Gardening Formula for Tall Planters

By Kate Riley June 16, 2020

I was dining at a restaurant in Healdsburg over the weekend and as I exited I noticed the very tall planters outside the entrance with the gardening medley that never fails to produce an eye catching look. Perhaps you’ve heard of this gardening trick before? If it’s drama you want, then the “thriller filler spiller” gardening formula works every time.

I wrote about this formula eight years ago but I thought it was worth revisiting. The formula works just fine for medium sized containers, but like the pictures below that I took outside the restaurant, the formula is especially striking in taller planters.

Good thrillers are plants with spiked flowers or grasses that grow mostly vertical. They’re the eye catching centerpiece in the medley.

Good fillers are plants that fill the space in between the thriller and spiller, covering the stalks of the thriller and filling in around it. These can be annuals or even succulents, but they should be medium height to low growers.

Good spillers are trailing plants that grow over the edge of the planter and spill down and around it.

Here are five more examples of the formula, both simple and dramatic:


unsophisticook / source unknown x 2 / life on virginia street  / southern living


I hesitate to provide a list of exact plants because performance varies by region. If you want to recreate this look, find plants that fit the descriptions above at your local nursery or garden department.

But you’ll also need tall planters and two of them frame an entrance or decorate a staircase nicely! Real stone, cement, or wood planters are super pricey, and one single tall planter can run several hundred dollars. (I’m looking at you Restoration Hardware). But I’ve always been a “look for less” gal so I rounded up six more affordable tall planters made of composite, resin, and plastic.


26” fiberglass / 20” faux concrete / 21” faux granite stone

26” solros cement / 19.5” rust resin / 19.5” ella black

I’ve always wanted to recreate the look of a tall stone and cement planters with a plastic base. These DIY projects give me hope it can be done! I’m going to experiment with this soon.

transform plastic planters into textured stone lookalikes


make resin planters look like aged cement

use paint to mimic concrete

Have you recently found tall planters for sale at a great price? If so, please share!


  1. That is a great descriptive formula that is easy to remember and visualize. I especially like the examples of different types of spillers all in one planter. I just had a thought to share: these great looking planters would need a lot of dirt to fill, and hence would be even heavier to move once filled. But perhaps we can fill half or more of each with some type of filler like a foam block or similar. Do you think that would work?

    • I’ve heard that those foam peanuts make a good filler for the bottom. I have a tall planter and it has an inset partition inside which keeps the bottom open and soil in just the top half. Check to see whatever planter you’re purchasing has the same!

    • I used bottles of water as a filler in my tall planters. They worked great

  2. If the planter is really tall I would fill bottom with weight like bricks or something. Filling it with foam or peanuts if tall will make it top heavy and run the risk of it tipping over in high wind or getting knocked over. This peanuts would work if it has wide base. But most of the ones you pictured might tip over.

  3. These are fantastic! I have been scouring the earth for tall planter ideas for our deck. This is perfect and just in time! Thanks for the information.

  4. We’ve put 1 or 2 old bricks in bottom for sturdiness in wind, then empty plastic milk cartons to take up space. A piece of old screen or something similar holds dirt on top 1/3 for planting and allows water to run through. Inexpensive tall planters can be found at discount shops in many cities. If any defects in cheap planter, turn them toward wall & no one will notice. Trailing plants cover them up, also. Love the idea of painting to give the aged look!

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