12 Great Plants for Fall Container Gardens

Surprising, Beautiful Choices

Decorative Fall kale planter

 

ballycroy / Getty Images

Many of the same fall-flowering plants grown in the garden make fine specimens for containers and hanging baskets. Good candidates for fall containers include any flowering plant that has a genetic disposition to fall blooming or has a long-lasting bloom period that extends into fall. Good tolerance for the cooler temperatures of fall is also essential; heat-loving species don't make good fall flowers.

Traditionally, containers and hanging baskets are planted with vigorous-blooming annual flowers, but increasingly, gardeners are using traditional garden perennials for their containers. While plant species have varying soil needs when planted in garden settings, most plants do quite well in containers filled with an ordinary general-purpose potting soil.

Here are 12 good ornamental plants to consider for your fall container gardens.

  • 01 of 12

    Coral Bells (Heuchera cultivars)

    Coral Bells in planter


    retrofutur / Getty Images

    Coral Bells, a long-favored species for gardens, has also become a favorite container plant. These perennial plants come in a huge range of colors and leaf textures, and they are almost impossible to kill. Coral bells is a mounding plant and it looks great on its own their own or paired with plants that either contrasting plants or offer varying shades of the same color. Coral bells can work especially well with gourds, mums, and ornamental grasses. Choose a dark, almost black leaf, like 'Dolce, Licorice' or choose the lighter 'Dolce, Peach Melba' for a terrific fall plant that works well with many fall decorations. They also look lovely when paired with pumpkin planters.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Red, white, coral, pink
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial sun
    • Soil Needs: Moist, loamy soil
  • 02 of 12

    Verbena (Verbena spp.)

    Verbena planter

     

    fotokate / Getty Images

    Verbena is a very large genus of prolific-blooming species, but the ones most often grown in containers are shorter varieties, usually grown as annuals. They are considered good fall flowers on the basis of a very long bloom period and their tolerance for cool temperatures. Many verbenas are hardy down to 15 degrees Fahrenheit and will continue flowering even after the first frost. Verbenas look great either on their own or filling in spaces and spilling over the edges of garden planters, window boxes, or hanging baskets. Colors range from brilliant reds to deep, dark blue, to purples and pinks.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 11
    • Color Varieties: White, pink, red, lavender, blue, and purple
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Acidic soil
  • 03 of 12

    Oxalis or Shamrock (Oxalis regnellii)

    Oxalis in Rustic basket
    Kerry Michaels

    A warm-weather perennial generally grown as an annual, oxalis is elegant and cheerful. It is exceedingly easy to grow and likes partial shade to full shade. Oxalis is a mounding plant and grows to be 12 to 18 inches high, making it a good plant to use in filling out a container. It comes in several colors including a nearly black, ‘Charmed Velvet', and a burgundy color called ‘Charmed Wine'. Another plus about oxalis is that you can bring it inside to overwinter.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 8 to 11
    • Color Varieties: Mauve, lavender
    • Sun Exposure: Partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-draining soil
  • 04 of 12

    Ornamental Cabbage and Kale (Brassica oleracea)

    Container garden picture of basket with three flowering cabbage
    Kerry Michaels

    Ornamental cabbages are delightfully chubby and cheerful plants, while the kales are spiky. However, both of these plants will take you well into fall with style and beautiful sage greens blended with pinks and purples. As a bonus, the colors of flowering cabbage and kale only intensify as the weather gets colder, especially after a frost. Cabbages are wonderful grouped in either rustic garden planters or low baskets. They also can bring some great color and texture to mixed container gardens. Kales can look great in funky shallow baskets, window boxes, or modern metal planters with clean lines. These are bold plants, so don’t be afraid to put them in unusual containers or combine them with unlikely plants.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 11
    • Color Varieties: Ornamental leaves in purple, rose, cream
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Loamy soil
    Continue to 5 of 12 below.
  • 05 of 12

    Sedum (Sedum, Hylotelephium spp.)

    Stonecrop

     

    HaiGala / Getty Images

    The very large Sedum genus recently was split, with 33 species reassigned to the Hylotelephium genus). This included some standard favorites, such as 'Autumn Joy, now known as Hylotelephium 'Herbstfreude' AUTUMN JOY. However, they are all still generally known by the common name of sedum, or stonecrop.

