By Susan Albert
When thoughts turn to autumn in the South Central region, they bring to mind the muted shades of orange, yellow, brown, and burgundy—just the right palette for a fall container garden. But don’t stop there. Asters, violas, and pansies bring rich tones of violet, lavender, and magenta.
Creating a fall container starts with a pot or other receptacle suitable for holding soil and plants. Ideally the bottom has drainage holes. Add a lightweight potting mix and fall’s bounty for a head-turning display.
Here are some favorite plants to try in a fall container:
- Chrysanthemum — perennial
- Pansy and viola — cool-season annuals
- Aster — perennial
- Ornamental cabbage and kale — cool-season annuals
- Snapdragon — annual that can tolerate light frost
- Marigold — annual that can tolerate light frost
- Coral-bells — perennial with evergreen foliage
- Ornamental grasses — annual and perennial
- Sedum — perennial
- Dusty miller — filler that can withstand light frosts
- Ferns — perennial
- Small shrubs
I like the look of a group of three containers, similar in color but in varying heights, each with a different plant. Or try different plants in the same pot, varying the heights and textures. Use contrasting colors or a monochromatic scheme.
For a container in a shady area, such as a porch, try one of the vivid burgundy or coppery-color coral-bells with hosta, variegated mondo grass, or the evergreen autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora 'Brilliance'). Add a small pumpkin or decorative gourds for a festive look. Shown here are coral-bells (Heuchera ‘Midnight Rose’), variegated mondo grass, and hosta. I also added some Chinese lanterns (Physalis alkekengi) from the garden for a whimsical touch.
For a container in full to part sun, group flowers, such as an aster and marigolds, with an ornamental grass for height. Also try an aster or mum with pansies, kale, and violas for a traditional fall display.
For a sunny container I tried the perennial gaura (G. lindheimeri ‘Gaudi Red’), with fountainlike stems; African marigolds; petunias; and bicolor snapdragons. The display should last well into fall and past the first frost. Another option, especially for the warmer zones, would be substituting purple fountain grass for the gaura.
For fall and winter containers I also like small shrubs, particularly those that are evergreen, for season-long interest on porches and patios. I found this slow-growing gold-thread false cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Filifera Aurea') at Lowe’s recently and plan to keep it in a container for a couple of years.
Deciduous dwarf barberries (Berberis thunbergii), including this purple-leaf variety at the Linnaeus Teaching Gardens in Tulsa, Oklahoma, work well in containers.
With the holiday season quickly approaching, switch gears from the heat of summer to the much-anticipated cooler weather with autumn-inspired container gardens.
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