How to Design a Planter Garden


Gardeners decorate an outdoor living space to create an inviting oasis for their enjoyment. The creation of planter gardens invites the garden right into the gathering spaces of patios, decks and porches. Planters take every shape imaginable, from standard plastic pots to old-fashioned wheelbarrows and watering cans. Learning how to design a planter garden requires imagination and understanding of the principles of landscape design. Selection should always include plants that appeal to the gardener as well as those that match the environment's growing conditions.

Step 1

Determine the location of your planter garden. Choose a site and stick with it. Selection of flowers and foliage plants depends on knowing the light requirements for a location. Watch what the sun does over the course of a few days and make a note of your findings. Full sun gets bright light all day. Partial sun receives 4 to 6 hours during some part of the day. Partial shade experiences less than 4 hours of sun, and full shade features no direct sun. Shade locations may have filtered sunlight through larger tree or plant foliage.

Step 2

Choose a container based on the color or design of the planter and the type of plant you'll grow in it. Planter gardens require drainage holes along the container bottom to allow water to escape. Pot shapes and sizes vary, so make choices based on what matches the furnishings in your living space. Also consider ease of movement if you're considering the purchase of a large planter.

Step 3

Decide how your planter will be viewed in the landscape. This decision determines individual plant placement in the pot. Planters can be placed against walls, fences, or centered in a patio as a focal point. If the garden will be placed against the wall, determine the front side of the planter. Centered or full-view planters feature a specimen plant and even distribution of plants around the focal plant.

Step 4

Determine your USDA Hardiness Zone to help with plant selection. Hardiness zones detail the coldest average temperatures for various areas in the country and help gardeners to determine what plants are capable of growing successfully in a particular zone. Commercial growers provide this information on plant labels to help gardeners select the best cultivars for a location. This limits the planting of specimens to those tolerant of your local growing conditions.

Step 5

Choose one tall plant as an anchor plant for the center or back of a pot. Varying the height of container plants creates interesting arrangements that draw the eye to the planter.

Step 6

Choose mounding plants that form clumps in the planter. Mounding plants grow to fill in gaps, hiding soil on the planter surface. These plants come in blooming or foliage varieties to add texture to the planter garden.

Step 7

Choose a few upright plants to increase the texture in the container garden. Uprights include varieties such as vinca, marigolds or any of hundreds of annuals that grow to 12 to 14 inches in height. Uprights serve as a visual transition between the tall focal point plants and the mounding cultivars placed around the surface of the pot.

Step 8

Select a trailing plant to drape over the side of the pot. Trailing vines such as vinca or flowering wave petunias increase the vertical interest of a planter by extending the foliage display over the pot edge.

Things You'll Need

  • Note pad
  • Pen
  • USDA Hardiness Zone map


  • University of Florida: Container Gardens for Outdoor Spaces
  • Texas A&M University: Container Garden: Design Principles

Who Can Help

  • USDA Hardiness Zone Map
Keywords: planter garden, design container garden, design planter garden

About this Author

S.F. Heron is an avid gardener with three years of experience in online writing and a working background in aviation and earth and ocean sciences. She is published on various sites, including Helium, eHow and Xomba. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.