Make a container gardens for the holidays

By Gloria Spell - Victoria County Master Gardener - Edited by Charla Borchers Leon
Dec. 6, 2014 at midnight

This container garden consists of tall woody stems behind the tall snowman as the thriller, the cyclamen, dusty miller and oyster plant as the filler and the cascading greenery as the spiller plant that are all combined to complement one another with similar growing requirements.

This container garden consists of tall woody stems behind the tall snowman as the thriller, the cyclamen, dusty miller and oyster plant as the filler and the cascading greenery as the spiller plant that are all combined to complement one another with similar growing requirements.   Photo contributed by Henry Hartman/Creative Images for The Victoria Advocate

Container gardening has become one of the most popular ways to garden. There are many reasons why gardeners have turned from beds to containers, and one is that it allows gardeners a way to express themselves artistically.

Floral/mixed plant containers

Natural arrangement

Christmas is a perfect time to create floral containers to decorate our homes. Whether the containers are placed inside or outside the home, they can add beauty. Containers for the Christmas holidays can begin with a very simple arrangement of natural greenery, red berries, pine cones and ornamental grasses.


Of course, any kind of container can be used for a container garden. It can be metal, wood, plastic, terra cotta or glass. You can use your imagination when selecting a container. Whatever type of container you choose for your garden, you need to consider if the container has good drainage.

If you plan to use a large container that does not have holes, you may need to drill holes in the bottom or you can do your planting in smaller containers that have holes. These pots can be placed in the larger container later. Plants will die if they are in waterlogged soil.

Potting mixture

Your potting mixture is very important. It can be a soil-less mixture that can be purchased at your local nursery. Because these mixtures may contain peat moss, perlite or vermiculite, they are not as heavy as garden soil. Remember, whatever soil you choose to use in your container, it needs to be lightweight so the container can be moved easily. Always make sure there is enough room for the plants to grow or expand.


Because potted plants dry out more quickly than those planted in the garden, a layer of mulch can be added around the plants to contain moisture. Also, the use of pebbles, pine cones, peat moss and seashells may add drama to the container. This will help keep the soil moist as well. Remember not to overwater soil in the container.

Attractive plant placement

When I begin putting a container arrangement together, I concentrate on placing my plants in an attractive shape, which includes three components of form. They are the thriller, the filler and the spiller.

Plants that thrill, fill, spill

Of course the thriller is what catches the eye. It is usually tall and is planted in the center or back of the container. Next comes the filler, which are one or more plants placed in the middle ground of the container. There can be more than one filler plant. A mixture of colors and sizes of fillers is eye catching.

The spiller includes trailing plants which are grown close to the outside edge of the container. All plants need to complement each other.

Holiday plants

The Christmas season is a great time to put together beautiful, colorful containers for your home.


The most recognized plant is the poinsettia. You can buy poinsettia plants in the nurseries that are white, pink, and of course, red.

When using poinsettias, remember that they like bright, indirect sunlight. Keep an eye on the container and make sure the soil does not dry out.

The leaves will start to drop from the plant if the soil gets too dry. Sad to say, too often many poinsettia plants are thrown away after the holiday because the plant has lost its colorful leaves. This is a shame because the plant can continue its life as a beautiful house plant. With a little care the plant will bloom again the next fall.


Cyclamen are a holiday favorite and can be found now at local nurseries. The plant sports a variety of colors including red, pink, almost purple and white.

A cyclamen makes a wonderful companion plant for other plants in a container. They add color and balance to the container. Of course, you can experiment placing different shapes and color of plants in the container with the cyclamens. By varying the heights of the plants, it will add interest to the arrangement.

Also, you can add Christmas ornaments or decorations to bring excitement to the arrangement. It is fun to experiment with colors and design for the container.

Christmas cactus

Named for blooming around Christmastime, the Christmas cactus is not difficult to grow because it needs minimal care as a succulent. In the fall of the year, the plant will produce blossoms when the weather is cooler and the days are shorter. The blooms can be red, pink, salmon or white. When the Christmas cactus is put in a container with other plants, it will add interest to the container throughout the holidays and beyond.

Consider a container filled with plants - or even a unique container - for a special holiday gift. It will likely thrill, fill and spill many times over.

The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or, or comment on this column at



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