Fall Container RecipesCelebrate the season with container gardens featuring harvest hues. Start gathering plants for your blooming works of art in late summer or early autumn, as soon as fresh plants start appearing at your local garden center.

In the northern half of the country, fall container gardens don’t grow rapidly. Purchase finished plants to create an instantly full container.

Design Basics

As you begin to brainstorm your late-season showstopper, start with a large container – at least 12 inches across. Garden mums typically come in a 1-gallon pot size. If you plan to incorporate a mum in your potted garden, increase the container size to at least 14 inches across. Keep in mind that when it comes to containers bigger is better – our recipes below call for 16-inch pots. Choose a container that complements your home’s architectural style.

Focus on color to plan the contents of a container garden. Use flowers or foliage in a favorite color, hues that match a door or window trim, or shades that complement your home’s exterior.

Every container needs three types of plants: thrillers, fillers and spillers.

  • A thriller is a taller plant that steals the spotlight, towering above other plants in the container. In general, the height of a thriller plant shouldn’t exceed more than 1 1/2 times the pot height.
  • A filler plant clusters around the thriller, filling in the space between its stems and soil.
  • Spillers cascade over pot edges in a waterfall of flowers or foliage. In autumn containers, low growing ornamental cabbages frequently fill the role of spillers, despite their lack of trailing growth.

Spillers typically belong near pot edges, thrillers fill the center, and fillers land between the two. If your container will be viewed from one side only, place the thriller toward the back of the pot.

Recipes for Fall Containers

Take the guesswork out of garden design by using one of our container combinations. These plant blends feature fall favorites that stand up to Jack Frost’s early visits. Some even withstand harder frosts.

If you garden in a region where winter brings lingering snow and you want to save perennials for next year’s garden, lift plants from containers and tuck them into soil about 6 weeks before the ground freezes. Mulch plants well after the ground freezes.

To use these recipes, start with a 16-inch pot. The recipes assume garden mums are sold in gallon containers. If you decide to use a pot that’s smaller than 16 inches, adjust numbers accordingly. All other plant numbers below assume they come in 4-inch containers, unless indicated. Plants are listed in order of thriller, filler and spiller. These blends create instant color – a full pot. For Zones 9-11, work with a larger container to allow room for growth all winter.

In the Pink

Paint a pastel tableau with a monochromatic planting in shades of pink. In roughly half of the country, pink muhly grass is a perennial. It also self-sows, but not invasively. Allow plants to toss seed into nearby planting beds to yield a crop of seedlings.

  • 1 quart pink muhly grass
  • 1 pink garden mum
  • 1 4-pack dusty miller
  • 1 deep pink or burgundy-leaf coral bells

A Classic Fall Combination

Kick off fall football season with the glowing contrast of purple, orange, and pink. These plants linger into late fall and withstand hard frosts. Pull the coral bells in colder regions and tuck into a planting bed about 6 weeks before the ground freezes.

  • 1 gallon purple fountain grass
  • 1 orange garden mum
  • 1 chartreuse-leaf coral bells
  • 2 pink ornamental cabbage

Ablaze with Color

This combination offers classic autumn shades in colorful flowers that open non-stop until—and after—frost.

  • 1 4-pack or 2 4-inch pots burgundy snapdragon
  • 1 gold garden mum
  • 1 Toffee Twist carex
  • 2 orange disacia

Sophisticated Shades

Savor the luxurious hues of purple and burgundy in this combination that shrugs off light frosts.

  • 1 purple aster
  • 1 Mexican fountain grass
  • 1 or 2 4-packs of burgundy pansy
  • 2 pink ornamental cabbage

Rhapsody in Blue

Cool blue tones complement a deep burgundy garden mum in this eye-catching combination. An ornamental cabbage ices the garden with ruffles of white.

  • 1 quart Elijah Blue fescue
  • 1 burgundy garden mum
  • 2 white ornamental cabbage
  • 1 or 2 Sedum sieboldii

Autumn Cheer

Compose a container garden filled with hues guaranteed to bring a smile. Place some pumpkins nearby to finish the colorful scene.

  • 1 quart Elijah Blue fescue
  • 2 yellow snapdragon
  • 2 pink ornamental cabbage
  • 2 4-packs white sweet alyssum