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How to Plant Stacked Containers

Jill is a former Master Gardener and Naturalist who enjoys cooking, abstract painting and stewardship.

Bet you won't make just one!

Stacked containers are an easy, space-saving and cost-efficient method for creating gorgeous mixed flower pots perfect for small patios, balconies, kitchens and entryways.

Stacking gives your old containers a whole new look. They can also be less expensive and lighter weight than conventional planters, requiring fewer plants and less potting soil.


A wheelbarrow of fun.

Here's what you'll need to make a stacked pot.

  • 2-3 pots in ascending sizes, each with drainage holes*
  • 2-3 clean plastic nursery pots to fit inside them
  • Assorted plants, including 1 tall thriller, 3 bushy fillers and 3 or more trailing spillers
  • Potting soil
  • Water

*Plastic or ceramic containers, which retain water best, work well for full-sun annuals. For plants that need well-drained soil, such as herbs, try clay pots.

You can buy matching containers of various sizes or just use what you have. Over time, the inner pots will become obscured by plants.

The First Tier


Warning: This is going to be messy.

Make a sturdy base.

Place an upside down plastic nursery pot in the largest container, pour potting soil around it and moisten the soil. The plastic pot should feel sturdy in the pot and rest level.

That's it! You've created the first tier. Now you're ready to build the next level of your stacked container.

The Second Tier


Are your hands dirty yet?

Next, place the second largest pot on the upturned nursery pot. Make sure it's stable and that the drainage holes line up.

Then put an upside down plastic pot inside pot #2.

Pour potting soil around it and add a bit of water.

The Optional Third Tier


One more time with feeling.

If you want to make a three-stack pot, place a small pot on top of the second planter's inner plastic pot. Again, make sure it's stable and that the drainage holes are aligned.

Finally, place an upside down plastic pot inside the third tier, pour potting mix around it and add water.

Whew! Now all of the tiers are in place, you're ready to plant!

Planting Time

Thrillers, spillers & fillers

Begin adding spillers and fillers (trailing and bushy) plants to the first layer first. Don't be afraid to manhandle the roots a bit. You're going to have to in order to cram—er, plant them in the bottom planter. You'll have to add more soil, too.

Scroll to Continue

After planting the bottom pot, you'll probably have to adjust the pot at the second level. (Things tend to shift a bit as you're "cramming.") Keep going, adding in more spillers and fillers, more soil, and adjusting the pots.

Plant the thriller (the tall show-stopper) in the top pot along with any additional fillers and spillers until all of your plants are planted.

Be sure to leave a small un-planted area in the top pot to serve as a watering spot. This will allow you to water the entire stacked container from the top.

Add more soil as you plant.

Add more soil as you plant.

Budget Two-Tier Stacked Container

Created for a sunny corner, the budget-friendly stacked container below has only two tiers and contains just six plants: a Martha Washington geranium thriller, Dusty Miller fillers and snowdrop spillers.

To keep costs down, the plants are located on the front side only, and the thriller is planted against the back of the top pot.

A two-tier pot at one week old. As the flowers grow, the inner pot will become completely obscured.

A two-tier pot at one week old. As the flowers grow, the inner pot will become completely obscured.

The same pot at two weeks.

The same pot at two weeks.

A 3-Tier Stacked Pot Instructional Video: White Garden

Sample Three-Tier


The three-tier stacked container above is planted with sun-loving, drought tolerant plants. The bottom tier contains Oenothera berlanderi siskiyou 'Pink' (evening primrose) and Verbena canadensis 'Homestead Purple'. The second tier contains the same as well as Sedum 'blue spruce.' At the very top is a small dracaena.

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Jill Spencer


Jill Spencer (author) from United States on June 02, 2020:

Hi, Joan. The blue planter above is 16 inches in diameter, and the filler pot is 9. The green pots for the three tier planter I no longer have (they cracked over time), but they are closer in size. For the three-tier, I only had about three or four inches of difference between the pots and really had to split the plant roots and cram the plants in. They did just fine despite the rough treatment, however. Just be sure to stuff in extra soil, too. Hope your planter is a success! Best, Jill

Joan Embertsonmeticulous on May 26, 2020:

Thanks for letting me know that u will get back to me hope u feel better soon

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on May 25, 2020:

Joan, I’m a little sick today but will check the pots out tomorrow and get back to you. Jill

Joan Embertsonmeticulous on May 25, 2020:

Hi was wondering what sized pots u used I'm having a hard time building one of these because there is no room to put my Flowers my pot for the bottom is 18 " wide the second pot is 13 inches wide what am I doing wrong

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on April 19, 2013:

Hi Rebecca! Thanks for stopping by. Since you love container gardening, you'll have to give stacked pots a try. They're sort of fun to make & a little different from the same old same old. Take care, Jill

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on April 18, 2013:

This is just awesome, DF. I love container gardening. I like the stacked pots idea. How novel. a new one on me. Love it!

