Explore the Grounds

Container and Display Gardens

Look for container gardens and displays near the Visitor Center and the Thornhill Education Center at The Morton Arboretum.

Content Detail

Look for colorful, creative, and sometimes whimsical container gardens and display beds as you explore in the areas near the Visitor Center and the Thornhill Education Center at The Morton Arboretum.

These popular seasonal displays may give you ideas for adding color and texture to your own home garden and landscape. The gardens can incorporate many kinds of plants, including aquatics, annuals, perennials, ornamental grasses, tropical plants, and flowering bulbs.

In keeping with the Arboretum’s focus on trees and woody plants, each container display is centered on a tree or shrub. In fall and winter, many of the containers get seasonal displays. You’ll find container and display gardens in the Children’s Garden, Arbor Court, The Gerard T. Donnelly Grand Garden, May T. Watts Reading Garden, the Four Seasons Garden, the Fragrance Garden, at the Administration and Research Center entrance, and at the Thornhill Education Center.

Container Garden Planting Tips

First, choose plants that are suited to container displays. Four types of plants are typically used in a container design.

Background Plants

These plants are usually the tallest, placed in the back of the container for height.

Center Plants

Also usually tall, these plants are used to anchor the center of the container when no background plants are used.

Mid-height Plants

These intermediate-sized plants are typically used in front of the background plant, or they can surround the center plants. In smaller containers, they can be used by themselves or with trailing plants.

Trailing Plants

These plants cascade over the edge of the container. They are often used in combination with any or all the other plant types.

You can select flowering and foliage plants with a variety of textures and patterns. Consider combining complementary colors, such as red and green, yellow and purple, or blue and orange. Or you can try using a variety of plants with the same color, such as white or yellow, in their flowers and foliage, for a more subtle but intriguing container.

Display Bed and Container Plant Lists

The container and display gardens are different every year. Below are downloadable and printable plant lists from recent years. In these lists, each of the containers and display beds has a location and each container has a number, so you can find the plant list for a display you especially like. The lists also include maps.


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