27 Plants for Gorgeous Fall Containers
When cool weather hits, and we all want that cozy fall feel, it is time to switch up your planters. Whether you toss out your summer arrangements and start from scratch or just switch up a few plants, certified Master Gardener Laura Elsner walks you through 27 plants that will be perfect for your fall containers.
I love playing with flowers and foliage. We all have a fall palette in our heads of deep, rich colors reminiscent of the leaves changing. This list is of 27 of my favorite fall plants that I love mixing and matching to create rich and stunning fall containers.
|botanical name Chrysanthemum spp.|
Mums are the quintessential fall flower. I know fall must be just around the corner when the garden centers start bringing out fall mums.
They come in a variety of colors and sizes. I have even seen some that have different colored flowers in one pot. One of the most simple and lovely fall containers I see is potted mums. I don’t even transplant them from the nursery containers. Place them in your outdoor pots so just the flowers are sticking out. This makes it easy to dispose of them once they have finished blooming.
Choose a variety of colors or stick with a single color. Place just two at the front door, or get a bunch and create a display down your front steps. Add in some pumpkins for an extra fall pop.
If you purchase hardy mums, you can plant them in your garden before the first frost. This gives their roots time to establish before the stress of the cold sets in. Once planted, you will have festive fall blooms year after year!
|botanical name Brassica oleracea spp.|
Ornamental cabbages and kale are beautiful in fall pots. The rich purples, pinks, green, and white colors match the changing leaves of fall.
My favorite varieties include ‘Songbird Red,’ which features layers of ruffled green leaves and a deep magenta center. ‘Peacock Red’ is a stunning variety with lacy, almost herringbone foliage. The outer leaves are a deep purple, and the center is deep magenta.
You can find a lot of ornamental kale and cabbages in garden centers in the fall. But my tip would be to buy them in spring with your other bedding annuals if you can. You can pick up a six-pack cell for cheap. Then plant them in your garden and let them grow big and fabulous. You can also find pretty varieties to grow from seed.
I usually do this in an out-of-the-way area of your garden. In autumn, I dig them up and plant them in mixed containers. They look great tucked into containers with pansies, fountain grass, and black-eyed Susans.
|botanical name Viola tricolor var. Hortensis|
Pansies are cool season flowers. I always buy them in early spring, and they begin to look sad during the summer heat. Once fall rolls around and the cool weather comes back, so do the pansies. Pansies will tolerate snow frost and below-freezing temperatures, making them an ideal fall flower. They are always a great choice for containers.
You will find them out in garden centers again during the fall. I always choose bright, cheery colors for spring pansies. For fall containers, I like to choose rich autumnal-colored pansies. ‘Tiger Eye Red’ pansies are rust-colored with a yellow center. Then, it has a black web tracing the petals’ veins. I also like matrix ‘Red Blotch’ pansies for fall. They are a rich red color with a darker center and a yellow center. They look great with yellow flowers or bright orange pumpkins.
Pansies grow easily from seed, too. Try the ‘Swiss Giants’ mix, with bigger blooms in rusty oranges, reds, deep pinks, and moody purples for a fun fall look.
Plant pansies in mixed containers with other fall flowers and foliage. They also look great in small containers on their own. I like the look of pansies planted into a pumpkin. Carve out the pumpkin and just place the pansy inside in its nursery container.
|botanical name Cenchrus americanus|
The deep-colored grassy foliage and tall fluffy stalks of ornamental millet scream fall. Its height and structure make it a great focal or ‘thriller’ plant in your fall container arrangement. It does not tolerate frost, so it might not be a good choice if you live in a colder climate. But in a mild fall, it is fabulous.
My favorite variety of ornamental millet fit fall is ‘Purple Majesty.’ It is a deep purple color with plumes of purple stalks. It looks great in containers alongside yellow rudbeckia or pink calibrachoa.
You can grow ornamental millet in summer containers and switch out the filled plants around it for a fall look. Tuck in gourds and add fall flowers.
|botanical name Aster alpinus|
Asters are great to grow in containers. They bloom cheery daisy-like flowers in late summer into early fall.
