Plants for Creative Fall Container Gardens

Combine Intenz™ Dark Purple spike celosia, variegated sedge, and a dusty purple ornamental cabbage for a fun fall container trio.

Tired of planting the same old door-side potted chrysanthemums year after year?  Then upgrade this year’s containers! Lots of cool new fall plants have bold good looks and bright colors to make container design a lot more exciting.

What makes a container plant great for fall? Its must flaunt its best color through the season and shine up until the first frost or beyond. Those that tough it out after frost include ornamental cabbages, kales, and Swiss chard. Some of these fall beauties will even survive through winter as evergreen biennials or perennials. Here are some of our favorites for creative late-season container gardening.

Super Celosias and Amaranths

The plume Celosia ‘Fresh Look Red’ will ignite your fall containers.

Celosias and amaranths (two closely related plants) of all shapes, sizes, and colors have become available for fall gardening. These include spike celosia (Celosia spicata), classic cockscomb, plume celosias (Celosia cristata), and purple-leaved amaranths (Amaranthus spp.). The annuals are rugged and tolerant of heat as well as the cooling temperatures of fall, so they can be planted in summer and continue to look bright through fall. Just remember to remove any old blooms that start to lose color. This will encourage new flowers to appear.

Pretty Peppers

Jolly pots of mixed ornamental peppers make great additions to mixed fall container gardens.

Ornamental peppers start to look great by late summer, and their pretty fruits of orange, yellow, red, or purple will retain their color up until frost. Some even boast deep purple foliage as well as pretty fruits. The hot ornamentals mix well with any seasonal garden flower or plant, and you can even save seeds for spring sowing. The peppers are also edible and spicy, with varying degrees of flavor. (See the video below for more designs using ornamental peppers.)

Happy Heirloom Squash

A slate-blue hubbard squash, white ‘Cotton Candy’ pumpkin, and bumpy ‘Galeux d’Eysines’ pumpkin are nestled in a pot of Proven Winners’ Diamond Frost® Euphorbia.

Unusual pumpkins and winter squash are all the rage and look lovely when nestled in pots alongside complementary fall flowers. Most are very tasty, so it’s nice to bring them indoors before a hard freeze, so you can enjoy them in Thanksgiving pies, soups, or cakes. (Click here to learn how to process squash for pie.) Look for collections of squash that look good together or with your favorite fall flowers.

Sumptuous Evergreen Sedges

A single mop of evergreen ‘Toffee Twist’ sedge will fill a pot, adding interest to other colorful potted plants.

Many grassy sedges are tough evergreen perennials that add an airy appeal to fall containers and mix well with practically any fall flower. Some lovely evergreen sedges to try include the gold-edged Japanese sedge (Carex morrowii ‘Gold Band’, 12 inches, USDA Hardiness Zones 5-9) or white-edged Silver Sceptre sedge (Carex ‘Silver Sceptre’, 12-18 inches, Zones 5-9); both have tidy bunches of colorful, curvaceous, strappy leaves that flow over container edges. Another star for containers is the finer, hair-like Toffee Twist sedge (Carex flagellifera ‘Toffee Twist’, 12-16 inches, Zones 7-9), a Proven Winners® plant with fine, caramel-colored foliage that looks great all winter.

Sturdy Succulents

A nest of evergreen hens & chicks is brightened by a single ‘Sweet Lightning’ mini winter squash.

Hardy succulents of all shapes and sizes look great in fall containers and will even survive the winter, where hardy. Go simple by nestling a few hens & chicks (Sempervivum spp.) within a small planter embellished with a few decorative additions. Or, go bold by planting a big, blooming sedum along with other fall flowers. Tall sedums are showy in fall, and there are many fabulous varieties to discover. (Click here to read more about tall sedums.)

Miniature Plants

Tiny hens & chicks, mosses, cabbages, thyme, heather, and sweet alyssum bring this mini fall garden to life.

Creating seasonal containers in miniature is a popular trend. Tiny hens & chicks, mosses, heathers, ornamental cabbages, and flowers give broad pots or troughs an alpine or rock garden look. Place plantings like these on an outdoor dinner or side table where they can be enjoyed up close. You can even try making your own hypertufa trough or centerpiece for attractive little fall plantings. (Click here to learn how to make your own hypertufa centerpiece.)

Planting Fall Containers

Give mums a lift with additions like purple heuchera, Sedum Rock ‘N Grow® Popstar, and arching willow branches.

Choose festive containers and arrangements of plants, and pair them according to color, size, height, and texture. For best results, choose good-fit containers that will accommodate the plants you have chosen, and fill them with Black Gold All Purpose Mix, which has excellent porosity and water-holding ability for great results. Keep pots watered through fall and feed them with quality plant food, such as Proven Winners® Premium Water Soluble Plant Food for Flowering Plants. Once hard cold hits, remove any unsightly dead annuals and leave any perennials in the pots for spring.

To get more excellent fall container garden planting and design tips, read Black Gold’s sponsored article on Garden Therapy: Fall Container Care and Maintenance + DIY Container Ideas!

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!