This is a gardening post about the ins and outs of patio gardening that I’m calling Patio Gardening 101.

Some of us have to garden on our patios. Whether because of injury, disability, or preference. I’m going to show you various kinds of patio gardens. I have had a patio-only garden for over 7 years now and it is thriving.

You can have your whole garden in one large container if you so choose. You will have to decide what plants go in what container given their sun/part sun/shade/part shade preference.

Put all full sun plants in one container. Put part sun in another container. And so on.

Patio Gardening 101: Sun Gardens

Some of the most common choices for full sun perennials in containers are:

Patio Gardening 101: Shade Gardens:

Shade gardens are gardens with plants that want all shade exposure and no sun.

  1. HELLEBORES – early bloomers; partial shade
  2. FERNS – try a Japanese painted fern, maidenhair or deer fern
  3. BEGONIAS – try ‘Bonfire’, Rex or tuberous begonias
  4. HOSTAS – try a minature variety such as ‘Tiny Mice’
  5. JAPANESE MAPLES – a single specimen makes a strong statement
  6. BAMBOO – Phyllostachys nigra offers structure and height

Check out more on shade gardens here.

Herb Gardens:

Herb gardens are a bit easier when it comes to planning for exposure because most of them do well in sun.

Patio Gardening 101: 7 Best Herbs For Container Gardening

  • 1) Basil
  • 2) Greek Oregano
  • 3) Rosemary
  • 4) Thyme
  • 5) Mint
  • 6) Parsley
  • 7) Lemon Balm

My personal favorite herbs for container gardens is lemon verbena, because of the wonderful strong scent.

I also like to have pineapple sage in my container gardens because Charlie likes to chew on the leaves to settle his stomach.

Rosemary and chives are regular favorites of mine as well. I like to have a container of chives just outside my door to snip for meals.

Patio Gardening 101: Vegetable Garden Guide

Here is a vegetable container garden guide for exposure for vegetables. It details which plants desire exposures of full sun to partial shade.

Below is a graphic of raised bed vegetable gardening you might want to take a look at before you begin planning your raised bed vegetable garden.

Thrillers, Fillers & Spillers:

You will probably want to have plants of various heights to give interest to your garden. Above is my raised garden, filled with Lamb’s Ear, hosta, mints, iris and wild violets.

When you’re putting various plants into a container, you may want to follow the Thriller, Filler & Spiller concept below…


The thrillers in the container gardens below are the red and yellow Gerbera daisies. As well as the alliums that are not yet flowering.

Thrillers are tall, upright plants that add the height to the arrangement. Thrillers are the great way to add a vertical aspect to your containers.

Thriller Plant Options:


Fillers are covering plants that spread to fill the gaps between the thrillers and spillers.

Plant Options:

  • Geranium
  • Impatiens
  • Petunia
  • Pansy
  • Coleus
  • Dusty miller
  • Begonia
  • Pentas
  • Lantana


Spiller plants are those that spill over the edges of the container and cascade down. Such as the purple verbena you see above on my patio.

Spiller Plant Options:

  • Allysum
  • Million bells
  • Fuchsia
  • Helichrysum
  • Sweet potato vine
  • Mandevilla
  • Nasturtium
  • Morning glory
  • Bacopa
  • String of pearls

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  1. This is my 1st time visiting this site and I am impressed with the abundance of information and how easy it makes it for one to follow instructions.
    A nature lover myself I truly enjoy your site

  2. What a great post Brenda! Right now I have an entire yard to plant in but when I get my tiny/small home I might not! I love, love, love the cozy feel of a beautiful patio garden. The thriller, filler, spiller technique is awesome!


  3. This is the best helpful post ever. Love all your post…this one most informative. Every day I can't wait to see what you have for me to enjoy and learn from, thank you Brenda…..for being YOU!!!!!!

  4. This is a very helpful information. We made 2 raised garden beds a couple of years ago and hope to add more this spring. I haven't had much luck with putting tomato plants in large pots which I think were 5 gallon, but I'm going to try again. I do grown basil in pots. Love that herb container in your photos!

  5. Such an inspiring gardening post Brenda! I love container gardens and you have shown some beautiful ones here. The plant advice and information will be useful for all kinds of other garden growers too. Happy Spring!
    Helen xox

  6. We awoke to 8 inches of snow and our east-west interstate closed from border to border. Wyoming is a great place to live but I miss spring. Your post was timely for me, I can think of spring as I watch the snow continue.

  7. Thanks for the info. You did a wonderful job putting it all together for us. We are in a winter storm watch for today & tomorrow morning. So, thinking about the flower garden is wonderful.

  8. Thank you for putting this together! We've got to wait until May 15th or so to plant…but it sure is nice to start thinking about it. We are getting snow tomorrow! 😉

  9. Hi Brenda, what an amazing gardening primer you've put together. Wonderful resource and I'm going to bookmark it so I can refer back to it when I start my upcoming, small-scale gardening.

    My pleasure to pop over and look around.

    Happy day.

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