Nonstop Fuchsias For Fall Gardens and Hummingbirds

With summer winding down here in the Pacific Northwest, as I walk through my garden it is the fuchsias I notice. They have bloomed nonstop all summer, and on this September day, their blooms continue. Not only have they not stopped blooming, but they will flower through to October and beyond until we have had frost. It is just what the migrating hummingbirds need at this time of year!

Growing Fuchsias

Large, hefty containers require less water and support better fuchsia growth.

If growing fuchsias is new to you, I recommend talking with other gardeners that grow them in your area. Longtime growers should be able to suggest the best performers for your zone and climate. Generally, fuchsias need porous, water-retentive soil that is rich in organic matter. Black Gold Natural & Organic Ultra Coir is an ideal mix to use when planting them in hanging baskets or containers. I suggest choosing large containers. Keep plants evenly moist during the summer months. Fuchsias bloom on new growth and a regular fertilizer program will increase bloom. Any all-purpose fertilizer formulated for flowering plants will work well. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

I suggest a few winter-hardy varieties in this piece. To increase winter hardiness, choose large planters, and plant your fuchsias 2 to 3 inches deeper than average. You can’t do this with most potted plants, but fuchsias will tolerate it. If you live further north, consider bringing your fuchsias indoors to enjoy as winter house plants. We always recommend cleaning up house plants when moving them from the outdoors in fall to warm indoor locations. Cleaning them stops potential pests from making their way inside. (Click here to learn how to clean house plants.)

My Favorite Fuchsias

Hardy fuchsia forms a pleasing shrub with lots of beautiful little blooms for hummingbirds.

The selection of fuchsias that are now available is immense and can be somewhat overwhelming to a novice gardener, especially in the early spring season when new shipments of plants are arriving at garden centers. The floral color selection is large and varied. Usually, the flowers are bicolor with sepals (top “petals” that flare back) and inner true petals in contrasting shades. Some flowers are all the same color, but all are bright and colorful to attract their primary pollinators, hummingbirds.

The winter hardiness varies among varieties, and while hardy or hummingbird fuchsia (Fuchsia magellanica, Zones 6-9) does not have the largest flowers, the Andean Mountain native shrub is certainly the most cold-tolerant. I have had a hummingbird fuchsia in my garden for years, and this year it reached a height of over 7 feet. It has literally been covered with flowers all summer, and like all fuchsias, it is a hummingbird magnet. When we have had heavy frosts, it has died back almost to the ground, but the roots always survive and bounce back in spring.

Within this variety, there are also some wonderful foliage colors from which to choose. ‘Aurea’ has golden-yellow leaves and has been very hardy in my garden with no winter protection. ‘Tricolor’ has leaves that are a mix of green, pink, and white, so even without flowers, it provides color in the garden. For extra pretty flowers, choose ‘Grand Cape Horn‘, which has purple and magenta blooms, or ‘Alba‘ whose palest-pink to white flowers really glow. For even brighter white blooms, grow ‘Hawkshead‘, a Dan Hinkley Introduction.

Most fuchsias sold in garden centers are Fuchsia hybrids labeled simply as fuchsias. While many of these are touted as being tolerant of full sun, I have found that my plants do much better with some protection from the hot afternoon summer sun. In my garden, I have fuchsias both in the ground as well as in pots on our deck. I do move the pots up against our house in the winter for some added warmth in winter, and I put a layer of mulch on the soil to insulate their roots further from the cold weather.

Hardy fuchsias make lovely landscape specimens.

Visitors to our garden will often ask if I have a favorite fuchsia, and my response is that my favorite changes on a yearly basis. At this moment, I would have to say that my favorites are two particularly outstanding varieties I recently planted, ‘DebRon’s Smokey Blue’ and ‘Tom West’. ‘Tom West’ (Zones 7-9) has small magenta and purple blooms, pretty variegated foliage, and a trailing habit with stems that spill over the edge of the pot. The equally hardy ‘DebRon’s Smokey Blue’ (Zones 7-9) has large flowers with deep rose-colored sepals and fluffy deep purple corollas. If planted in the garden as a shrubby specimen, it reaches 2.5 feet.

This is a good time to visit other gardens and observe what fuchsias have thrived through our very hot summer. This past summer season has certainly been a good test for heat tolerance. Adding fuchsias to your landscape will give your garden color for a long period of time, and it will keep the hummingbirds happy.

DIY Succulent Fairy Garden

Create an easy fairy garden filled with tender succulents that will look great through summer and winter. We used a bowl-shaped planter filled with Black Gold Cactus Mix and lots of beautiful succulents from Mountain Crest Gardens. Product links are below.


