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Flowers, Fruits, and Frass

Give your front porch containers a fall makeover

Fall garden with pumpkins

Are you ready to toss in the towel on your overgrown, drab-looking container gardens for the year?

Unfortunately, our gorgeous summer containers are now fading due to the stress of the summer heat, possible insects or diseases, and the changing temperatures and sunlight in fall. Don’t give up! Now is the perfect time to give them a fall makeover and create a beautiful display of autumnal colors amongst the pumpkins on your front porch for a couple of months.

Keep healthy plants

If some of your plants are still healthy and blooming, leave them in the container and add some fall blooms and foliage to them. Many “thriller plants” like ornamental grasses and tropical plants will look great through the fall. They will add structure and height to the arrangement since many of your newly planted annuals will be shorter. If you plan to overwinter any of your tropical plants indoors, go ahead and transplant them to a different container though.

Add more plants than you think you need

When planting your fall container garden, add more plants than you would in the spring. The plants are not going to grow and fill out the container as fast as they do in the spring and summer. Select gorgeous jewel tones of fall and use a variety of textures and colors of foliage or blooms. Foliage plants, like grasses or ornamental cabbage, or kale offer longer interest once the flowering plants stop blooming.

Fall container plant care

Caring for your fall containers will be a little different from in the summer since the temperatures are cooler and the plants are not growing as fast.

Water: Instead of watering on a schedule like we did this summer, water plants when the top 1” of the soil dries out. Too much water combined with cool temperatures will cause the roots to rot.

Fertilizer: There is also no need for added fertilizer during this time of year.

Temperature care: To extend your fall containers longer into fall, cover them with light blankets or larger containers when nighttime temperatures are below freezing.

Cool-season plants for containers

Visit your local garden center today and check out some cool-season favorites to add your fall container arrangements. Many of the available plants will survive in temperatures as low as 20°F without any damage.

  • Mums are classic fall flowers that can be planted by themselves or combined with other fall bloomers. They can be found in a variety of colors and will bloom for around four weeks and then fade into dark green foliage.
  • Pansies can be added for a bright pop of color in any container and will have a long and late blooming season. They will do best in partly shaded areas and regular waterings.
  • Ornamental kale and cabbage create a rosette of colorful and interesting foliage mixed with blooming plants. Find varieties with combinations of greens, purple and white to add to your full sun containers.
  • Swiss chard ‘Bright Lights’ is typically grown as an edible, but it is too beautiful to not include in your fall containers. The combination of rainbow-colored stems and glossy green foliage almost makes it look artificial.


PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Chi Girls on Unsplash

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Brittnay Haag is a Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties. Her work focuses on youth horticulture education, specifically through school gardens and Jr. Master Gardener programs. Brittnay provides leadership for three county Master Gardener programs, and is responsible for developing community programs and providing expertise in horticulture and environmental sciences.