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Summer's over! Time to breathe some new life into your landscape with fresh fall containers. Remove those tired summer annuals that have finally given up the ghost and replace them with something new and cold hardy. Here's a list of cool-weather plants for those fall containers.
Many of the plants gardeners in colder areas grow as annuals are actually tender perennials hardy in zones 8 to 11 and can survive temps into the teens and twenties.
Don't be afraid to use hardy perennials in a container planting; they have a lot to offer besides cold tolerance.Their foliage colors change and deepen as the days get cooler and some will supply blossoms until a hard freeze finally shuts them down. Thrifty gardeners can take them out the containers at the end of the season and plant them in a protected spot to winter over for next year.
Fall Planter Ideas
There are no hard and fast rules for designing containers but the thriller, spiller, filler recipe works well for me.
It includes one architectural or blossoming plant as the thriller,
one hanging plant that drapes over the side of the container as the spiller,
and then a bushy foliage plant or two to fill in the center.
The larger the pot the more you can stuff in. Since the days are getting shorter these plants are not going to outgrow their pots as fast as they would in the summer so don't hesitate to pack the pot. Combine plants that have similar needs for water and sun in the same pot. We all love mums but flowers aren't everything. Foliage plants have a unifying effect in a container and offer a wide range of colors, forms, and textures.
This container includes perennials bee balm, catmint and speedwell along with annual salvia and tender perennial lantana. It is fine to mix 'n match plants for your fall container. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners.
This striking container is packed with foliage plants including hosta, carex, and heuchera. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners.
Fall Flowers For Pots
Cool weather calls for really cool plants. Look for some of these at your local garden center:
Spring favorites like diascia and nemesia are tougher than they look. Both are hardy into the 20's and commonly grown as winter annuals in the South.
Bracteantha is a brightly colored strawflower lasting in the garden until temps fall below 25.
Osteospermum daisies are South African natives that have many blossom colors to offer. They will survive temps in the mid-twenties.
Lantana is a summer favorite that continues to bloom if deadheaded until temps drop to 25 degrees.
Oxalis with its striking black leaves and white flowers is a good one for a shady container. It is hardy to 15 degrees.
Verbena is another summer fave that will keep producing blossoms into the teens.
Calendula or pot marigold is a summer annual that shrugs off the cold and keeps blossoming until temps near zero cut it down.
Carex tolerate shade and offer height and movement. For a thriller, look for 18 inch tall carex 'Toffee Twist' which has fine-textured bronze foliage.
Most sedges are hardy to zero as well.
Plumbago offers blue flowers into fall and is hardy to -10 degrees.
Caryopteris is another plant with sky blue blossoms. It is hardy to -15 degrees.
Salvias offer variegated leaves, grow in sun to part shade, and are hardy to -20 degrees.
Lamiastrum is a good trailing spiller plant for your containers. It is hardy to -20 degrees.
Acorus 'Ogon' is a 10-14 inch tall variegated yellow and green grass hardy to -20 degrees.
Euphorbia 'Helena's Blush' is 18 inches tall and has interesting green and white foliage with splashes of fuchsia in cold weather. It stands temps in the negative 20's.
Another euphorbia worth mentioning is 'Efanthia' which is a bushy, compact evergreen plant about 15 inches tall that turns burgundy in the fall. It is also hardy to -20.
Don't forget the heucheras and their cousins the heucherellas! They offer a spectacular range of colors and textures that will add great interest to any mixed container. They are hardy to -25 degrees.
Hardy geranium 'Jolly Bee' has blue flowers through October and is hardy to -30 degrees.
Lysimachia is another super cold tolerant perennial perfect for containers. 'Goldilocks' is a good spiller; its chartreuse foliage brightens up any planting and it is hardy to -30 degrees.
There are lots of sedums that blossom in late fall and hold their blooms until snow covers them.
This bright container just has heucheras and heucherellas in it. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners.
To extend the life of your containers you might want to throw a sheet over them on cold nights. The cooler days of fall will mean less maintenance and watering. Just pot them up and enjoy the show for as long as you can.
This pot includes verbena 'Peachy Keen' and 'Toffee Twist' carex. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners.
Head out to your neighborhood nursery and see what inspires you. There are brilliantly colored kales and ornamental cabbages that last well into winter, pansies and violas that flower non-stop until a hard freeze, and ornamental hot peppers that not only add a pop of color to any mixed container but can also add a little zip to a pot of homemade chili.