The 13 Best Fall Container Plants to Spruce Up Your Porch or Garden
Don’t put your gardening tools away yet. While your summer garden may be fading (goodbye, tomatoes and scraggly annuals!), there’s plenty of the growing season left to get your hands dirty and enjoy the mental and physical benefits of gardening. Containers don’t have to feature only flowers; perennials and small shrubs also can offer a splash of long-lasting fall color. And nothing helps you welcome the new season quite like a beautiful container or window box you created yourself to display on the front porch, patio or balcony.
When it comes to creating the perfect fall container, sometimes you can get away with pulling out a few annuals that are past their prime and tucking in new plants. Sometimes you have to start from scratch and recreate a whole new look. Regardless, there’s a trick to doing it right. Focus on the idea of combining three key types of plants to give your container dimension: Spillers, which drape over the sides of a container; thrillers, which offer dramatic height or a “wow” factor; and fillers, which are any plant that rounds out a container. By combining plants from each category, you’ll create a long-lasting autumn display that will shine from now until a hard freeze. Just be sure to choose companion plants that like the same lighting conditions.
Color combinations are totally about personal preference. Fall shades of yellows, oranges and deep reds that echo the changing season are always lovely, but choose whatever you love. It’s fine to go monochromatic, too, selecting plants and flowers that have similar hues. And don’t get stuck on using flowers alone. Many colorful foliage plants, such as caladium and heuchera, offer a splash of color and drama with their leaves alone. One more hint: Fill your planter in so it’s lush and full from the day you plant it. There won’t be time for plants to fill in before the first frost, so pack ‘em in there. It’s also fun to add long-lasting accents such as colorful twigs or dried bittersweet, dried hydrangea flowers you clip off nearby shrubs, and pretty gourds or pumpkins for color and interest.
Now, get creative and combine these best fall container plants for a one-of-a-kind display.
These plants drape gracefully over the edges of containers.
These easy-care annuals come in every shade of the rainbow, including autumn-perfect colors such as pumpkin and sunny yellow. They’re also sturdy plants that will keep going strong until the first frost. Needs full sun.
2. Sweet Potato Vine
This vigorous annual looks amazing spilling over the edges of containers. You’ll find it in many different colors from pale green to dark burgundy, but the lime green color is especially eye-catching when planted with bright orange chrysanthemums. Prefers full sun but tolerates some shade.
This sturdy annual (perennial in warm climates) keeps blooming and blooming until a frost. Pollinators love it, and it comes in saturated oranges, yellows, pinks, and pure white, so it will coordinate easily with other container plants. Needs full sun.
4. Creeping Jenny
This perennial has cute little rounded lemony-lime leaves and delicate stems that creep vigorously out of pots and window boxes. Evergreen in warm climates. Likes part sun.
These plants add height and drama to a container.
5. Japanese Forest Grass
Ornamental grasses offer interesting texture and color to fall containers. This one has long, bright leaves and an attractive mounding form. Needs part to full sun.
6. Purple Fountain Grass
Here’s another beautiful ornamental grass that looks smashing in containers. This one features pretty pinkish seed heads that complement many different fall flowers from mums to asters. It’s perennial in warm climates but is treated as an annual elsewhere. Needs full sun but tolerates some shade.
This plant is grown for its striking leaf color including shades of gold, red, lime green, burgundy and everything in between. Many types of coleus need full shade, but new varieties will handle sun just fine. Read the plant tag or description to learn what it needs.
The charming heart-shaped leaves of this plant are so eye-catching. They’re available in various shades of white, pink, and red. Caladium are considered annuals except for in warm climates, but you can dig them up and bring them indoors as a houseplant before the first frost. Purchase live plants because by fall, it’s too late to grow them from bulbs in most of the country. Tolerates sun or shade.
These plants round out a planter to create a lush, full feel.
9. Dusty Miller
This perennial has a fuzzy, silver texture that contrasts beautifully with purple autumn flowers, such as asters. Needs full sun.
This beautiful perennial has frilly leaves and stunning foliage that comes in shades of silver, purple, caramel, burgundy, berry, and lime green. It has a tidy, mounded shape and works as a lovely contrast to other autumn plants. Likes part to full sun.
You might not think about using a small shrub for fall containers, but hydrangeas are great options for interesting autumn color and texture. They can stand alone or pair nicely with foliage plants such as heuchera. Stick with dwarf types, and if you plan to leave it in the container over the winter, be on the safe side and choose a variety that’s two hardiness zones colder than yours. So, if you live in zone 5, look for one that tolerates zone 3 winters. Needs mostly sun, afternoon shade in hot climates.
Mums are the quintessential fall flower, and you almost have to use them in autumn displays. Choose from a rainbow of colors, and plant them with other types of flowers or with other mums in contrasting colors for long-lasting color. Although they’re technically perennials, mums planted in the fall usually don’t come back next spring. (That’s because they put all their energy into blooming, not forming strong enough roots to get through the winter.) Needs full sun.
13. Ornamental Cabbage and Kale
Yes, cabbage can be sexy! These stunning plants don’t mind the cold and will thrive even after the first frost. Mix them with other fall favorites, or let them stand alone for their outstanding colors and textures.