In this container, a rush (Juncus inflexus) has been used as a thriller. Photo: Proven Winners

What can you use as a thriller plant for your container garden? Actually, almost any plant can be used as a thriller, as long as you give it a starring position, usually in the center of the pot, and surround it with smaller, contrasting plants. In general, though, a thriller should be of a good size (at least compared to its container) and have a striking color, silhouette, texture or other trait that makes it stand out from the crowd.

Here are some plants that can make really good thrillers for home containers:

  1. Agave (Agave americana)
  2. Angelonia (Angelonia spp.)
  3. Bamboo (Bambusa spp., Phyllostachys spp., etc.)
  4. Banana (Musa spp., Ensete spp.)
  5. Brugmansia (Brugmansia spp.)
  6. Caladium (Caladium hortulanum)

    Cannova® cannas, a series of lower-growing, longer blooming cannas.
  7. Canna (Canna spp.)
  8. Chinese hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)
  9. Citrus (orange tree, lemon tree, etc.) (Citrus spp.)
  10. Coleus (Coleus scutellarioides)
  11. Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)
  12. Cuphea ‘Vermillionaire’ (Cuphea ‘Vermillionaire’)
  13. Dahlia, taller varieties (Dahlia cvs)
  14. Dragon Wing begonia (Begonia x Dragon Wing®)
  15. Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus spp.)
  16. Fig (Ficus carica)
  17. Firecracker plant (Russelia equisetiformis)
  18. Flowering maple (Abutilon spp.)
  19. Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri)
  20. Giant elephant’s ear (Alocasia spp.)

    Variegated giant reed
  21. Giant reed (Arundo donax ‘Variegata’)
  22. Glory flower (Tibouchina spp.)
  23. Leatherleaf sedge (Carex buchananii and others)
  24. Lily of the Nile (Agapanthus spp.)
  25. Mealy sage (Salvia farinacea)

    New Zealand flax (unknown cultivar)
  26. New Zealand flax (Phormium spp.)
  27. Oleander (Nerium oleander)
  28. Palm (Chamaedorea spp., Chrysalidocarpus spp., Rhapis excelsa, etc.)
  29. Papyrus (Cyperus alternifolius, Cyperus papyrus, etc.)
  30. Paris Daisy (Agyranthemum spp.)
  31. Pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum ‘Purple Majesty’)

    Persian shield
  32. Persian shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus)
  33. Purple elephant grass (Pennisetum purpureum)
  34. Red fountain grass (Pennisetum x advena ‘Rubrum’)
  35. Red-leaf hibiscus (Hibiscus acetosella)
  36. Rose bush (Rosa spp.)
  37. Rush (Juncus effusus ‘Spiralisand others)
  38. Scarlet sage (Salvia splendens)
  39. Snapdragon, taller varieties (Antirrhinum majus)
  40. Spike dracena (Cordyline australis)
  41. Taro (Colocasia esculenta)
  42. Zinnia, taller varieties (Zinnia spp.)

For more information on container gardens, click here.

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, laidbackgardener.blog will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

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