Exterior Decoration · Gardening

How To Develop A Summer Planter Color Scheme

Once the worst of the tree pollen tsunami has passed, it’s time to clean off all the gunk and start thinking about putting together summer planters for the deck. We use our deck exclusively for outdoor dining, so only an umbrella table, chairs, and our grill are on it. To turn this rather barren space into an inviting place to have a meal, I like to decorate it with various containers filled with beautiful flowers.

Developing A Color Scheme

Trying to figure out what colors look best together when faced with the overwhelming number of flowers available these days can be difficult. And premade planters can be quite expensive. So, the first thing I do before I go to the garden center is to come up with a color scheme. I like to choose three main flower colors. Although, I also often add small pops of white to brighten my arrangements. I prefer to limit the palette for my summer planters because it gives the outdoor “room” a more cohesive put-together look.

This year, I was inspired by a red, pink, and yellow floral pattern on a settee in my formal living room. The sumptuous bouquets of vibrant multi-hued blossoms have such an exuberant vibe that I thought would look great on the deck. Because I am particularly fond of the red and yellow “Parrot” Tulips in the print, I was determined to find summer flowers with a similar dual color combination.

Vintage inspiration fabric for summer planters.
Vintage floral inspiration fabric

Planting Strategy

I’m sure you’ve heard the formula which recommends including “thriller,” “filler,” and “spiller plants in your container gardens. This is a helpful guideline, but I also think it’s important to consider the sizes of the blooms you choose. With this in mind, I try to vary the size of the flower heads in the three different colors of plants I’ve chosen for my summer planters.

Because I tend to purchase quite a few varieties of flowers to mix and match in my various planters, I exclusively purchase only cost-effective plants from The Home Depot and Lowes. Another thing I do to save money is to divide plants that are potted together in larger pots. For example, I only bought one pot of red Geraniums. But within that one pot, I was able to separate four individual plants which I planted in four different planters.

All flowers used in the four different-sized summer planters I use on my deck are full or partial sun plants.

Flower Box Summer Planters

The lovely red, pink, and yellow flowers that fill this summer planter were inspired by a favorite floral print.
I should have repainted my planter boxes before I planted my summer flowers. Since I didn’t, I am just saying they are shabby chic!
Geraniums, petunias, verbena, and million bells fill a cheerful summer  planter.
We’ve had a lot of heavy rain recently, which has been hard on the flowers I potted in my summer planters. I would have preferred to wait a while to take photos, but I wanted to publish this post as early in the season as I could. I will post updates on the planters on Instagram later in the summer.

The first summer planters I decided to tackle are the two flower boxes that sit on the deck rails. My “thrillers” are Geraniums. They are relatively tall and have the most upright growing habit of the plants I chose for the boxes. I selected one classic deep red Geranium and one “Calliope Crimson Pink Flame” Geranium for each planter. The”Calliope” Geraniums remind me of the flowers on my settee, as they are two-toned. They have hot pink blossoms with deep red eyes. Even though there is not much space in these narrow boxes, I tried to plant the Geraniums towards the center back of the planter.

Calliope Crimson Flame Geranium is the "thriller" in this colorful summer planter.
Calliope Crimson Flame Geranium
Classic red and Calliope Crimson Flame Geraniums serve as the "thrillers" in a lovely summer planter.
I anticipate that the Geraniums will grow much taller in the next couple of weeks.

Since I wanted these containers to look lush and full, I didn’t include any “filler” plants. Rather, I added a variety of “spillers or trailing plants to mix together and overflow the boxes. Keeping in mind my desire for bicolor blooms, I chose two yellow and white striped Grande Superbells “Lemon Slice” (Calibrachoa) to flank the geraniums in the back of the planter. These mini petunia-like blooms are a great addition to the flower boxes because they are heat tolerant and don’t require deadheading.

Lemon Slice Grand Superbells are a great trailing plant to add to summer planters.
Grande Superbells “Lemon Slice” (Calibrachoa)
Pink Bubblegum Supertunias, Queen Of Hearts Petunias, Yellow Slice Super Bells, and White Blush Verbena look gorgeous together in summer planters.

The front row of the flower boxes is bookended with “Bubblegum” (pink) Supertunia Vista Petunias. Next to the pink petunias, I planted striking “Queen Of Hearts” Petunias.

Queen Of Hearts Petunia is the star of colorful summer planters.
Queen Of Hearts Petunia is a standout flower in summer planters.
Queen Of Hearts Petunias are named for their red heart-shaped petals.


I chose these red and yellow striped blooms because they closely resemble the Parrot tulips from my inspiration fabric. The final plant in the center front of the flower boxes is a delicate “White Blush” Verbena. I chose it for it’s light color and because it’s supposed to be heat tolerant and long flowering.

Delicate White Blush Verbena has a brightening effect in summer planters.
White Blush Verbena
How To Develop A Color Scheme For Summer Planters

Large Summer Planters

Large pots overflow with pink, red, and yellow blooms inspired by a favorite floral fabric.

After finishing the flower boxes, I moved on to two large faux terracotta pots that sit at the end of my deck. I usually like to plant something tall in these large summer planters. I have put Hibiscus standards in the pots and underplanted them with some Petunias and Potato Vine in past years.