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on April 18, 2013:

Hi Sharkye11! Glad you stopped by, and thanks for sharing this hub. Absolutely don't buy a kit. One of the big advantages of stacked containers is that you can use what you have in a unique way. Thanks again for reading! Take care, Jill

Jayme Kinsey from Oklahoma on April 18, 2013:

Love this! I've seen stacked planters, but wasn't really sure how to do it without buying the expensive pre-made variety. This is a great tutorial! Voting, sharing and more!

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on April 18, 2013:

Have fun, Glimmer Twin Fan! Stacked pots really do look nice.

Claudia Porter on April 18, 2013:

This is an awesome idea. I have put plastic pots in my large deck containers, but that was only so I did not have to put so much dirt in the planter. I have just the corner for it! Shared.etc...

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on April 05, 2013:

You'll do fine, Patricia. Just don't drop a pot on your foot! (I speak from bitter experience.) Hope you have a great weekend, too. Take care, Jill

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on April 05, 2013:

How cool is this. I will be making some of these for my yard. I have bookmarked these to look at to avoid a fiasco. The photos and clear directions help greatly

Sending Angels your way Have a lovely weekend :) ps

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on April 02, 2013:

Hi Marina7. I like that pot, too. The color is so vivid, and white plants really look good in it. Thanks so much for commenting. All the best, Jill

Marina from Clarksville TN on April 02, 2013:

I like the first one in the big blue pot the best. Thank you very much. Excellent hub!!

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on April 02, 2013:

Hey Deb. I don't fill up any pot completely w/soil anymore. Now I'm into using pinecones--but not for stacked containers. I think they'd probably tip over! Nice to hear from you. --Jill

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on April 02, 2013:

Absolutely fabulous! And to think that I was wasting all that dirt for no reason.

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on April 02, 2013:

Hope stacking works for you, Donna. Be sure to plant the containers where you intend for them stay. They can be really heavy, even when the potting mix is cut in half. Take care, Jill

Donna Hilbrandt from Upstate New York on April 02, 2013:

I love this idea also. I need some space saving, dramatic ideas for my apartment patio garden, and this could be the winner. Thanks!

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on April 02, 2013:

Thanks, Maren! Hope you're enjoying spring! It's starting to get pretty here, although it's still a bit chilly, especially in the mornings. Take care, Jill

Maren Elizabeth Morgan from Pennsylvania on April 02, 2013:

Good stuff, as usual!

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on April 02, 2013:

Awesome, Randy! Bet you can make really beautiful, lush stacked gardens there. Take care, Jill

Randy McLaughlin from Liberia, Costa Rica on April 02, 2013:

I will try this and see what comes of it. It will be interesting to find out what combination of plants would work where I live. Thanks for the idea!

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on April 02, 2013:

Hi Carol! You could do some lovely drought-tolerant stacked pots there in Arizona. This year I think I'm going to do at least one in all white flowers so they'll "glow" in the garden at night. Thanks for commenting & sharing. Appreciate it. --Jill

carol stanley from Arizona on April 02, 2013:

I am always inspired to get into the dirt when reading one of your hubs. We have such a dry climate and bad soil..However I do want my backyard to look pretty..Love this idea as with all your writing. Voting up and pinning.

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on April 01, 2013:

Thanks, Suzie HQ! Making them is a lot of fun--a little something different, you know, just for a change. Glad you stopped by!

Hi ytsenoh-- Sounds like a nice weekend project. You're inspiring me to get out there, too, if the weather holds. Thanks for commenting & for your kind words. Take care, Jill

Cathy from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri on April 01, 2013:

Excellent. We were just talking about this over the weekend. As usual, you do such a fantastic job in sharing, explaining and helping through the instructions. Very nice.

Suzanne Ridgeway from Dublin, Ireland on April 01, 2013:

Hi Jill,

Love the tiered look you showed. i am a big fan of this type of planting and agree with you in the choices of plants in each tier. I love trailing plants at the lower levels and a nice stunner on the top! Looking forward to planting up this idea, voted up, useful, interesting and shared.

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on April 01, 2013:

Thank you for sharing! It's just about time to start making up our spring containers. I'd like to add a few more stacked pots and get much better pics. Take it easy. -- Jill

Donna Herron from USA on April 01, 2013:

I love how these stacked containers look. Pinning now :) Thanks for sharing!!

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