Now's the time to plant a fall container for your garden

  • Asters perform well in the ground or as fall container plants.

    Asters perform well in the ground or as fall container plants. Courtesy of the Chicago Botanic Garden

By The Chicago Botanic Garden
Posted9/13/2020 1:00 AM

September is a perfect time to plant a beautiful fall container when many annual plants are beginning to decline because of temperature changes, summer heat stress, insects or disease problems.

Late-blooming ornamental grasses are nice additions to fall containers, adding texture and structure. The dried blooms and foliage look lovely in an end-of-season container after the plant browns.


Mums come in various hues of white, yellow, gold, butterscotch, orange, pumpkin, red, rust, lavender, pink and purple and provide colorful displays. Mums that are purchased in bud will last much longer than plants that are fully blooming. Mums planted directly in the ground in the fall should be treated as annuals, not perennials. Because their roots take longer to become established, plant mums in the ground in the spring if you want them to perform as perennials.

Asters perform well as container plants and are also great additions to the fall garden, replacing declining annuals.

Pansy, calendula, viola, statice, primrose, Dusty Miller and snapdragon thrive in cooler temperatures and contribute a large variety of color. Blue lobelia is perfect for unusual fall color and loves cooler temperatures. Stock, Sweet Alyssum and dianthus are fragrant plants and are best used in containers near entrances where their aroma can be appreciated.

Autumn color isn't limited to flowering plants. The centers of ornamental kale and cabbage turn shades of white, pink and red when temperatures drop. Kales and cabbages last for a long time and add interesting foliage texture. Swiss chard 'Bright Lights' is an edible grown for its colorful leaves and stems. Other cool-season edibles such as parsley and carrot add unusual foliage and the parsley can be brought in and grown indoors for the winter.

Ornamental peppers add a pop of color as well as textural interest to fall containers. Please be aware that they are frost sensitive and may die back after the first frost.

Now is the time to take advantage of end-of-the-season sales on perennials and some summer annuals to include in your containers. Select dark-leaved heuchera and sedum to pair with pansies and asters. Bronze-colored sedges and purple annual grasses look great planted with kale, cabbage or mums.

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