Planter Ideas From Margot Shaw of Flower Magazine

Margo Shaw and a planter

When I got the call from Ballard asking for planter ideas I thought, again, I love my job!

But since I’m more of a cut flower girl, I decided this would be a great opportunity for me to learn a new skill, so I did what I always do, enlisted the help of an expert, and went through a lightning speed tutorial before filling the outdoor planters with botanical beauty. Thanks Clarke Bohorfoush!

I really wanted a range of difficulty – from super simple with just a few steps and one or two varieties to more steps and varieties of plant material. We ended up with something for everyone so try one or all of these and please let us know how they turn out!

FYI: when I say “water” in the instructions, I mean “water with a can.”

Also, all of these plant combinations are suitable for sunny spots except for the specified “shade grouping.”




Toulon Planter

This classic French urn shape is one of my favorites, and doesn’t need much, so I chose it for the simplest design. I am crazy about Chartreuse, so I don’t think this one will make it back to Ballard.

Ingredients –

Potting mix, Spanish Hazel Lavender plant – (loves full sun and heat)

Flower/plant fertilizer

1. Fill urn with potting mix

2. Score the bottom of plant/roots with knife or trowel

3. Dig hole deep enough for plant to fit

4. Sprinkle fertilizer in

5. Drop plant in

6. Cover soil with a collar of damp sheet moss –

FYI: Moss helps retain moisture and dresses things up a bit



Next Easiest

Weathered Slate Planter

A radial design seemed more interesting, as we knew the succulents would be viewed primarily from above, due to their low height. Color-wise, I thought the hot green, black,  purple, and smokey grey/lavender would pop with the neutral grey of the planter, and the succulents trending right now, feel a bit more modern like the planter.


Ingredients –

Mulch, potting mix, fertilizer

Echevaria, Chinese Sedum, Black Hens and Chicks, Lemon Ball Sedum, Pea Gravel

FYI – use mulch or even packing peanuts as a base for soil to make container lighter.

A radial design seemed more interesting, as we knew the succulents would be viewed primarily from above, due to their low height. Color-wise, I thought the hot green, black,  purple, and smokey grey/lavender would pop with the neutral grey of the planter, and the succulents trending right now, feel a bit more modern like the planter.

1. Pour mulch/or peanuts to about 2/3 of the way up and finish with potting mix

2. Place the Perle Von Nurnberg Echevaria in back corner at a diagonal

3. Create an arc shape of Chinese Sedum around the Echevaria

4. Then another arc with the Black Hens and Chicks

5. Break up the Lemon Ball Sedum and spread around the front of the container.

6. Wash the Pea Gravel then add it in between the plants

7. After adding gravel, go back in and pick out pieces that have lodged within the leaves of the plants

FYI – the pea gravel adds a little color and textural contrast to the succulents.

Flowers closeup


More involved

Wooden Teak Planter

This is our shade grouping that we thought would look just right in the teak, against a weathered wrought iron gate in our French gazebo – a good mix of texture and shape, with one sassy, spiky character

Ingredients –

Potting mix, fertilizer

White Christmas Caladium, Prayer Plant, Maiden Hair Fern, Coleus Kong Rose, Jr., Flax plant, Fittonia Blanco Verde, Caramel Heuchera, Creeping Fig

1. Fill planter with potting mix

2. Add fertilizer before plants

3. Start with white Christmas Caladium in center having removed a bit of the root

4. Place Prayer Plant in left corner

5. Plant Maiden Hair Ferns diagonally across from each other

6. Add the Coleus Kong Rose, Jr

7. Then give that spunky flax plant pride of place in the front to the side

8. Underplant the Flax and Caladium with the Fittonia Blanco Verde (he’s a little too show-offy to be in full view

9. Add in the Caramel Heuchera for a little color layering

10. Separate the Creeping Fig and place them in opposite corners

11. Water

Wooden Planter

Chappelle Planter

A little bit more involved

Margot with planter

This is a wonderful go anywhere/hold anything planter. If you want something simple, plop a rosemary plant down in there. Or try this frothy bouquet of colorful blooms.


Potting mix, fertilizer

Yellow African Daisies, Pink Ranunculus, Angelonia Archangel, Hot Cakes Mix Stocks, Sonata Pink Cosmos, Superbells Lemon Slice, Pink Petunia, Light Pink Diascia


1. Fill with potting mix and mix in your fertilizer before planting. You’re going to be building the bouquet from the inside out

2. Plant African Daisies forward of the center

3. Combine the ranunculus ( pare a little off the roots ) and plant in one clump making a mini-bouquet in the center

4. Place Angelonia in front diagonal

5. Put two Hot Cakes Mix Stocks together for more impact (you can squeeze the root balls together as one)

6. Add more Stocks on the edge

7. Plant Sonata Pink Cosmos on both sides

8. For a little more color and some cascade, add Superbells Lemon slice, Spreading pink petunia, and Light Pink Diascia over the sides of the planter

9. When I finished, I realized I needed a little pop of coral, so I added these petunias, but, they are extra… and not necessary to the overall design (sometimes I think more is more)

10. Water


Maison Oval Planter

A bit more involved

Maison Oval Planter

Now for the piece de resistance – or really, just  my favorite, and most involved design. This handsome copper oval planter with its warm reflective finish just shouted “cool, white, bubbly” to me, so I opted for an all white palate with layers of different heights,  shapes, and textures.


Potting mix, fertilizer

White Hydrangeas, white Ranunculus, White Cosmos, White Lobelia, Ranblin’ White Petunia, white Geraniums, and Silver Stream Alyssum

Hint: When using smaller root balls in a container, leave the soil a couple of inches below the lip to allow for soil displacement. Once its full the soil will actually reach the rim.

1. Fill with potting mix (or, you can use mulch or peanuts at the bottom to decrease the overall weight of this large planter – but not necessary if you don’t plan to move it)

2. Mix in fertilizer

3. I chose Hydrangeas as the base flower as it’s the largest, planting them closer to the back to allow room for other flowers to fill in – (if the root ball is loose, you don’t have to score it, so dig a hole a couple of inches deep and place the plant in and cover with soil

4. Then tall Ranunculus go in intermittently, just for fun, dancing height

5. Tuck in wall Cosmos on the ends

6. Plant smallest Cosmos in the middle for balance

7. Layer Lobelia in front of Hydrangeas, Ranunculus, and Cosmos

8. Plant Allysum to spill over front of container(This may seem a little snug, but as long as the roots are in the soil and not exposed to the sun, they’ll be fine)

9. Add the Petunia for a different shape and some more froth

10. I added geraniums at the end, which, are not crucial to the design, but I think are the perfect finishing summer touch.

11. Water


Have other planter ideas you’d like to share? Leave us a note in the comments below.

Caroline McDonald

Caroline lives for pairing together patterns, mixing furniture styles, and oogling over our newest furniture pieces. As you can imagine, her little 1920's craftsman is in a constant state of flux. Here on How to Decorate, it's her goal to help you turn your home into your own little slice of paradise.


  1. Reply


    May 10, 2013

    Ooh, pretty! My balcony could use some of these for sure.

  2. Reply


    May 9, 2013

    Margot, as usual, GREAT JOB! I love all of your ideas.