    Many of the fall-blooming Sedum (or Hylotelephium) species are classic plants for fall container gardens. Blooming in late summer to early fall, sedum is easy to grow in containers, and there is a vast array of species and cultivars with different textures and flowers. Sedum is a particularly good choice of plant for a fall container that you want to leave out all winter because the dried flowers can look beautiful, especially covered with snow or frost. Some varieties can get pretty tall and are great to use in the center or back of a container.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 10
    • Color Varieties: Pink to mauve
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Average soil with good drainage
  • 06 of 12

    Garden Mums (Chrysanthemum morifolium)

    Daisy Type Garden Mum
    Marie Iannotti

    The potted garden mums that are sold so prevalently for fall display are typically forced into late bloom by commercial growers, who keep them closely pruned back until late July, waiting until early fall to put them out for sale at nurseries. If you are growing your own potted mums from transplants purchased in spring, they will be likely to bloom in mid to late summer unless you pinch off all buds and keep the shoots pruned back. If you stop pruning in early July, the plants will likely flesh out and begin blooming in September.

    Although they are perennials, mums are more typically grown as annuals, discarded after blooming ends with the frost of late fall. But potted mums can sometimes be overwintered if you cut back the shoots and place them in a sheltered location over the coldest months. Put the pots back into a warm sunny location in spring, and keep them closely pruned again until mid-summer.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties:  Lavender, white, yellow, red, and orange
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained soil
  • 07 of 12

    Asters (Aster spp.)

    New England aster flowers with purple petals and yellow centers.
    Kevin Dutton

    The blue or indigo purple flowers of aster are a symbol of the fall garden and can work equally well in a fall container garden. Since most types grow rather tall—as much as 6 feet—these are plants best suited for very large containers. As container plants, they do best when planted in compost and kept moist but not soggy. After flowering is complete, cut the stems back completely and store the potted plants in a cold frame or greenhouse.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Violet or blue with yellow centers
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Medium, well-drained soil
  • 08 of 12

    Pansies (Viola × wittrockiana)

    Pansies in Clementine Orange Box

    Kerry Michaels

    Pansies are classic cool-weather annuals that typically make their appearance in the early spring garden, but they can be planted again for the fall, after the weather has cooled. Pansies don't do well in the hot months of midsummer. They need fairly moist soil, so water them frequently when growing them in containers or hanging baskets.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 9
    • Color Varieties:  Blue, purple, red, rose, yellow, apricot, maroon, white and bicolors
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained soil
    Continue to 9 of 12 below.
  • 09 of 12

    Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)

    Black-eyed susan flower (image) is known for its cheer. It is a drought-tolerant perennial.
    David Beaulieu

    Black-eyed Susans are a traditional form of perennial daisy that can be grown in containers as well as in the garden. They bloom from midsummer to late fall and can be overwintered if the containers are placed in a sheltered area for the cold months. Unlike many perennials, black-eyed Susans are relatively easy to grow from seeds. Use a well-drained potting soil over a thick layer of porous gravel.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 7
    • Color Varieties: Yellow
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture soil
  • 10 of 12

    Coneflower (Echinacea spp.)

    Coneflowers

    alvaroreguly

    The various forms of perennial coneflower are standard fall flowers in the garden, blooming with daisy-like flowers in late summer that last through the fall, but they can also work well in containers. In most climates, the pots can be moved to a sheltered area to successfully overwinter. Or they can be grown as annuals, planted afresh in containers each spring.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Purplish pink; other colors also available
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average dry to medium-moisture soil
  • 11 of 12

    Million Bells (Calibrachoa group)

    Million Bells flowers

    Maria Mosolova / Getty Images

    This warm-weather perennial is grown as an annual in most climates. This profuse bloomer has flowers that resemble small petunias (to which it is related), and it holds up well as the weather cools in the fall. Million bells is more often grown in containers than in garden soil. It has a mounding habit that works well in conjunction with trailing plants in mixed hanging baskets or large containers on decks and patios.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11
    • Color Varieties: Violet, blue, pink, red, magenta, yellow, bronze, white
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained soil
  • 12 of 12

    Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum)

    purple fountain grass
    David Beaulieu

    Although not a flower, this ornamental grass makes a good centerpiece for large mixed containers, presented best when surrounded by cascading plants. The stalks are topped with attractive bristling seed heads in late summer, which last well into fall. The plant has an arching, clumping growth habit and grows up to 5 feet tall. Purple fountain grass is a warm-weather perennial often grown as an annual, since it grows quickly from seeds.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11
    • Color Varieties: Burgundy red
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Medium-moisture, well-drained soil

Tip

To keep your garden interesting even in winter, choose plants like sedum that can overwinter with continuously interesting flowers and foliage.