Best Ideas for Fall Container Gardening

Purple Pansies and Cabbage Dough Bowl Container
Photo: Laurey W. Glenn; Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller

Container gardens are a great way to enjoy seasonal splashes of color. For fall container gardening, mix eye-popping blooms with rustic grasses and foliage. Here, the Southern Living gardening editors share bright ideas for bringing the shades and tones of autumn to your home. From decorative mums and pumpkins—you can even combine the two in a mumkin—to vibrant window boxes, these fall container gardens are full of inspiration. For unique fall container gardening ideas, consider using succulents, or marvel at our Tabletop Topiary. If color is your inspiration, fill your outdoor space with a Pink Petunia Window Box, or the Bright Gold Fall Container Gardens. Whatever your inspiration, these fall container gardening ideas will make every autumn day feel like it is filled with beauty.

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The Fragrant Flower Basket

Yellow Pansy Hanging Basket
Photo: Laurey W. Glenn; Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller

This rustic hanging arrangement doubles as a mini herb garden

  1. Find a hanging basket at your local hardware or crafts store. Be sure to choose a lined one if you plan to display it on your door.
  2. Fill with good-quality potting soil.
  3. Add yellow garden pansies and radiant marigolds to give the arrangement bright bursts of color. Buy a six-pack of both flowers, and use three plants from each pack.
  4. Between the flowers, add baby kale for a dose of purple.
  5. Instead of using typical green foliage, Miller selected herbs to provide this basket with edible elements. She chose cilantro (growing along the handle), golden lemon thyme (on the bottom left), and Italian oregano (on the bottom right).

Prep Tip
Hanging baskets can be heavy. To keep them from getting weighed down, fill the space at the bottom with empty plastic bottles and then top with potting soil.

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The Bountiful Container

Bountiful Container with Ornamental Kale and Cabbage
Photo: Laurey W. Glenn; Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller

This look combines height, texture, color, and cabbage in one amazing arrangement

  1. Begin with a tall, 16-inch-diameter ceramic planter that has good drainage.
  2. Fill the container with potting soil.
  3. Add ornamental kale and cabbage for hardy, colorful focal points.
  4. To contrast with the purple veggies, include red and gold marigolds. A plastic six-pack of each color should be plenty to fill your planter.
  5. Add fountain grass for height, and trail ivy near the front of the pot to "soften the sides of the container."

Prep Tip
For sturdier pumpkin stacks, pick flat-topped gourds without stems. (Here, we chose 'Fairytale' pumpkins.) Vary the colors of the gourds on your steps, and add ornamental kale and cabbage.

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The Charm of Asters

Aster, Ornamental Cabbage, Mexican Bush Sage, Purple Waffle Plant, Lamb's Ears, and Alternanthera Container Garden
Robbie Caponetto; Design: Mark Thompson

While fiery red, orange, and yellow mums are classic pot fillers for fall, every other front porch on the block will likely have a similar look. We suggest loosening things up with free-flowing asters. Blooming in late summer and early fall, these vibrant flowers can withstand the South's fickle autumn temperatures. Mix purple ones with spiky Mexican bush sage and ornamental cabbage to create a moody, monochromatic display.

Pick the Plants
Aster, ornamental cabbage, Mexican bush sage, purple waffle plant, lamb's ears, and 'Purple Prince' alternanthera

Make Them Last
Planting directly into the container makes watering easier and helps your selections last longer. Drill holes in the bottom for drainage. Provide full sun, and water daily. If your porch gets partial shade, be sure the pot receives at least four hours of light per day.

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Forget the Faux Wreath

Fall Living Wreath with Flowering Kale, Pansies, and Violas
Robbie Caponetto; Design: Mark Thompson

Make a memorable first impression by choosing a live wreath packed with beautiful flowers, fresh
foliage, and vibrant autumn colors. Start by buying a form and liner that you can use every season. (We like the Large 24" Living Wreath Form with Jute Liner, $26; kinsmangarden.com.) At the end of winter, replant with spring annuals.

Put It Together
To assemble, place the jute liner (plastic side up) in the wreath form. Fill partially with potting soil, leaving enough room for adding plants. Cover with the second jute piece, and clip wire frame into place. Snip holes in the liner for plants.

Handpicked Bounty
Add the flowering kale, 'Prostrate' rosemary, 'Miz America' mustard, Delta Premium 'Persian Medley' pansies, yellow and orange violas, and mums.

Make It Last
Smaller flowers and foliage are easier to plant. They'll grow into the wreath and last through the season. Lay it on the ground to water; let drain before rehanging.

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Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains Regional Container

Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains Regional Container
Alison Miksch

While we selected fiberglass planters, you can re-create this look with any similar taupe container. When you have a neutral base, a lush arrangement of contrasting foliage and flowers steals the show. Virginia sweetspire towers over ornamental kale and cabbage, and the lime green "Flirt" nandinas add a burst of color on the left side while bold yellow snapdragons accent the right. Mums, a familiar fall favorite, are front and center. Count on these cheery containers to brighten your stoop all the way until the first frost.

