The growing season is finally here — time to fill pots with flowers and foliage. But which ones? To give you fresh ideas, we turned to Dean Engelmann, co-owner of Tangletown Gardens in South Minneapolis, and Heidi Heiland, owner of Heidi’s GrowHaus in Corcoran.

When designing a container garden, “thriller, filler and spiller” can be a useful blueprint for choosing and arranging plants.

A tall, bold “thriller” is the centerpiece. Then tuck in mounding “fillers.” Finally, insert “spillers” to cascade over the edge of pots.

But it’s the composition of repeating and contrasting textures, colors and shapes that makes a “wow” pot that pops.

“A bold, beautiful container can have great visual impact in a small space,” said Engelmann. Potted gardens deliver fresh color, greenery — and sometimes even a scent — to a balcony, patio, front step or townhouse courtyard.

For Heiland, beauty is only a piece of the pot. She encourages choosing plants that can be repurposed in the fall — as perennials for your garden, houseplants potted for indoors, and edibles for the dinner table. “They have many benefits beyond aesthetics,” she said.

So bypass the “old reliables” and try some new foliage and flower combinations in your potted gardens this spring. Turn to H5 for how to copy Engelmann’s and Heiland’s creations to make the most of sunny areas or to brighten up a shady spot.

Tangletown gardens

Designer: Dean Engelmann, co-owner, Tangletown Gardens, 5353 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-822-4769,

For eye-pleasing vignettes: Combine plants to create a top-to-bottom flow of color, like a waterfall. Repetition adds elegance to the arrangement.

Fave filler: Coarse-textured coleus because “it’s so versatile for sun or shade, and comes in so many different colors.”

His go-to potting mix: Plaisted Growers Mix.



• King Tut tropical papyrus (tall center) is the star of the show and can grow up to 5 feet tall. Substitute Baby Tut if you want a more petite papyrus.

• Wasabi coleus (mounding with sharp chartreuse foliage)

• Purple Heart setcreasea (trailing with spiky purple ­foliage and dainty pink flowers)

• Moneywort (cascading)

• Noa Orange calibrachoa (cascading orange hue contrasts with the purple heart)




• Painted Black Gecko elephant ear (tall center)

• Red Planet coleus (mounding with serrated edges)

• Lady Plymouth scented geranium (mounding with fine texture and mint green and white foliage)

• Echevaria elegans (center succulents)

• Lemon Ball sedum (mounding lemon-hued foliage )

• Ogon acorus variegated yellow grass (swordlike blades repeat sedum yellow)

• Noa Orange calibrachoa (cascading)



• Bloodgood Japanese maple (tall center); a lower-cost ­substitute is Bauer’s cordyline

• Rita’s Gold Boston fern (fine-textured center)

• Bossa Nova bell-shaped white begonia

• English ivy (trailing vine)

• Moneywort (cascading and repeats the fern’s yellow hue)




• Gartenmeister fuchsia with coral-red tubular flowers (tall center)

• Madame Queen begonia (mounding burgundy ruffled-edge foliage)

• Appleblossom nonstop begonia (white brushed with soft blush)

• Liriope variegated grass (compact grower with yellow stripes)

• Tapestry vine (burgundy and blush trailer)



Designer: Heidi Heiland, owner of Heidi’s Lifestyle Gardens and Heidi’s GrowHaus, 7555 County Road 116, Corcoran, 763-420-2909,

Can’t-miss combos: Burgundy and yellow foliage lights up a shady corner, and cheery primary colors pop in the sun.

Fave filler: “Sunflowers simply make you happy.”

Her go-to potting mix: Purple Cow.



• Sunfinity long-blooming sunflower (tall center)

• Purple Baron ornamental millet is an alternative to purple fountain grass (tall center)

• Aguilera Purple ageratum (mounding)

• Purple variegated setcreasea or Wandering Jew (mounding)

• Nemesia (vibrant red flowers, mounding)

• Velvet Elvis plectranthus (mounding purple-blue flower spikes and deep green foliage)

• Caleo Orange calendula (edible with daisylike flower)




• Yellow twig dogwood branches for height until red ­begonia fills in

• Gartenmeister fuchsia with coral-red tubular flowers (off center; can grow up to 36 inches tall)

• Dragon Wing scarlet red begonia (mounding)

• Goldi lysimachia or moneywort (cascading)

• Obsidian heuchera (mounding ruffled foliage)

• Purple variegated setcreasea or Wandering Jew (mounding)

• Blackie sweet potato vine (trailer repeats burgundy hue)

• Golden Japanese forest grass (clumping yellow leaves with green stripes)