Black Gold Cactus Mix
Black Gold Natural & Organic Potting Mix
Bowl-shaped container
Fairy figurines
Decorative stones and mosses

Mountain Crest Gardens Succulent Plant List

Aloe ‘Blue Elf’
Crassula mesembryanthemoides
Crassula perforata ‘Variegata’
Haworthia retusa ‘Fouchei’
Mammillaria crinita ‘Duwei’
Mammillaria gracilis ‘Fragilis’
Sedeveria ‘Jet Beads’

Hot Fall Container Designs with Ornamental Peppers

Ornamental peppers capture the season and look great in containers.

Bright, seasonal ornamental peppers (Capsicum annuum) add warmth and zest to fall plantings. They are truly some of the best container plants of the season—with lots of new varieties being introduced each year to keep the palette fresh. Colorful peppers remain pretty for a long time and pair well with many other seasonal perennials and bedding plants. Try one of our four easy, seasonal container designs, or use elements to inspire your own creations.

Designing Containers with Ornamental Peppers

When creating container designs with these hot, pretty edibles (almost all ornamental peppers are spicy), choose plants with complementary textures (fine, bold, airy, or spiky), colors, and habits. Container designers rely on suites of plants with either vertical, mounding or bushy, and cascading habits married in complementary arrangements where plant heights contrast but flow.

When it comes to color, ornamental pepper colors are most often warm-hued, but those with purple fruits and foliage are cooler colored.  For visual “pop” plant them in color groups that are either similar or contrasting but complementary (on the opposite end of the color wheel, such as purple and yellow, orange and blue, and red and green).

Sun-loving ornamental grasses, fall-flowering annuals, and fall-flowering perennials are all fair game when choosing plants to pair with your sun-loving peppers. Try choosing flowering plants that also feed pollinators. And, if you add a perennial or two to the container, it is always nice to have garden spots to move them to once the container has lost its seasonal luster.

Container Design 1

Capsicum ‘Hot Pops Purple’, Mexican hair grass (Nassella tenuissima), Sempervivum ‘Ruby Heart’

Designed for hot garden spots, this container combination is low-growing, drought-tolerant and looks super through fall! The very small pepper ‘Hot Purple Pops’ (to 7”), has a somewhat spreading habit and numerous rounded peppers that turn from purple to orange (fruits are very hot!).  The hardy hens & chicks will survive the winter and can be either be left in the pot and paired with new annuals in spring or moved to a rock garden or dry border edge in late fall or spring.

Container Design 2

Capsicum ‘Sedona Sun’, Solidago ‘Little Lemon’, Lantana Lucky™ Sunset Rose

Bees and butterflies love this sunny combination, and you will too. The cheerful ‘Sedona Sun’ is a low, spreading pepper (to 12”) with spicy, conical fruits that turn from pale yellow to orange. Its soft, warm colors will light up any sunny porch or patio. The hardy perennial goldenrod can be relocated to a sunny garden spot in fall or spring.

Container Design 3

Capsicum ‘Purple Flash’, Sedum ‘Thunderhead’, Leatherleaf Sedge (Carex buchananii)

This warm and cool container planting is bold and texturally pleasing. The mound-forming pepper ‘Purple Flash’ (to 16”) has tricolored leaves of purple, dark green, and ivory that complement its round peppers that turn from purple-black to cherry red. (Keep the super spicy, berry-like peppers away from children!) The sedum and sedge are both sun-loving, hardy perennials.

Container Design 4

Capsicum ‘Black Pearl’, Origanum laevigatum ‘Herrenhausen’, Silver Dollar Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus cinerea)

Cool-colored and a delight to bees due to the flowering Herrenhausen oregano, this pleasing container will look great up to frost. The pepper ‘Black Pearl’ (to 18”) has a bushy habit, purple-black foliage, and spicy, marble-sized peppers that turn from near black to deep red. The oregano is a hardy ornamental herb that spreads, so relocate it to a spacious sunny bed the following spring.


Containers and Planting

Choose containers that reflect the hues of the season. (I chose three large Terracotta pots and one large blue-black container that made me think of Halloween.) Before planting up pots, always fill them halfway with planting mix. Black Gold® Natural & Organic Mix, Black Gold® Waterhold Cocoblend Potting Mix, or Black Gold Moisture® Supreme Container Mix all work very well. Then arrange your plants as you would like to see them in the containers, remove them from their plastic pots (working up any bound roots), set them, and then fill in the gaps with more mix.

Water finished pots until the water flows from the bottom and fills the saucer. Keep container plantings moist; daily watering is often needed. After a couple of days, feed your plantings with water-soluble Proven Winners® Premium Soluble Plant Food for Flowering Plants. This helps flowering plants perform to their fullest and shine up until frost!

Growing Hardy Carnivorous Plants


This fanciful pot of pitcher plants shows the fun you can have with carnivorous plants!

