I’ve got several large-ish flower planters that I’ve tried several different space filling methods on. Sure, you can just fill them with dirt or potting soil, but that’s A LOT of dirt. And if you need to move them to a new location?! Forget it. Plus, you get excellent soil drainage if you have a little something other than dirt in a large planter.
In the past, I’ve done packing peanuts. I’ve turned over the plant containers that larger plants come in and used those to take up space. I’ve heard of using cut up pool noodles.
When we moved in the fall, I emptied out all of my planters to make it easier to move and stack, so this spring when I was ready to plant, I needed a solution to filling the planters.
I had 5 large planters, and I was too lazy to go buy packing peanuts, so looking around the house, I stumbled across the perfect solution!
I used my empty plastic bottles, milk jugs, coffee creamer, salad dressings that I had either saved, or rescued from the trash to fill my planters. These will be the perfect solution to providing drainage and filling space. I used mostly plastics here, no paper, because I didn’t want them to break down over time. I had enough to fill 2 1/2 planters right away, and over the next week or so I was able to save enough to fill the rest. It’s amazing how quickly I was able to produce that amount of plastic garbage- I really need to start recycling!!
The plastic probably filled the planters 2/3 full. Then I had my boys get me a wheelbarrow of dirt from the garden that I filled to just above the plastic.
Then I topped that with potting soil.
Now for the fun part, the flowers!
I have a pretty standard method that I use for our area- we are zone 7 I believe. We have hot summers with full sun and little rain. I planted these about a month and a half ago, which is a little early, but we have had a warm spring, and they are doing great. All of the plants I use are annuals in our area, which means they will need to be replanted each spring.
Most people advise three basic rules when selecting plants for a planter arrangement. You need a thriller, a spiller, and a filler.
For my thriller, I use these spiky Dracena.
The spiller is going to be a sweet potato vine. My understanding is that these are different than the sweet potatoes you would eat, but they do produce little tubers you’ll notice when you pull them out at the end of the season. They come in many different colors, but my favorite is this bright green. These are absolutely gorgeous as they grow and cascade down the side of your container. Sometimes they get out of control by the end of the season, and I just cut them back to where I like them.
And for fillers, I always do a single geranium plant and a few petunias. I change the colors of these depending on what I can find- my favorite are bright pink geraniums with fuschia petunias, but this year I found red geraniums for $1.49 each so I went with that! I chose a blue/purple petunia.
Those are my basics I use every year. I usually add one or two more varieties to my largest planters. This year I used a yellow calibrocha, and I threw a couple seeds in there that I can’t for the life of me remember what they are. I think they maybe had small white flowers on them? I guess I’ll find out soon enough!
I usually have my containers in groupings on the patio, so my smaller ones are usually filled with geraniums and petunias. I love the look of several pots grouped together to make a big impact.
These are how they looked when they are first planted. It’s fine to leave plenty of space, because trust me, they will grow and fill in!
This is how they look just a month later!
Within another month or so they will be simply stunning! I usually give them a watering with Miracle Grow about once a month after I plant them- I haven’t put anything on these yet, but they are probably due. Then typically when it gets to be mid-summer, I start seeing little bugs, especially on the petunias, so I have to spray them with an insecticide then. I try to water a couple of times a week when we’re not having a super hot spell, and then once a day when it gets to be upper 90’s to 100’s.
And that’s it! Someday I may try some more exotic plants, but I’ve got this method down, and they are pretty low maintenance which is just my style!