Since asters are a perennial with a specific bloom time, I think it’s best to grow them in their own container. When it isn’t in bloom, you can keep it in a sunny garden area. When fall approaches, grab the container and place it in an arrangement with other individual containers. Try it next to a pot of pansies or one filled with black-eyed Susans.
|botanical name Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’|
Many varieties of sedums work in fall containers. But I love the bright chartreuse color of ‘Angelina’ sedum. It’s a great contrast to fall’s deep purple and red hues.
‘Angelina’ sedum is a succulent with bright chartreuse needle-like foliage. It makes a great filler or spiller (it spills out the edge of the pot) plant in fall containers.
It is also very forgiving. If you have this evergreen ground cover in your garden, you can simply dig up a chunk of it and put it into your containers. Plant it back in your garden when you are finished with your fall container.
Dwarf Japanese Maple
|botanical name Acer palmatum|
Japanese maples put on a glorious fall show. The dwarf varieties look great in containers.
‘Crimson Queen’ is a vibrant red weeping variety. It has lacey foliage and a beautiful shape that works well in containers.
Japanese maples make a simple but elegant container choice year-round. Incorporate some other containers of fall flowers, like mums or black-eyed Susans, to bring more of a fall feel. Alternatively, place some pumpkins and gourds around it.
|botanical name Heuchera spp.|
Coral bells are an evergreen perennial with stunning foliage. They make great plants for fall arrangements. They can last through the winter in mild climates.
There are some great varieties of coral bells perfect for fall. ‘Caramel’ is a great fall variety. The leaves are all different shades of golden caramel. ‘Dolce Cherry Truffles’ is a dark cherry color with ruffled leaves, adding extra texture to your arrangement.
You can usually find coral bells in garden centers in the fall. But if you find one you love earlier in the season, you can grab it and hold onto it until fall. Just keep it watered. Plant your coral bells in mixed containers with other colors and textures.
|botanical name Helenium autumnale|
I love the brightly colored flowers of sneezeweed. The shades of orange, yellow, and red are perfect for your fall displays. This native perennial has daisy-like flowers with jagged edges.
‘March Gras’ is a great fall variety. It features flowers in an autumn palette of oranges, reds, and rusty shades.
Sneezeweed is a perennial and will bloom into the fall. It is great to start your sneeze weed in a container and move it to a grouping to create a fall container arrangement. It would look great next to ornamental millet, ornamental cabbage, and coral bells. All have bold foliage, which would be a great companion to the bright flowers of sneezeweed.
|botanical name Rudbeckia spp.|
Black-eyed Susans are sturdy and bright flowers that resemble sunflowers but are the perfect size for fall containers.
You can purchase this short-lived perennial from your local garden center or grow unique varieties from seed. ‘Cherokee Sunset’ is a double-flowering variety with deep golden and red blooms that start in early summer and continue until frost.
I love these flowers. They are sturdy and last a long time in containers. A container full of black-eyed Susans looks great. Consider mixing them in fall containers! They look great with ornamental millet, kale, and other fall foliage plants.
|botanical name Capsicum annuum|
Ornamental peppers differ from regular garden peppers because they are bred to be beautiful, not delicious. Regular peppers grow downwards on the stem and are grown for flavor.
Ornamental peppers grow in bright colors on the top of the plant. The peppers themselves are edible, but they are bland.
You can grow them from seed or purchase them from your local garden center. They don’t tolerate frost, so only plant them outdoors in mild fall climates. They look great in small containers alone, and they add an interesting color and texture to a mixed container.
|botanical name Lobularia maritima|
Sweet alyssum looks great in early spring and fades in the heat of the summer. Once cool fall weather begins, it will come back to life. Sweet alyssum is a small plant with dainty white or purple flowers. Its sweet fragrance makes it a great plant to add to containers near seating areas.
If you have sweet alyssum growing in your summer planters and it is starting to look drab, cut it back. It will regrow a new flush of flowers when fall comes around.
I often remove elements of my summer pots that don’t look good anymore and leave the plants that still look good. If your seed-grown alyssum has made it through the summer, it will look good into the fall. Try ‘Oriental Nights’ for a pretty purple look that looks great next to autumn orange tones. You can also purchase fresh alyssum in the fall from garden centers.