Surprising Addition
Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica): This native shrub grows from 3 to 5 feet tall. Its leaves, which turn red in fall, can last through the winter. In summer, expect creamy white flowers, so keep this around for a warm-weather container.

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The Mix-and-Match Centerpiece

Purple Pansies and Cabbage Dough Bowl Container
Laurey W. Glenn; Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller

Pops of purple, mini pumpkins, and hardy cabbage and kale make this look stunning

  1. You can use any long bowl for this centerpiece, but we went with an old wooden dough bowl. We lined ours with plastic to protect it from damage.
  2. Without removing plants from their original plastic containers, place pansies, 'Sugar Plum' heuchera, 'Red Giant' mustard, and ornamental kale and cabbage directly in the bowl to create a cool purple foundation.
  3. Then plant various greens like creeping Jenny, 'Lemon Ball' sedum, and 'Ogon' sedum (also left in their containers) to brighten up the deep purple color palette.
  4. Fill in empty areas with moss to conceal the containers, and add white mini pumpkins for seasonality.

Prep Tip
Hosting a dinner party this season? Attach place cards to mini white pumpkins to show your guests to their seats.

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Florida and the Coastal South Regional Container

Shade-Loving Paradise
Alison Miksch

These white ceramic containers have a seaside vibe, which enhances, rather than upstages, their blooms. Flamelike bromeliads hold court atop the multihued leaves of crotons and the whimsical structure of pitcher plants. Yellow creeping Jenny at the base of each container provides a bright green pop against the white pots. While bromeliads and crotons shouldn't be exposed to frost, pitcher plants are hardy perennials.

Surprising Addition
Pitcher plants: Aside from their penchant for consuming insects and spiders, pitcher plants are known for their dramatic appearance.

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Texas and the Southwest Regional Container

Texas and the Southwest Regional Container
Alison Miksch

Texture is the secret to this handsome duo. Start at the bottom with aged concrete vessels, which give a rugged, established look. Plus, the neutral tones coordinate with the home's exterior and allow the colors to shine. Variegated yucca provides a background for each architectural arrangement. The bluish purple echeverias contrast nicely with the yellow tones of the yuccas and the green of the sedums. A bright red kalanchoe finishes each container with a flourish. This low-maintenance display will last until the first frost. You'll want to bring the echeverias and kalanchoes indoors for the winter.

Surprising Addition
Kalanchoe: Though most people think of this as a temporary winter-holiday plant, it will last for years if you protect it from freezing temperatures.

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All Fired Up

All Fired Up
Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

Take glorious fall color right up to your door by mixing the blazing tones of orange and yellow with cool shades of purple and blue. First, encircle a copper container with a bittersweet wreath (fresh or faux). To contrast with the orange berries, add "Lemon Ball" sedum and the regal hues of purple cabbage. Spice up the center with "Calypso Orange" ornamental peppers and "Cosmic Yellow" cosmos. Crown the look with a halo of Mexican bush sage. Stack pumpkins on the steps for additional color. Provide full sun and moderate water and the display will flourish through the fall. When it's done, just plant the sedum in your yard to continue the show.

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Decorative Mums and Pumpkins

Decorative Mums and Pumpkins
Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

For a 5-minute fix, pile on the pumpkins, and nestle potted mums right into decorative containers. The mums will also pair well with boxwood, salvias, and ornamental cabbage and kale.

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Vibrant Fall Colors

Vibrant Fall Colors
Photo: Hector Sanchez

Combine the season's hottest hues in a vibrant mix of 'Snapshot Orange' snapdragons, 'Purple Pixie' loropetalum, and bright 'Penny Clear Yellow' violas. Tuck in the showy foliage of 'Sparkling Burgundy' heuchera to complete the look.

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Carve Out a Mumkin

Carve Out a Mumkin
Hector Sanchez

What do you get when you combine the fun of a pumpkin with the beauty of a mum? A "mumkin," of course! Fill smaller gourds with containers of pansies to create a trio of trusty sidekicks.

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Bright Gold Fall Container Gardens

Golden Gems
Laurey W. Glenn

Pansies and violas are the easiest way to add long-lasting color to a fall container garden. This container creates a sunny color scheme with 'Ogon' golden sweet flag, 'Matrix Yellow Blotch' pansy, and 'Penny Clear Yellow' viola.

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Stunning Marigold Fall Container

Stunning Marigold Fall Container
Photo: Helen Norman

The sun's lower angle causes the ribs and veins of 'Red Gaint' mustard to glow white to chartreuse in contrast to its deep maroon foliage. 'Bonanza Harmony' Marigolds bring a burst of autumn orange and yellows to this fall container, while 'Angelina' sedums tie it all together.

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Show-Stopping Autumn Window Box

Spruced Up
Ralph Lee Anderson

Dwarf Alberta spruce acts as a focal point for this fall-focused window box, while kales, pansies, and violas provide fall colors and textures. For a bit of romance, English ivy cascades over the sides of the box.

