The Best Spiller Plants for Container Gardens

While tall, focal point thriller flowers might be where you start your container garden, they aren't the most important bloom in the pot. "Spiller" plants, which trail over the side of the container, help soften the edges and create a more finished, professional look. These are some of our favorite options. 

  • 01 of 24
    Licorice Plant with Red Dianthus
    Michael Davis / Getty Images

    Helichrysum is grown for its small, felt-like leaves. The most familiar is a soft blue-gray, but there are pretty variegated varieties, too. The stems grow upward and tumble down, making both a lovely backdrop and frame for the other plants in your container.

  • 02 of 24
    Alternanthera dentata
    Photos Lamontagne / Getty Images

    Alternanthera has small colorful leaves that will trail and cover your container with charm. As a foliage plant, it will require negligible care from you, while looking good all season.

  • 03 of 24
    Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima)
    Georgianna Lane / Getty Images

    Sweet alyssum prefers cool weather, but you can keep it blooming in a container if you give it regular water. Alyssum doesn't really trail as much as it gently flows over the top of your container. It's a very tidy plant with a wonderful honey-like scent.

  • 04 of 24
    How to Grow Asarina, the Climbing Snapdragon Vine
    Marie Iannotti

    Asarina has tubular flowers that resemble snapdragons. This is a short vine that will not just tumble out of your container, it will ensnare itself in nearby plants - in the nicest of ways.

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  • 05 of 24
    Bidens
    Serres Fortler/Flickr/CC BY-2.0

    Bidens are in the aster family. They have small daisy-like flowers that are most familiar in yellow, but recent introductions include pinks, white and orange. They will drape over the sides of your container and are extremely heat and drought tolerant.

  • 06 of 24
    Laurentia Flowers
    Gerry/Flickr/CC BY-2.0

    Laurentia forms a froth of finely-cut foliage with dozens of lavender-blue, star-shaped flowers. It adapts to all kinds of growing conditions. Although it repeat blooms, you will get more flowers if you give it a sheering in mid-season. You can do this in stages, so you are never totally without flowers.

  • 07 of 24
    Diane Macdonald / Getty Images

    Daisy-like flowers in purple, blue, and white cover this profuse bloomer. The lacy green foliage is just as nice as the flowers. As the plant gets top heavy with flowers, it will spill over the sides of your container.

  • 08 of 24
    Million bells (Calibrachoa)
    BambiG / Getty Images

    Callibrachoa is related to petunias, but the flowers are much smaller. Don't let the delicate nature of this plant fool you; million bells will set what seems like a million flowers, during the course of the summer. It has a lovely trailing habit.

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  • 09 of 24
    Cup and Saucer Vine
    © Marie Iannotti

    This is a graceful vine that can grow up on a small trellis or be allowed to drape and circle your container, weaving itself through the other plants. The bracts create the saucer the cup-shaped flowers sit on.

  • 10 of 24
    Creeping Zinnia (Sanvitalia)
    CC BY-SA 2.0/Flickr/F.D. Richards

    Although not in the same genus as zinnias, you will certainly notice the resemblance. As their common name implies, creeping zinnia grows outward and forms a dense mat that will spill over the sides of a container. It is covered in yellow flowers the entire summer.

  • 11 of 24
    Glory Vine (Eccremocarpus scaber 'Pink Lemonade')
    CC BY-2.0/Flickr/K M

    Glory Flower is an evergreen perennial vine in tropical climates. It grows fast enough to be used as an annual in containers, where it will produce clusters of narrow, tubular, tri-colored flowers, as it cascades over the container.

  • 12 of 24
    Iberis (Annual Candytuft)
    Ron Evans / Getty Images

    Candytuft is hardy in zones 5 -9, and makes a wonderfull ground cover. In the confinement of containers, it blooms its heart out, while covering the base of the container. It may over-winter, if you plant it in your garden at the end of the season.

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  • 13 of 24
    Sweet Potato Vine (Ipomea batatas)
    Diane Macdonald / Getty Images

    Sweet potato vines have become garden staples as ground covers and especially as container plants. The leaves can be heart-shaped or almost oak-like. The choice of colors expands every year, from chartreuse to near black.

  • 14 of 24
    Ivy geranium (Perlargonium peltatum)
    Rhlan/Flickr/CC BY-2.0

    Perlagonium geraniums are classic container plants. The ivy form has smaller flowers, but blooms just as abundantly as the upright form. Ivy geranium will spill over the edges of your container. Like its upright relative, it can handle heat and short periods of drought well.

  • 15 of 24
    Lobelia
    Paul Tomlins / Flowerphotos / Getty Images

    The cascading form of Lobelia comes in one of the truest blues you will find in the garden. It will form a beautiful arch over your container. Unfortunately this Lobelia has a habit of not blooming when the weather heats up. You can try and overcome that with plenty of water and some partial shade, or you can be patient and wait for the weather to change.

  • 16 of 24
    Parrot's beak (Lotus berthelotii)
    Christopher Fairweather / Getty Images

    Parrot's beak is a tropical evergreen that is popular both as a houseplant and as an annual in containers. The common name refers to the unusual look of the flowers. Parrot's beak is great in hot weather. Both the foliage and the flowers stay fresh and attractive.

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  • 17 of 24
    Nasturtium Flowers
    Laura Buttafoco / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Nasturtium plants form a mounding tumble of lily pad-like leaves and bright, cheerful flowers. Although  they prefer the cooler seasons, if kept watered, they should bloom all season. The entire plant is edible, including the seeds.

  • 18 of 24
    Plectranthus argentatus (Silver plectranthus)
    K M/Flickr/CC BY-2.0

    Plectranthus is grown for its silver-gray leaves. It grows upright until it topples over from its own weight. Some varieties will flower, most notably 'Mona Lavender', with spiky sprays of lavender blooms.

  • 19 of 24
    Fan Flower (Scaevola)
    Frederic Didillon / Getty Images

    Fan flower is an evergreen tropical plant with deep green leaves and odd little flowers that only have petals half-way around their center disks, giving them the look of a fan. Their light purple color blends well with most other plants.

  • 20 of 24
    Black-eyed Susan Vine (Thunbergia)
    Juliette Wade/Photolibrary/Getty Images

    No relation to Rudbekia, the Black-eyed Susan vine is far more delicate. With tiny 5-petal flowers in yellow, peach, or white, this vine will grow into a jumble and find its way through, over, and under the other plants in your container, quickly filling any empty spaces.

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  • 21 of 24
    Verbena Flowers
    Marie iannotti

    There are many verbena varieties, but the perennials will give you the most bang. They will bloom in their first year, in fact quite profusely. Although they are perennial, they tend to be short lived, from expending so much energy on flowering. They are also very heat tolerant.

  • 22 of 24
    Periwinckle (Vinca minor)
    Neil Holmes / Getty Images

    Vinca is often used as a flowering ground cover, so it's a natural for trailing over the sides of containers. The pretty purple or white blooms generally only flower in spring, but the foliage is a lush green and will make a nice frame for your container.

  • 23 of 24
    Purple Wave Petunia
    Ron Evans / Getty Images

    Wave Petunias just keep getting better. They are such an improvement over the old fashioned petunias that turned to mush after a rain and needed constant pinching and deadheading, to stay in flower. Wave petunias spread out and down and flower without any effort from you, all season.

  • 24 of 24
    Zinnia 'Crystal White'
    Courtesy of The National Garden Bureau

    You can't beet zinnias for heat tolerance and bold colors. the Crystal Series of narrowleaf zinnias are slow spreaders and profuse bloomers. You can expect good powdery mildew resistance, too.