Spill, Thrill, and Fill: Spring Planters, 101

Store front Spring Planters in Arlington, VA

Spring has sprung, the birds are chirping, and if you’re like me, it’s time to finally remove all of the dead plants from the planters on your front porch and spruce up for the season. When it comes to crafting planters that look like they’re fresh out of Southern Living magazine, a few insider tips are all you’ll need to create a little lasting beauty for your front porch.


Resist the urge to buy one of everything

We’ve all been there. You get to the garden center and everything is catching your eye. “Maybe yellow will make my shutters pop,” you say. “But ooooohhhh. That red,” you think next. And before you know it, you’re eyeing a cactus in some remote corner of Lowe’s.

Rather than creating a busy and distracting look, choose one color that complements your house and accent with beautiful, layered foliage. Remember, one color isn’t boring because you’re able to play with all shades of it. A purple palette can be a beautiful mix of violet, lavender, plum, and fuchsia. From the street, a single color family is striking and sophisticated.


The age-old wisdom of ‘Spill, Thrill, and Fill’

If you’ve ever picked up a gardening magazine, you’ve no doubt heard this sage advice. In order for a planter to be multi-dimensional and lush, we always recommend picking a mix of plants with height and drape.

For height, topiaries and grasses are always winners. Topiaries tend to be very pricey (more on this below) but can be a great investment piece that works for all seasons. If you’re looking for an inexpensive option, grab a beautiful grass or palm.

For a gorgeous drape, there are endless options but our tested favorites are sweet potato vine (green and purple), vinca, ivy, and creeping jenny.

The fill is the easy part. Grab colorful foliage and flowers to fill the space between your tall and draping elements.


To faux or not to faux

For years I was against faux plants, and I spent a small fortune trying to keep live topiaries on my porch and in front of the shop. Finally, I threw in the towel and bought a few faux boxwood topiaries and I’ve never looked back. They’re wonderful: 100 percent UV safe so they never fade, and can be sprayed down with a hose whenever they collect leaves or webs. The possibilities don’t end with boxwood topiaries; there are wonderful ornamental grasses, bamboo, and trees that are all great options that will keep your planters green year-round.

Worried about your faux looking fake? Mix in living plants and flowers in the same container and no one will ever know.


A little fern never hurt anyone

My secret weapon for the perfectly styled porch is the fern. They’re magic nestled between planters, or in groupings alone. For those who are short on time but still want a manicured look, an all fern look is lush and dreamy and takes five minutes.

Word to the wise, ferns only thrive when well watered and kept in a shaded area, so if your planters are in exposed sun, opt for a more tolerant plant.


Where to shop

We highly recommend Greenstreet Gardens and Hollywood and Vine, both independently owned and Alexandria based. For faux topiaries and grasses, we love the selection at Patina Polished Living.

Lastly, looking for help filling your planters? Helen Olivia offers container gardening services for homes and businesses. Give us a ring to schedule a complimentary consultation.


  • The latest from Rachel
Rachel Gang is the owner of Helen Olivia Flowers, a boutique flower and home décor shop, located in Del Ray, Alexandria. She developed her love for flowers while working as an event planner in the busy Washington, D.C. events industry. Along with her husband and team of designers at Helen Olivia, Rachel works with brides and corporate clients to create unique and captivating designs. Her work has been featured in Traditional Home Magazine, HGTV, Borrowed and Blue, and Style Me Pretty.

Helen Olivia is a boutique floral design studio located in the Del Ray neighborhood. Known for a lush and timeless style, the shop is a favorite among locals. Outside of beautiful flowers, Helen Olivia is a destination for house plants, decorative pottery, and an endless selection of stylish front door wreaths. The shop is also well known for its weekly floral design workshops — come visit us and try your hand at flower arranging! Helen Olivia is owned by Chuck and Rachel Gang who are veterans of the bustling Washington, D.C., events industry. Both are D.C. natives, and reside in the Ft Hunt neighborhood of Alexandria with their son Jack.


1519 Leslie Avenue
Alexandria, VA 22301


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