By Julie Martens Forney
Fall container gardens brighten chilly autumn days. I refresh my summer pots with cool-season color plants that stand up to light frosts. The roster includes dazzling garden mums, textural ornamental cabbage, and frost-tolerant annuals.
Place fall container gardens for maximum impact, near entries, and in areas you frequently view from indoors. I showcase mine on the front porch, which also protects plants during cold Mid-Atlantic autumn nights.
Design with Thriller, Filler, and Spiller Plants
The classic thriller, filler, and spiller concept creates full autumn containers. Colorful garden mums play the role of thriller plant. I buy mums with flower buds just cracking open, so I can enjoy the floral fireworks.
For filler plants ornamental cabbage offers leafy ruffles, while violas add their cheery flower faces to the mix.
Sweet alyssum serves as the spiller plant, cascading over pot edges. Notice how tightly I pack plants into this pot. At this season plants aren’t going to grow like gangbusters. Spacing them tightly creates a lush, full container.
Watch for Pests
As autumn temperatures tumble, fewer pests plague plants. The main problems you encounter include aphids (they love garden mums), worms on the cabbage, and grasshoppers, which eat anything they can.
Handpick the worms and grasshoppers. A spray of soapy water kills aphids.
Frost and Fall Color
By filling my autumn containers with frost-tolerant annuals, I savor a long seasonal show. Garden mums usually withstand several light frosts (below 32 degrees but above 28 degrees), although white-flower mums typically show damage after one frost. My garden mum bites the dust after a hard freeze (below 28 degrees).
Ornamental cabbage, viola, and sweet alyssum survive a hard freeze—they’re true cool-season color plants.
Transition to Winter
Once the garden mum dies, I replace it with stems of pine, spruce, holly, and mountain laurel to create a winter container garden.
This evergreen collection sails through a Mid-Atlantic winter with steady good looks.
Do you plant fall container gardens? I’d love to hear about your plant combinations.
See more Mid-Atlantic Gardening Articles.