Dipladenias are the "thriller" flower in large summer planters.

This year I decided to try something new for the “thriller” or feature plant in these pots. So, when I found these pretty pink Dipladenias at Lowes, I thought I’d give them a try. I wasn’t familiar with them, but they look like Mandevilla. However, unlike Mandevilla, which are vining plants, the Dipladenias grow upright in the form of a small shrub. I placed the Dipladenias towards the back of each large pot—this left room to plant shorter and trailing plants around the bases.

Two different Verbenas, Begonias, and Bacopa surround a beautiful pink dipladenia in this large summer planter.

Having taken care of a pink element in the pots with the Dipladenias, I needed to include some red and yellow flowers.


Low mounding Valentino White Rieger Begonias peek out from under a pink shrub-like Dipladenia in this large summer planter
I love how the clumps of low-growing Valentino White Rieger Begonias are tucked in under the Dipladenia.

I’d purchased what The Home Depot refers to as a living bowl, filled with “Valentino White” Rieger Begonias. (I couldn’t find these at Home Depot online. They are available online here.) These are sweet little pale pink (almost white) buttercup-like plants with showy yellow centers. The bowl contained four separate plants, so I transplanted two begonias, which have a mounding habit, into the front of each large pot.

Pretty pink, red, and yellow flowers in this large summer planter were inspired by a favorite floral fabric.

In between the Begonias, I planted another White Blush Verbena. I then continued to fill the area around the Dipladenia with a pair of red “Superbena” Verbenas and a couple of “Betty” white Bacopas. These “spiller” plants will eventually trail over the side of the pots in a colorful cascade.

Large summer planter inspired by a favorite vintage floral fabric.
How to create summer planters inspired by a favorite floral print.
How to create lovely summer planters inspired by a favorite floral print.

Medium-sized Summer Planters

Shiny yellow pots planted with Aloha Kona Tiki Soft Pink Million Bells, Starsister Dahlias, and Red Geraniums.

To give dinner guests seated facing the house something pretty to look at, I’ve hung a pair of decorative wrought iron pot shelves on the back wall of the house. On these shelves, I have placed sunny yellow medium-sized pots.

Starsister Dahlias are a showy addition to summer planters.
Starsister Dahlias

This year, I started planting each of these pots with a Red Geranium. I next put in two “Starsister” Dahlias. (I couldn’t find them at Lowes or Home Depot online. Check your local store or find them online here.) Like the “Queen Of Hearts Petunias,” these Dahlias share the red and yellow striped feature of the “Parrot” Tulips in my inspiration fabric.

Medium Pink Million Bells with fuschia throats and yellow centers cascade over shiny yellow summer planters.
Aloha Kona Soft Pink Million Bells (Calibrachoa.)

The final plant I added to these pots is an “Aloha Kona Tiki Soft Pink” Calibrachoa. These Million Bells or Mini Petunias refer back to my upholstery print flowers because they are multi-colored showstoppers. They have trumpet-like pink flowers with yellow throats and deep pink centers. Calibrachoas are the perfect “spillers,” as they will provide summer-long blooms that will billow over the edge of the shiny yellow pots.

Medium Pink Million Bells with fuschia throats and yellow centers cascade over shiny yellow summer planters.
The rain did in the Geranium blooms, so you’ll just have to imagine what they will look like when they bloom again.

Small Summer Planters

Nonstop Yellow Begonias brighten up an outdoor table surrounded by mixed summer planters.
Nonstop Yellow Begonias make a gorgeous centerpiece on an outdoor dining table.

I completed the decoration of my outdoor “room” with summer flower planters by placing two Nonstop Yellow Begonias on the dining table.

Nonstop Yellow Begonias make a gorgeous centerpiece on an outdoor dining table.
Nonstop Yellow Begonias make a gorgeous centerpiece on an outdoor dining table.
Beautiful summer planters inspired by a favorite floral fabric.

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16 thoughts on “How To Develop A Summer Planter Color Scheme

  1. Just lovely Lisa! One of my favorite annual flowers is a petunia and the petunia family. You have chosen some really beautiful varieties of flowers. Im guessing deer don’t join you for dinner 🙂
    Thank you for making me smile.

    1. Thanks, Deborah. I love Petunias too. I particularly love the Supertunia varieties that you don’t have to deadhead. Happy Spring!

  2. Wow, everything looks fantastic– what a creative idea to base your scheme around the fabric. I hope the weather cooperates and you’re able to spend a lot of time enjoying your beautiful outdoor space

  3. I love how you had a specific design idea you were working toward. With so many beautiful plants to choose from, the process of picking which ones to plant can be overwhelming – I can see how it would be so much easier with a design already in mind.

    I loved the heart-shaped flowers!

  4. Larr, you captured the fabric inspiration with your potted summer flowers. I’ve been having a thing for petunias this year. And always love the verbena, bacopa, and those double yellow begonias! Beautiful arrangements.

    Would love it if you were to add this post to my Friday with Friends link party. It’s open until Tuesday night 8pm MT.

    1. Thanks, Rachelle for taking the time to comment. I am happy to link my post to Friday with Friends.

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