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12 Best Plants for Fall Planters and Container Gardens

Now that autumn is almost here, it’s time to refresh your window boxes, containers, and flower pots. Let me show you 12 of the best plants for fall planters. I’ll also share why they are a perfect choice for your container gardens.

There’s something so magical about a fall flower container garden, isn’t there? Those deep and gorgeous colors mixed in with a pumpkin or two really help to bring the garden alive again after most of the flowers have started fading away.

plants for fall planters: fall pumpkins and plants

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I’m a self-taught hobby gardener, not a Master Gardener. Everything I share with you on my blog is my personal opinion and things that worked for me along the way.

fall flower garden container and greenhouse

What To Look for in Small Plants for Pots

There’s something to love about vibrant fall plants in a garden pot or container garden. It could be their ability to bring a burst of color and life to your front porch, balcony, or window boxes during a season of change after the summer flowers have died off.

Fall container gardens feature a stunning mix of textures, from the velvety petals of chrysanthemums to the ornamental foliage of kale and cabbage.

Choose fall annuals that are known for their frost tolerance. Plants like pansies, violas, ornamental kale, and flowering cabbage are excellent choices because they can withstand chilly temperatures.

plants for fall planters

When to Plant Fall Container Plants

The timing for shifting your garden and looking for plants for fall planters depends on your local climate and the specific plants you want to grow. However, there are some general guidelines you can follow to make this shift successful.

In general, it’s a good idea to start planting your fall annuals about 6-8 weeks before the first expected frost date. This allows the plants to establish strong roots and acclimate to the changing weather conditions.

Keep an eye on temperature trends in your area. While fall annuals are more tolerant of cooler temperatures, sudden drops in temperature, unseasonably cold snaps, or an unexpected hard freeze can still stress young plants. If needed, provide temporary protection using row covers or cloths.

plants for fall planters: with pumpkins

Care and Maintenance for Your Fall Container Plants

Before planting, ensure that your garden beds are well-prepared with nutritious soil. Adding compost or other organic matter can help improve soil structure and provide essential nutrients for your new plants.

Water your fall annuals regularly, especially after planting. Adequate moisture helps the plants establish roots and adapt to their new environment.

Continue caring for your fall annuals throughout the season. Deadhead spent flowers to encourage continuous blooming and be attentive to water and nutrient needs.

fall flowers for garden containers

The Best Plants for Fall Planters

1. Mums

Chrysanthemums are the perfect late-season bloomers and add stunning fall color to any dull porch or container garden.

When to Plantaround 6-8 weeks before the first expected frost date in your area
Planting Needsrequire well-draining soil, a sunny location, and regular watering to thrive
Watering Needswater deeply and consistently, keeping the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged
Companion Plantornamental kale, as its vibrant foliage complements the mum’s blooms and adds visual interest to the garden
plants for fall planters: orange mums and ornamental cabbage

There are 2 types of mums…

  • Garden mums – Also known as hardy mums, these plants are perennials in zone 5-9.
  • Florist mums – Also known as cutting mums, they’re usually used as short-term bedding plants and won’t survive once winter comes.

When picking out a mum for your fall container, try to find one that is just starting to bud to maximize bloom time.

Mums are great fillers for your flower containers.

plants for fall planters: pansies

2. Pansies and Violas

Both pansies and violas can withstand the variable fall temperatures in many zones, and come in purple, burgundy, magenta, white, yellow, and more.

When to Plantaround 6-8 weeks before the first expected frost date in your area
Planting Needswell-draining soil, prefers partial to full sun, and benefits from regular watering
Watering NeedsWater consistently, keeping the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged, to encourage their colorful and prolonged flowering during the cooler months
Companion Plant ornamental grasses, as their airy texture contrasts beautifully with the vibrant blooms of the flowers.
plants for fall planters: pansies

The difference between pansies and violas is…

  • Pansies have much larger flowers and leaves and usually have only a few flowers blooming at one time
  • Violas have smaller flowers but more blooms at one time.

Because they have little freeze tolerance, most pansies and violas will die in the winter. In areas with moderate temperatures, like in the Pacific Northwest, they usually come back again in the spring.

These cool-season flowers not only add color but also drape elegantly over the sides of containers, making them perfect as “spillers” for your fall containers.

fall flowers for garden containers

3. Ornamental Cabbage and Kale

Ornamental plants, such as cabbage and kale, are festive plants for fall containers. They’re my favorite plants for fall planters in the container garden, bringing beautiful color and texture to mixed containers.

When to Plantaround 6-8 weeks before the first expected frost date in your area
Planting Needswell-draining soil, prefers full sun to partial shade, and benefits from consistent moisture to support its striking leaf coloration
Watering Needswater consistently, maintaining even moisture in the soil without allowing it to become overly soggy, to support their vibrant foliage coloration
Companion Plantwinter pansies, as their similar color palette and cold tolerance create a harmonious and eye-catching fall display
plants for fall planters: ornamental cabbage for fall containers

If you’re looking for “thriller” plants for fall planters, ornamental kale and cabbages will not let you down. They have the most gorgeous sage greens with pops of pink, purple, and creams.