‘Autumn Joy’ Sedum
|botanical name Hylotelephium telephium ‘Autumn Joy’|
Lots of sedums are ground covers that work as trailing plants in containers. But ‘Autumn Joy’ is a tall variety with fleshy green leaves and clusters of broccoli-like flowers that blush red in the fall.
‘Autumn Joy’ sedum is an ultra-hardy flowering perennial that looks great both in the ground and in containers. You can purchase this perennial anytime throughout the summer through to the fall. You can even keep it in the nursery pot until you want to use it in your fall container. Or you can plant it in the ground, dig it up, and put it in your container.
‘Autumn Joy’ sedum looks great in a container arrangement. Leave it in a separate pot for a container arrangement of various shapes and sizes of containers with different perennials in each pot.
‘Silver Falls’ Dichondra
|botanical name Dichondra argentea ‘Silver Falls’|
‘Silver Falls’ dichondra is a trailing plant. It spills out of pots with small silver coined leaves. I use this in a lot of summer containers as well. The silvery color is an interesting addition in fall containers to compliment all the deep purple foliage plants like purple fountain grass and certain coral bells.
I usually have this plant growing in my summer containers. I leave it in since it has grown so full and lush all summer. Then, I plant fall plants around it to create a unique fall pot. This is an easy switch since the ‘Silver Falls’ dichondra will be on the edge of your container and won’t need to be disturbed. Plant various dark purple plants around it, like an ornamental millet or a big purple ornamental cabbage.
|botanical name Codiaeum variegatum|
Crotons are a great fall container plant if you live in an area with no fall frosts. They have thick, waxy leaves with veins in all the fall colors on a single plant. Some will be yellow, some will be red, and some will be orange. This plant was made for fall in areas with little fall foliage.
Crotons are so versatile in fall containers, and they are easily available from garden centers. You can keep things simple and grow a large croton in a pot, or you can tuck smaller ones into container arrangements with gourds and other fall plants.
If you live in an area with cold fall weather, consider using them in your indoor Thanksgiving arrangements.
|botanical name Lamium purpureum|
Also known as purple archangel or purple dead nettle, lamium is an aggressive perennial ground cover. It is a trailing plant that adds an extra layer of texture and foliage variation in containers.
Lamium has small heart-shaped leaves that are variegated green and white. There are many varieties of lamium to choose from. I like ones with interesting foliage because they will have already bloomed by the time fall comes around. Varieties such as ‘White Nancy’ and ‘Beacon Silver’ are my favorites for fall containers. They feature large heart-shaped leaves that are silvery white with a green margin.
If you already have lamium growing in your garden, you can dig some of it up and use it in your containers. Alternatively, if you are using it in your summer container, just leave it and replace the summer plants with fall ones.
|botanical name Ajuga reptans|
Bugleweed may be on the invasive list, depending on your region. You mostly want to avoid planting this mat-forming perennial in the ground because it can take over your garden. But, in a container, it is a lovely little trailing plant.
My favorite varieties to use in fall containers are ‘Chocolate Truffles,’ which have dark, glossy, burgundy leaves. I also like ‘Black Scallop,’ an even darker variety. These colors pop next to orange and yellow fall flowers like mums or black-eyed Susans.
Red Rooster Grass
|botanical name Carex buchananii ‘Red Rooster’|
Red Rooster grass is coppery and feathery and perfect for fall. This small ornamental grass looks great as the feature or “thriller” plant in a fall container.
The fine strands of this small grass lends itself perfectly to small fall containers. It mixes perfectly with dark purple foliage and yellow, pink, and orange flowers.
It can also be used in a summer planter, and then you can take out some of the summer plants and exchange them for more of a fall palette.
|botanical name Calibrachoa spp.|
Million bells are a great fall flower. They are small petunia-like flowers that don’t require deadheading. They can also take cool fall weather and even some frosts, making them a great fall flower.
There are so many varieties of million bells. ‘Orange Zest” is a great choice for fall. It has pretty little flowers in a rusty orange color. ‘Apricot Punch’ Superbells have red centers that fade to a soft apricot color.
If you already have million bells in your summer arrangements, it is simple to leave them in the pots, take out some of the summer plants, and switch them to fall plants.
|botanical name Beta vulgaris var. cicla|
Swiss chard is a beautiful and tasty plant to add to fall displays. It is simple to plant from seed and has a nice ruffled texture and brightly colored steps.
