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A New Spin on Fall Plantings

Let’s think beyond the obvious and liven up our gardens and public spaces with bountiful containers filled with cool weather loving plants for fall. From calendulas to coral bells, these ten striking plants offer seasonal color, rich texture and an unexpected twist on traditional autumn displays.


Contributors: Susan Martin

1. Lady Godiva® Calendula

Calendula is making a comeback with the invention of the more versatile Lady Godiva cultivars. These cold tolerant annuals thrive in the spring and fall, but increased heat tolerance makes them a good choice for container plantings all season. Their orange and gold-toned double flowers keep right on coming due to low seed set. Try pairing them with Toffee Twist sedge and Sunsatia® Cranberry Red nemesia for a perfect fall-themed container recipe.

Annual except in zones 7-11, 10-16” tall, part sun to sun, deer resistant.

2. Purple Fountain Grass cultivars Pennisetum setaceum 

Maybe you've grown the much beloved purple fountain grass, Pennisetum s. ‘Rubrum’, but did you know we offer variegated forms, too? The striped leaves of ‘Fireworks’ and ‘Sky Rocket’ offer fantastic visual interest throughout the whole season, long before they bloom. Like purple fountain grass, they produce smoky purple, feathery blooms beginning in midsummer and last through fall. Try mixing up your fall containers this year by including a variegated grass and see how it brings new life to your combinations.

Annual, 18-36” tall, full sun, deer resistant.

3. Graceful Grasses® Toffee Twist Carex flagellifera

Bronze goes with everything in fall and Toffee Twist sedge has it in spades. Its finely textured, sweeping foliage acts as both a thriller and spiller in containers, and looks incredible when planted with Supertunia Black Cherry® or Latte petunias. This grass is shade tolerant, so it also pairs well with coppery-toned Fun and Games® ‘Red Rover’ Heucherella. Though northerners grow it as an annual, it does return each year in zones 7 and warmer.

Annual except in zones 7-10, 18-24” tall, part sun to sun, deer resistant.

4. Sunsatia® and Aromance® Nemesia

Nemesia is an exceptionally cold tolerant annual, so it’s often used in spring and fall container recipes and as a winter annual in sunbelt states. Newer cultivars like Sunsatia® Blood Orange are more heat tolerant too, making them a good choice for season-long plantings. A mounded habit makes nemesia perfect for pairing with flowers like Supertunia® petunias which have long branches that will mingle in and around it in combinations. Its finely textured blossoms also contrast well with plants with larger daisy-like flowers like Bright Lights Osteospermum.     

Annual, 6-18” tall (depending on variety), part sun to sun.

6. Supertunia® Petunia

Perhaps because they are so heat tolerant, people are always amazed to find that their Supertunia petunias last long into the cooler fall months. You may find that they are still looking so good in your containers, you won’t need to replace them with traditional fall blooming plants. If you’re planting a new container recipe specifically for fall, consider deep purple Supertunia Royal Velvet®, deep red Black Cherry® or golden hued Honey to pair with your other cool weather favorites.

Annual, 6-12” tall, part sun to sun.

5. Bright Lights Osteospermum

Daisies add instant cheerfulness to every container recipe, so fill your fall containers with these popular, profuse bloomers. Osteospermum daisies are very cold tolerant and come in rich purple, gold and orange tones that are ideal for fall container plantings. Bright Lights Osteospermum also have better heat tolerance, so you can plant them in late summer as you prepare your fall displays. 

Annual, 8-14” tall, part sun to sun.

7.  Dolce® and Primo® Heuchera

The rich colors and compact habit of coral bells make them ideal for use in containers, whether they shine on their own or you pair them in combination with cool weather loving plants like Toffee Twist sedge and Lady Godiva® calendulas. South of zone 6, you’ll find they overwinter well in large containers. Choose from a broad spectrum of sizes and colors in our ever-expanding Dolce and Primo collections.

Perennial in zones 4-9, 6-12” tall, best in part sun.

8. Fun and Games® Heucherella

While many traditional fall container plants are best grown in full sun, Fun and Games foamy bells thrive in shady conditions. Like coral bells, their compact habit makes them easy to use in containers on their own or in combinations. Their coppery orange and gold foliage suits the season perfectly and is especially pretty when paired with rich purples and reds.

Perennial in zones 4-9, 6-12” tall, best in part shade to shade.

9. Prairie Winds® ‘Cheyenne Sky’ Panicum

If you like the color of purple fountain grass in your fall containers but would prefer a hardy grass, try ‘Cheyenne Sky’ switch grass. This zone 4 perennial grass forms a dense vase-shaped clump of blue-green foliage that starts to turn wine red in early summer. By fall, it is drenched in saturated color and topped with airy purple panicles. Choose a large container that will accommodate this grass’ root system and consider growing it on its own, as its fibrous roots will quickly fill the entire pot.

Perennial in zones 4-9, 3’ tall, full sun, deer resistant.

10. Rock ‘n Grow®, Rock 'n Low and Rock 'n Round Sedum

Autumn stonecrops are classic fall blooming perennials for sunny landscapes. Smaller cultivars like those in the Rock ‘n Round collection are easy to grow in containers, too. Tuck trailing types like ‘Superstar’ and ‘Popstar’ along the edges of a combination container or let the low mounded, yellow-flowering ‘Lemonjade’ fill the front of the pot backed by a taller thriller like purple fountain grass. Their low water needs and easy constitution make sedums excellent low to no-maintenance plants for containers and landscapes.

Perennial in zones 3-9, 6-18” tall (depending on cultivar), full sun.







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