the container has totally dried out.

Choose a container at least 12 inches in diameter — or double the root ball size — when planting verbena alone. Increase the size to accommodate any other bright-light loving plants as part of your arrangement.
Like Jewelry For Your Container Garden

Spiller plants are truly the final accessory to add to a container garden to make it seem artfully designed. By taking advantage of the edges and sides of the container, you’re sure to create an arrangement that looks lush.

Which of these have you used in your containers? What is the largest container garden you’ve arranged? Feel free to share more tips and varieties in the comments below.

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