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.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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