Do you know the difference between cabbage and kale? Kale has spiky foliage.

The most amazing thing is that as the weather gets cooler, the colors of flowering cabbage and kale intensify even more, especially after a frost.

Ornamental varieties of cabbage and kale with their unique colors and textures make excellent focal points, perfect as “thrillers” in a flower pot.

plants for fall planters: asters

4. Asters

These beautiful daisy-like flowers bloom in late summer/early fall, so they create an abundance of color when most plants have faded with the season. Asters will attract butterflies to your garden too! 

When to Plantaround 6-8 weeks before the first expected frost date in your area
Planting Needswell-draining soil, prefer full sun, and require regular watering
Watering Needswater regularly, providing consistent moisture to the soil without saturating it, to encourage healthy growth and abundant flowering
Companion Plantgoldenrod, as their complementary colors and similar growing requirements create a harmonious and vibrant fall garden scene
asters

Asters are perfect “fillers” for your flower pots.

impatiens

5. Impatiens

Impatiens are the perfect option for shaded container gardens.

When to Plantaround 6-8 weeks before the first expected frost date in your area
Planting Needswell-draining soil, prefers partial to full shade, and benefits from consistent moisture
Watering Needswater consistently and evenly, keeping the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged, to ensure their lush growth and continuous flowering
Companion Plant begonias, as their shade tolerance and lush foliage create a visually appealing and vibrant combination.
impatiens

These plants can start looking quite leggy in the late summer, but pinching back the stems it will encourage bushier growth and promote new blooms for fall.

plants for fall planters

6. Celosia

Celosia, also called cockscomb, is a beautiful annual flower with blooms that look like the colors of a stunning sunset. These are the most beautiful plants for fall planters because of their unique feathery spikes and crested blooms, depending on the variety.

When to Plantaround 6-8 weeks before the first expected frost date in your area
Planting Needswell-draining soil, prefers full sun, and requires regular watering to support its unique and vibrant flower heads
Watering Needswater consistently, providing even moisture to the soil without letting it become overly wet, to support its unique and striking flower heads
Companion Plantdusty miller, as its silvery foliage contrasts beautifully with celosia’s vibrant flowers and adds texture to the arrangement.
plants for fall planters: coleus plants for fall

7. Coleus

Coleus has the most colorful foliage and a wide variety of shapes and leaf sizes. With combinations of green, pink, red, maroon, and more, your flower containers will never lack interest.

When to Plantaround 6-8 weeks before the first expected frost date in your area to showcase its striking foliage colors and patterns as the season changes
Planting Needswell-draining soil, can tolerate varying light conditions from full sun to shade depending on the variety, and benefits from regular watering
Watering Needswater regularly, keeping the soil consistently moist but not soggy, to maintain its colorful and vibrant foliage
Companion Plantsweet potato vine, as its trailing and colorful foliage complements the varied hues and patterns of coleus leaves
fall flowers for garden containers

This fabulous plant complements just about any fall flower you combine it with.

fall flowers for garden containers

8. Ornamental Grasses

Add texture and interest to your fall containers by planting ornamental grasses. The plumes and ornamental foliage are perfect for autumn and are low maintenance. Purple fountain grass is my favorite.

Ornamental grasses make a wonderful “filler” and “thriller” for your flower containers.

When to Plantaround 6-8 weeks before the first expected frost date in your area to highlight their captivating foliage colors in the cooler months
Planting Needswell-draining soil, prefers full sun to light shade, and requires minimal maintenance once established to add texture and movement to the garden
Watering Needswater grasses moderately, allowing the soil to dry slightly between waterings, to support their growth without causing waterlogged conditions
Companion Plant black-eyed Susans, as their daisy-like blooms provide a charming contrast to the grass’s feathery texture
plants for fall planters: petunias and marigolds

9. Marigolds

I have a mixture of nursery-bought and seed-sown marigolds, and yellow and orange blooms. I love this plant because of how long it blooms from early summer through the first frost. Another great feature of marigolds is their scent which makes deer run the other way.

When to Plantaround 6-8 weeks before the first expected frost date in your area to enjoy their vibrant blooms and natural pest-repelling properties during the autumn season
Planting Needswell-draining soil, prefer full sun, and benefit from regular watering to promote their vibrant blooms and deter pests
Watering Needswater consistently, keeping the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged, to encourage healthy growth and vibrant blooms
Companion Plant zinnias, as their vibrant and diverse blooms create a cheerful and colorful garden display
orange marigolds and dahlias

Marigolds are great for repelling insects and pests from garden plants because of their pungent scent. They are also a host plant for some Lepidoptera caterpillars.

