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Assorted types of pots and plants with coffee table
Ready to grow something spectacular? We show you how to mix and match plants with stunning results.


Tricks of the trade

One of the best pot planting tricks is the ‘thriller, filler, spiller’ concept. “This works on the principle of the ‘thriller’ being the feature plant – a plant that is big, bold, textural or unique,” says Lyndall Keating, landscape designer, horticulturist and director of Garden Society. “The ‘fillers’ complement but don’t overwhelm the feature plant, and finally, the ‘spiller’ is added to tumble or overhang the planter to help to soften the edges.”

Use this principle to guide your choices, but also consider plant colour and texture to create a balanced design. Group plants that share the same needs – for example, preference to full sun or shade, or those that have similar watering requirements. Let the container size determine the type of plants you grow, suggests horticulturist and Northcote Pottery brand ambassador Melissa King. “Squat bowls and shallow planters are ideal for displaying succulents, annuals, lettuces and herbs, whereas big barrels or tubs are perfect for showcasing larger plants like dwarf fruit trees,” she says.

Bowls of succulents as centrepieces on a dining table

Pot basics

When potting up, always use a premium potting mix. “They contain nutrients, fertilisers and wetting agents to give plants the best opportunity to flourish,” says Lyndall. If planting succulents or cacti, look for a free-draining cacti and succulent mix. Water regularly, especially in hot weather, as pots tend to dry out faster than garden beds. To help promote the life of your display, feed often. “Liquid feed potted plants every two to three weeks – you can also water in diluted seaweed between feeds to help promote stronger, healthier plants,” says Melissa.

Person planting succulents into a shallow pot

Recipes for success

Here are some of our favourite combos:

  • Shallow bowls are great for low-growing succulents. Create impact by planting up a large shallow bowl with blue chalk sticks (Senecio mandraliscae), or use larger succulents – agaves, flapjacks or crassula – as the thriller piece. Fill the gaps with a mix of smaller echeveria and sempervivum, and trail string of pearls, jelly beans or donkey’s tail over the sides.
  • Hanging baskets can be filled with timeless red and white geraniums or a sweet mix of pastel-coloured calibrachoa, petunias and verbenas.
  • Large round pots are perfect for compact trees or large shrubs such as frangipani, dwarf fruit trees or cycads. For maximum impact, underplant with a cascading plant like Dichondra ‘Silver Falls’.
  • Tall narrow planters lend themselves to a formal garden style. “Fill with clipped buxus for a classic look or with striking, strappy leaved plants like phormium or cordylines to accentuate the tall, narrow shape,” says Melissa.
  • Large egg pots suit a single planting of a medium-large sized plant, especially ones with unique structure and foliage such as a golden barrel cactus or agave.
  • Top tip “Finish the look of your pot by adding a pebbled mulch. This will enhance the planting, reduce water loss and keep the soil moist,” says Lyndall.

Show off your pots on a DIY timber plant stand

Build a wooden plant stand with help from our step-by-step guide.


Health & Safety

Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.