When I was in high school, I bought a Venus fly trap (Dionaea muscipulabecause carnivorous plants always intrigued me.  It survived a mere few weeks and died.  Then when I was in college, I tried again with the same results.  Perhaps it was living in hot, dry southern Arizona that did the last plant in, but it was my last attempt to grow Venus fly trap for several years.

Upon moving to Oregon in the late ’60s, I began gardening in earnest with my focus primarily on a huge diversity of perennials and shrubs.  It was as though I could not stop buying plants, and with every trip to a garden center, I came home with new ones.  But there were no carnivorous plants in the mix. Not yet.

Then on a visit to Southern Oregon and a stop at Darlingtonia State Natural Site, my interest in carnivorous plants was renewed.  Here were cobra lilies, (Darlingtonia californica) growing in the wild.  It was more delightful than I could have imagined.

Carnivorous Plants for the Garden

Craig, Pitcher Plant, Man
Cobra lily pitchers are unique and look like scary monsters when figurines are included.

As my gardening intensified, I began to visit other local gardens and one in particular had beds of carnivorous plants. I will never forget it. There were cobra lilies, pitcher plants (Sarracenia spp.) and Venus fly traps, all growing out in the open with no protection from the elements.  And, they were beautiful plants in an array of colors.

I was particularly taken with the colors of the pitcher plants with their pitchers in shades of red, chartreuse, maroon, brown and many had intricate veining colors.  I knew then that I had to have some of these in my garden! Since that time, I have cultivated several containers of these marvelous plants and find them surprisingly easy to grow.



Carnivorous Plant Cultivation

A beautiful pot of Sarracenia!

Hardy carnivorous plants naturally grow in bogs and other wetlands where soil-nutrient resources are scarce. That’s why they resort to catching insects to get their “vitamins”. So, it should come as no surprise that certain growing conditions must be met to have success growing these plants. Thankfully, these conditions are not difficult to achieve.

Here are some tips from a Sarracenia gardener, which I have implemented with good success.  (This method is also suitable for growing all manner of hardy carnivorous plants.) Select a location in the sun and dig a pit about 18-inches deep and as wide as you want the bed.  Then cover the pit with a pond liner and make small slits in the bottom of the liner to allow slow drainage.  Sarracenias like soil to be consistently moist but not saturated.  Then add a mixture of 3:1 ratio of Black Gold® Peat Moss to pumice. This has proved to be an ideal mix for plants planted both in the ground and slow-draining containers.

A note of caution: do not use a potting mix with fertilizer. These plants do not need or like mix with added fertilizer. They get their nutrients from the insects they capture.  In the case of Sarracenia, insects are attracted to a combination of scent and “drugged” edible deposits along with the pitchers that make them fall inside where they are unable to escape due to the presence of slippery hairs that push them downward. Once they fall to the bottom of the pitchers, they drown in secretions and are absorbed by the plant.

Fun to Grow!

Venus fly traps can be challenging to grow for the uneducated gardener.
Venus fly traps can be challenging to grow without the cultivation basics.

Carnivorous plants are a superb way to get children involved in horticulture.  I have learned that my grandchildren delight in showing visitors the trapped insects in the pitchers of Sarracenia or the jaws of a Venus flytrap.

Each year I seem to expand my Sarracenia and Darlingtonia collection by adding new cultivars with different colors.  My plants thrive in a large container, in full sun and are left outside in the winter with no damage.  In the last few years, I have noticed more gardeners using carnivorous plants, and their availability at local garden centers has steadily increased.  Try some Sarracenia in your garden containers this year, you might be pleasantly surprised.


Sarracenia_purpurosa_france_2007_-_2 Oliver pouzin
The ornamental pitchers of the purple pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea) are as pretty as its flowers. (image by Oliver Pouzin)

Succeed with Container Vegetable Gardening

If you have a small garden, you can still grow vegetables! How? Potted vegetables, of course! For container vegetable success, it comes down to choosing the right pot, good soil, a sunny location, and keeping your plants fed and watered. Get these factors right, and you will be rewarded with lots of fresh vegetables all season long.

Container growing can be a bit more challenging, but a little mastery will bring big success. Veggie pots can be started in spring, summer, or fall, as long as you choose the correct veggies for the season.

The Right Plant and Pot Size

This tower-o-kale shows how vertical planters can maximize space. (photo by Maureen Gilmer)

Bigger is generally better when it comes to pot size. Many summer vegetable favorites, such as tomatoes, peppers, beans, and greens need big pots. Vining plants, such as cucumbers, squash, melons, and sweet potatoes, need even bigger pots to grow to full glory. Large pots hold more soil and water and provide the depth and space plants need to grow fully and stably. They also have enough space to keep growing roots cool, a must for plant health. The large, deep pot should have ample room to accommodate the stakes or cages that many vegetables need to keep from toppling in summer winds.