Other Fall Container Plants You Should Try

I haven’t grown these specific plants in my fall garden but I just might try them this autumn season.

10. Heuchera (Coral Bells)

These perennials have beautiful foliage colors and a compact growth habit, making them great for adding depth to your arrangement. Heuchera makes a great “spiller” in any fall container.

11. Creeping Jenny

This low-growing plant features bright green leaves and trails beautifully. Because creeping Jenny has a cascading effect it makes a great spiller in your container garden.

12. Ornamental Peppers

With their colorful and often vibrant fruits, ornamental peppers are gorgeous fall focal points, making them a “thriller” in any autumn flower planter.

fall flowers and pumpkins on a green metal chair

Common Questions About Fall Container Plants

Several plants can survive the winter in containers, adding a touch of beauty to your outdoor spaces even during the colder months. Some winter-hardy options for container gardening include:

  • Evergreen Shrubs
  • Ornamental Grasses
  • Winter Heathers
  • Pansies and Violas
  • Kale and Cabbage
  • Lenten Roses
  • Cyclamen
plants for fall planters: pansies and violas

Pansies are often considered one of the easiest plants to grow in the fall.

They are versatile, hardy, and known for their vibrant blooms. Pansies thrive in cooler temperatures and can withstand light frosts, making them an excellent choice for autumn gardening.

They come in a wide range of colors and are relatively low-maintenance, making them a great option for both beginners and experienced gardeners looking to add a splash of color to their fall landscape.

Pansies can be grown in garden beds, containers, or hanging baskets, and their cheerful blooms can last well into the cooler months.

fall flowers in containers

You can typically plant fall flowers until about 6-8 weeks before the first expected frost date in your area, but hardy options like pansies, violas, ornamental cabbage, and kale can often be planted even after the first frost if the ground isn’t frozen yet.

Always consider your local climate and flower requirements, and consult a local garden center, nursery, or other gardening resources for precise timing.

pumpkins and fall plants

Plant fall planters approximately 6-8 weeks before the first expected frost date in your region to ensure your arrangements have time to establish and thrive before colder temperatures arrive.

A great tip to make your containers look even more full and colorful for fall is to mix pumpkins and gourds in with your plants. I’ve saved a lot of money on flowers this way.

This fall planter idea will save you even more money if you grow your own pumpkins and gourds from seed.

fall container

I hope these seasonal flower ideas have inspired you to grow your own after seeing these fabulous plants for fall planters.

If you have any questions or additional suggestions, feel free to share them in the comments below. And be sure to share this blog post link with anyone who may find these gardening tips useful.

Until next time.

Happy Fall Gardening!

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15 Comments

  1. What an informative post! Thank you fir providing such a great library to refer to. I fell in love with celosia this year. I will have a lot more of them next year. My summer garden is still going, but I am starting to grow indoors. Chilly mornings are making the garden so cozy, but keeps reminding me that fall is around the corner

  2. I literally don’t know which of these containers to pin first, Kim, wow – they are gorgeous! One of my favorite things about your posts is how you make gardening seem attainable no matter what the climate or skill set. I’m always encouraged to work with what I have and in a way that feels sustainable. Love your style sweet friend, CoCo

    1. Thank you CoCo. I think I can make it look like anyone can do it is because I literally knew nothing about gardening up until we bought this house 9 years ago. If I can do it, anyone can! I always love your kind words.

  3. Everything looks so beautiful, and as always, your Greenhouse is stunning. My mums are doing really well in their containers & I can’t believe I have so many new bloooms on my geraniums. Autumn is looking good! Have a great week.

    1. Hi Marguerite! Thank you for the sweet compliments. I’m so excited that everything is looking great for fall. Especially the geraniums. You know I always like to hear how they’re doing. Hope everything is well, so good to hear from you.

  4. Please give an example.using cabbage/kale and other fall plants in a common container that we all have access to, say a galvanized bucket. Please! I never know how to place plants. Particularly large kale with cocks comb, pansies. If it all one flower I can make rows. Ha! Ha!
    Help. Everything you share is appreciated. Thank you.

    Ps I can do ok with road in window box, too.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. I am one of those wild planters who does not follow the rules when it comes to garden containers. And that’s probably why I didn’t talk more about how to plant them. There is the thriller, filler, spiller rule. For thrillers, you can use grasses, celosia, and cabbage. You can also use an evergreen shrub. These can be placed towards the back or in the center of the container and are the stars of the show because of their height, color, or texture. Spillers can be something that hangs over the sides of the container like ivy. And then pop in other plants where they fit.

  5. What a great post Kim! These are all stunning and beautiful flowers. Our growing season in the fall is strange because we get fluke snowstorms that kill everything, then back to 75. I would love to have more plants during the fall. Hugs

    1. I’ve heard that about your area. That would make me so sad. We usually don’t have to worry about anything freezing until November so that still gives me time to get things done. Hugs right back Chas!

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