There’s no need to completely rework your summer containers to give them fall flair. Instead, here’s some ideas for updating existing container gardens (or, if you’re inspired, potting up new ones), including one plant to add for instant drama, and a zero-effort, lazy-gardener’s trick for covering a bare spot.
- Add bold foliage plants.
Swap tired warm-season flowers for richly colored foliage plants, leaving mature evergreens and long-lasting perennials in place. Add height to the design, with brightly colored foliage plants providing seasonal interest.
Plants you may have in your container, like coleus and sweet potato vine, that are not winter-hardy, could be traded for dianthus and petunias moving into the holidays.
- Tuck in cool-season flowers.
After removing summer annuals past their prime, fill in the gaps with cool-season bloomers in fall colors. Although they may look tender and delicate, pansies are actually some of the most cold-tolerant annual flowers. We advise waiting until the nighttime temperatures stay consistently in the 60s for planting pansies.
For a rich autumn color palette, choose pansies in vibrant hues like orange, gold, red and deep purple or bicolored combinations, avoiding pastel pinks, blues and pale yellows. Combine them with coral bells, another cool-season favorite, for a long-lasting display.
- Plant an ornamental grass for instant drama.
To give some serious pizazz to existing container gardens by adding just one plant, reach for Purple Fountain Grass. The dramatic ornamental grass can reach 3 to 5 feet tall and 2 to 4 feet wide (although usually smaller in containers) with a vase-like shape topped with fuzzy purple seed heads.
- Play up texture.
Consider adding one or more textural ingredients like plants with berries, twiggy branches, grassy leaves or broad foliage.
Even easier: Add texture without planting by sticking dried curly willow branches or ornamental seedpods from floral displays into the pot.
- Pop in late-blooming perennials.
We have plenty of late-summer and fall-blooming perennials. Just adding a few coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, or chrysanthemums can transform existing container displays. The flowers will add color through fall and come back in spring for another bloom period.
- Incorporate dark foliage.
Deepen existing container designs with the addition of one or more cool-tolerant, dark-leaved plants, like an ornamental pepper Black Olive variety.
- Cover a bare patch with a pumpkin.
It’s a great gardener’s hack! If you’ve pulled out some tired-looking summer annuals but don’t have the time to hunt down a replacement plant, plunk a pumpkin down to cover the bare spot.
- Reshuffle your container layout.
Sometimes all containers need is a regrouping, rather than a replanting, for a fresh perspective. Take stock of all your potted plants and see which ones could work together as part of a fall container vignette. Do you have ornamental grasses in one pot that complement the leaf tones of a plant in a container across the yard? If the light requirements of the plants match, move the containers together as a combination.
- Change the underplanting.
Update the look of containers with shrubs, small trees or mature vines without any major repotting by changing any low-growing plants beneath them.