Half whiskey barrels, big tubs, and deep trough planters have enough space for vegetables to grow to their fullest. Terracotta is not always recommended because it can wick water away. Choose lighter-colored pots with thicker because they tend to keep roots cooler. Be sure they have plenty of holes in the bottom for ample drainage. A layer of permeable garden cloth at each pot’s bottom will keep soil from seeping out. Bottom trays are recommended.

Spacious vertical planters work well for vegetable growing, if they hold enough soil for plants to grow well. There are many great styles on the market and templates for crafty builders. Check our our vertical vegetable garden Pinterest Pin Board to view a few!

'Moutain Merit' is an award-winning bushy tomato that's great for container growing. (photo by All-America Selections® Winners)
‘Mountain Merit’ is an award-winning bushy tomato that’s great for container growing. (photo by All-America Selections® Winners)

Smaller is generally better when it comes to plant size. When growing in containers, compact varieties are better suited to pot culture. Determinate, or non-vining bush tomatoes, are better than full-vining indeterminate types. Pick classic bush tomato varieties like the red slicers, ‘Mountain Merit‘ and ‘Celebrity‘, both AAS winners.

Other great bushy veggies (that are typically large vines) include little cucumbers, such as ‘Bush Pickle‘, and space-saving squash, such as the small butternut ‘Butterbush‘ and zucchini ‘Fordhook‘. A good cantaloupe to try is the very compact ‘Minnesota Midget‘, and ‘Bush Sugar Baby‘ is a short-vined watermelon suited to container culture. ‘Little Baby Flower‘ is a another somewhat compact watermelon that we are growing in a pot this season with great success!

For rooting vegetables, such as carrots, turnips, beets, and radishes, pots sizes can be slightly smaller as long as they are deep. Upright vegetables, such as peppers and eggplant, should be staked or caged to supply added support.

Good Soil and Fertilizer Quality

Good soil that holds water well, but also has ample air space and great drainage, is needed for successful container growing. Black Gold® Waterhold Cocoblend Potting Soil mixed BG-WATERHOLD_1cu-FRONTwith Black Gold® Garden Compost Blend is the perfect combo for vegetable gardening in containers, and these OMRI Listed® products are approved for organic gardening. For containers holding herbs and green leafy vegetables, consider adding a little Black Gold Earthworm Castings Blend 0.8-0.0-0.0, which is rich in nitrogen. Change potted media out at least every two to three years for best results because potting mixes break down, lose structure, and acidify over time.

Most vegetables are “heavy feeders”, which means they need a lot of food for good growth and development. A good slow-release fertilizer formulated for vegetable growing is best. Work the fertilizer into the root zone at planting time. For really heavy feeders, like tomatoes, it also helps to follow up with applications of a water-soluble fertilizer formulated for vegetables just at the point before fruits develop. This will help maximize fruit quality and load.

Effective Watering

Overstuffed veggie pots are not ideal because they require twice-daily water, extra food, and won’t grow to their fullest and happiest due to root competition.

Lack of regular water is one of the main causes of potted vegetable failure. The number one rule to follow when watering potted plants is to continue watering until water starts to run out of the pot drain holes. This indicates that the container is saturated. Thorough watering will result in more expansive root development and stronger, more stable plants. If you only water the upper half of pots, plants will develop shallow root systems, which will reduce stability and cause fast drying.

Daily water is needed for most pots, but large pots may require water more frequently, depending on the plants and heat and humidity levels. More effective irrigation is also helpful. Consider drip irrigation for pots. It also helps to add an extra layer of porous organic mulch to keep surface water from evaporating. Leaf mulch, straw, or grass clippings are all great options that break down quickly while providing a little extra protection. Click here to read about the 8 best watering strategies for plants.

Good Container Veggies by Season

‘Little Baby Flower’ watermelon grows well in big tubs!

Determine a plant’s growing season before planting. Vegetables are generally distinguished as being “cool season”  or “warm season”. In most parts of the country, cool-season vegetables are those that you would grow in the spring or fall. Warm-season vegetables are those that grow well during the hottest months of summer.

Top cool-season vegetables for containers are lettuce, spinach, kale, bok and pak choi, miniature cabbages and cauliflowers, bush peas, beets, and mini carrots, radishes, and turnips. Warm-season vegetables are tomatoes, peppers, bush squash, eggplant, Swiss chard (cool season, too), bush cucumbers, and melons.

Even in late summer, there is time to plant vegetable containers for fall enjoyment. Start by going to a local nursery where they sell large containers, premium Black Gold potting mixes (click here to find a store with Black Gold near you), and quality vegetable starts. Give them good care for a bountiful harvest.

If you just have a porch steps, you can grow vegetables!