Cascading Beauties: The Best Spiller Plants to Elevate Your Containers

06/18/2024 | Ken Davis Annuals, Container Gardens, Flowers, Perennials, Vines

by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener

Audio by Cast11

Although tall, attention-grabbing flowers may be the first plants considered for your container gardens, they are not the most critical blooms in the pot. Plants that spill, flow, and cascade over the edge of the container soften your design, creating a more polished, professional appearance. Here are some of our favorite options.


Alyssum thrives in cool weather, but regular watering can keep it blooming in a container. It doesn’t trail much; instead, it gently flows over the top of the container. It’s a tidy plant with a beautiful honey-like scent.


Bidens are part of the aster family. They have small daisy-like flowers that are commonly yellow, but newer varieties come in pink, white, and orange. They cascade over the edges of your container and highly tolerant of heat and drought

Black-eyed Susan Vine, Thunbergia alata,

Black-eyed Susan Vine, Thunbergia alata, is far more delicate than Rudbeckia but similar. It has tiny 5-petal flowers in yellow, peach, or white. This vine tends to grow into a jumble and finds its way through, over, and under other plants in your container, quickly filling empty spaces.

Blue Star Creeper, Laurentia axillaris

Blue Star Creeper, Laurentia axillaris, produces a dense mat of finely-cut foliage adorned with numerous lavender-blue, star-shaped flowers. It is adaptable to various growing conditions and can rebloom throughout the season. To encourage more flowers, it is recommended to prune the plant in the middle of the season, usually done in stages to ensure continuous blooming.

Creeping Zinnia, Sanvitalia procumbens

Creeping Zinnia, Sanvitalia procumbens, is different from zinnias, and you will undoubtedly notice the resemblance. As their common name implies, creeping zinnia grows outward and forms a dense mat spilling over the sides of a container. It is covered in yellow flowers the entire summer.

Candytuft, Iberis

Candytuft, Iberis, is a stunning ground cover. When grown in containers, it blooms profusely and covers the base of the container. If planted in your garden at the end of the season, it even overwinters become a perennial favorite.

Ivy Geraniums, Pelargonium peltatum,

Ivy Geraniums, Pelargonium peltatum, are perfect for growing in containers. The ivy form produces smaller flowers but blooms as profusely as its upright cousin. It will cascade over the edges of your container. Like its upright relative, it can tolerate heat and short periods of drought as well.

 Licorice Plant Helichrysum petiolare

The Licorice Plant Helichrysum petiolare is cultivated for its small, felt-like leaves. The most common variety has soft blue-gray leaves, but there are also attractive variegated varieties. The stems grow upwards and cascade down, providing an elegant backdrop that frames other plants in your container.


Lobelia grows in a cascading form with one of the most authentic blues found in the garden. It grows a beautiful arch over your container. Unfortunately, this Lobelia habitually does not bloom when the weather heats up. You can overcome that with plenty of water and some partial shade, or simply be patient while waiting for the monsoon rains to arrive and the continuous blooms that happen through Autumn after that.

Million Bells Petunia, Calibrachoa

Million Bells Petunia, Calibrachoa, is related to petunias, with more delicate flowers. Despite its delicate appearance, this plant produces hundreds of flowers throughout summer. It has a handsome trailing habit


Nasturtium grows in mounds of lily pad-like leaves and bright, cheerful flowers. They prefer the colder seasons, but if kept watered, they will bloom all season long. The entire plant is edible, including the seeds. Yum!

Parrots Beak, Lotus berthelotii

Parrots Beak, Lotus berthelotii, is a tropical evergreen plant that is popular as both a houseplant and as an annual in containers. The common name refers to the unique appearance of the flowers. Parrot’s Beak thrives in hot weather, with both the foliage and the flowers maintaining a fresh and attractive look.

Periwinkle, Vinca

Periwinkle, commonly known as Vinca, is often used as a flowering ground cover and ideal for trailing over the sides of containers. It produces pretty purple, burgundy or white blooms primarily in spring, while the lush green foliage serves as a beautiful frame for your container.

Plectranthus argentatus

Plectranthus argentatus is cultivated for its silver-gray leaves. It grows upright until it collapses under its own weight. Some varieties, notably ‘Mona Lavender,’ produce spiky sprays of lavender blooms.


Verbena is a fantastic addition to any garden because of its vibrant colors, long blooming season, and low maintenance requirements. It’s a nectar-rich plant that attracts beneficial pollinators contributing to a healthier ecosystem. Verbena is drought tolerant, making it a great choice for water-wise gardens. Its versatility allows it to be used as groundcovers, in mixed plantings, or spilling over container edges. Whether you’re looking to add color, attract pollinators, or simply enjoy a low-maintenance plant, verbena is an excellent choice for your garden.

Wave Petunias

Wave Petunias continue to improve. They are a significant upgrade from the traditional petunias that would become mushy after a rain shower and required constant pinching and deadheading to stay in bloom. Wave petunias spread out and down, flowering effortlessly throughout the entire season without any extra effort needed from you

And there you have my ‘Go-To’ list of plants that bring containers to life with designer inspired flare. You are going to fall in love with your backyard again.

Aqua Boost Crystals

Insider Tip consistent water is the secret to great flowers. If your bloomers get even a bit dry, they sacrifice flowers to keep the core of the plant health. Add Aqua Boost Crystals at the soil level to keep plants evenly moist and continually blooming. Sprinkle a tablespoon of ‘Aqua Boost Crystals’ at the bottom of each planting hole. These exceptionally absorbent crystals regulate the moisture to each plant, encouraging more profound root growth for longer lasting flowers in containers and raised beds. I never plant without a little Aqua Boost for each new plant in the garden.

Pinterest Board of these flowers in containers and more.  Enjoy!

Until next issue, I’ll be helping gardeners design better container gardens here at Watters Garden Center.

Ken Lain Head Shot