The best varieties to choose for this, I think, are ‘Bright Lights’ or ‘Five Colored Silverbeet’ because they have multi-colored stems that come in pink, red, yellow, and white. It’s an inexpensive plant to add to pots since you only need a pack of seeds. Plant the seeds a few weeks before you want your fall arrangement, and they should be ready when needed. Mix them with mums, coral bells, gourds, etc., for an interesting fall container.
|botanical name Centaurea cineraria|
Dusty miller is an old-fashioned annual with fuzzy silver foliage. You might have seen it in your grandmother’s garden, planted between marigolds or petunias. I really like this simple annual. I especially like it in fall containers.
The lacey ever foliage looks great in a fall container. It breaks up all the rich colors and adds a pop of brightness. I like it planted with purple ornamental kale or purple fountain grass. It also looks great next to gourds and pumpkins.
|botanical name Celosia argentea|
Celosia, or cock’s comb, is a great fall flower. It features brightly colored plumes that come in a variety of rich fall colors.
You can usually find celosia in the garden center in the spring when all the bedding annuals come out. Then, they usually get more in the fall. They will be less expensive if you get them earlier in the season. You can use them in summer pots and carry them into the fall by changing other plants in the container to more fall-themed plants. Or you can plant them in your garden and dig them up when fall rolls around.
My favorite variety for fall is ‘New Look’ celosia. It features plumes of feathery red flowers on top of burgundy foliage, giving it an even more fall look.
Golden Creeping Jenny
|botanical name Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’|
Golden creeping Jenny is one of my favorite trailing plants for containers. The bright chartreuse foliage spilling over the sides of your containers is a lovely touch of brightness.
I use this as a summer trailing annual, and then I transition it to fall by switching out some of the other plants. The bright foliage looks great with dark purple foliage of ornamental kale or ‘First Knight’ pennisetum.
Purple Fountain Grass
|botanical name Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’|
Purple fountain grass is a classic fall plant. It has everything you could want in a fall plant. Rich purple foliage, grassy texture, and fluffy seed heads.
I usually buy purple fountain grass in the summer. I will either leave it in its nursery pot and keep it watered all summer or use it in a summer pot and then switch the plants around it for more fall-themed plants. Purple fountain grass looks great with all the fall foliage and flowers. There are endless fall combinations that include purple fountain grass.
|botanical name Coleus blumei|
I am jealous if you live in an area with no fall frosts! I am obsessed with putting coleus in containers. The varieties that are suited for a fall palette are gorgeous.
My favorite fall-colored coleus varieties include ‘Henna,’ a ruffled leaf coleus. It is chartreuse with rusty-colored accents, making it perfect for fall. ‘Sedona Sunset’ is a lovely orange variety that resembles leaves changing in the fall. ‘Kong Red’ is an extra-large variety with large red leaves and a thin yellow margin.
Coleus looks great in mixed pots with other flowers and plants that complement their foliage. Add some coleus to your seasonal containers if you live in an area with frost-free falls.
|botanical name Echinacea purpurea|
Coneflower is a sturdy perennial that blooms from late summer into fall. The bees love this daisy-like flower. The common variety is pink, but it actually comes in all sorts of fall colors.
You can usually find cone flowers in the garden center throughout the summer. The blooms last a long time, so you can even purchase them in bloom and still enjoy them for a few weeks. They look great in pots on their own or in mixed containers. I love the look of classic pink cone flowers paired with purple foliage plants like purple fountain grass or ‘First Knight’ pennisetum.
‘First Knight’ Pennisetum
|botanical name Pennisetum x ‘First Knight’|
If you want drama in your fall containers, ‘First Knight’ pennisetum is just the thing for your containers. This deep purple grass can grow up to five feet high. It has thick ribbons of the deepest purple foliage.
I love planting this grass in summer containers and changing the filler plants to fall. It grows so big in the pot. It is dramatic and lovely. Plant it with million bells, cone flowers, black-eyed Susan, ‘Silver Falls’ dichondra, or any plant on this list for a perfect fall planter.
It’s sad to see the end of summer and bright summer flowers. But having beautiful fall plants and containers to look forward to helps beat the end-of-summer blues. Try mixing and matching using a variety of these 27 perfect fall container plants.