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Vibrant Seasonal Pot

Plant an Autumnal Container
Laurey W. Glenn

This explosive combo combines seasonal favorites like eye-catching purple fountain grass, 'Fireworks' gomphrena, and 'Bandana Red' lantanas for colorful blooms. Add sweet potato vines for an extra pop at the bottom. This pot will last until your first frost.

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Strawberry Jar Violas

Purple Pop
Ralph Anderson

Violas are a beautiful and easy-to-maintain plant for the fall, blooming even longer than pansies. This strawberry jar features a striking combination of 'Sorbet Plum Velvet' and 'Sorbet Icy Blue' violas.

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Cheery Chrysanthemums

Cheery Chrysanthemums
Photo: Van Chaplin

Nothing ushers in autumn like mums. Slip them between the coleus from your summer pots for a big show of color.

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Stair-Step Violas

Bold Blossoms
Southern Living

'Penny Red with Blotch' violas will warm any entry. Group them on your steps to add a vertical boost.

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Fiery Ornamental Plumes

Fiery Ornamental Plumes

Purple fountain grass looks great in containers. Its vertical shape creates an exclamation point in the border. Purplish red leaves and fall plumes combine well with the red coleus below. This grass and the coleus are not winter hardy in most areas, but new plants bought in spring are inexpensive and grow quickly.

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Dramatic Pansy Container

Structure and Style
Southern Living

Follow our rule of thriller, filler, spiller for a container that's guaranteed to impress. A cone-shaped, evergreen arborvitae works perfectly as an attention-grabbing thriller. To brighten up the look of your container, fill up the pot with multicolored 'Pandora's Box' pansies and have variegated English ivy spill over the sides for a dramatic visual.

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Sunny Marigolds

Sunny Marigolds
Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

Use marigolds as you would mums for great autumn color. They're ideal in pots or in the ground.

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Pink Petunia Window Box

Pink Petunia Window Box
Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

If you have space to fill, 'Supertunia Vista Bubblegum' is a smart choice, growing 16 to 24 inches tall and wide. Its mounding, cascading form is ideal for large containers and window boxes. To complete the look, put coleus in the middle back, and flank the grouping with geraniums and angelonia.

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Bright and Bold Foliage

Bright and Bold Foliage
Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

Sunny 'Supertunia Citrus' petunia becomes the focal point of this unexpected color palette consisting of yellow, rust, purple, and red. The bright foliage of coleus mixes perfectly with the petunias.

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Hardy Succulents

Hardy Succulents
Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

You won't find any plants better adapted for growing in pots than succulents. Mostly native to arid regions, succulents store water in their fleshy leaves, stems, and roots, enabling them to resist drought. This pot combines 'Red Stem' portulacaria with echeveria and 'Amazon Mist' sage.

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Stacked Violas

Stacked Violas
Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

Gather two galvanized buckets. Plant the smaller one with violas and parsley. Tuck more violas and creeping Jenny around the edges of the larger one, and stack.

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Elevated Autumn Urn

Elevated Autumn Urn
Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

Add extra height to your pots with pole baskets. Line the baskets with sphagnum moss, place them in containers, and plant for a multilevel display. Here we used 'Dolce Crème Brûlée' heucheras. They sport bronze foliage that looks like just-fallen autumn leaves—without the raking!

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Charming Green Window Box

Window Wow
Laurey W. Glenn

Charleston, South Carolina horticulturist Tracee Lund of Potted Pleasures creates a light color palette with 'Aaron' white caladium, 'Key Lime Pie' heuchera, 'White Nancy' spotted dead nettle, holly fern, ivy, and light pink periwinkle.

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Tabletop Topiary

Tabletop Topiary
Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

A dwarf aborvitae topiary and low-growing creeping fig bring life to small outdoor spaces with little upkeep.

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Eye-Catching Purple Pot

Purple-and-Green Palette
Laurey W. Glenn

This mix of coleus, wire vine, euphorbia, lysimachia, and petunias creates a striking deep purple-and-chartreuse color palette.

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Fresh Decorative Collards

Fresh Decorative Collards
Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

The striking foliage of collards is a decorative choice to fill containers. Group pots to keep plenty of fresh greens at hand.

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Stunning Hydrangea Bouquet

Autumn Botanicals
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Autumn colors served as the inspiration for this striking display of lush 'Vintage Harvest' hydrangea blooms and rex begonia. Bird's nest, and silver lace ferns contribute to the delicacy of the design and serve as a vibrant green counterpoint to the muted colors of the hydrangeas. As a final touch, lacy angel vine is added to the mix, allowing it to spill romantically over the edge. The result? A beautiful indoor display with staying power.

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Versatile Fall Container

Plant Fall Flowers
Hector Manuel Sanchez

This vintage wicker planter, snagged at a flea market, overflows with mums and foliage. For another amazing look, try these plants in a window box.

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Easy Inviting Boxwoods

Easy Inviting Boxwoods
Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

A pretty row of boxwoods stands at attention, ready to lead guests to the door. Perfect for pots, boxwoods look good all year long and are the nearest thing to no maintenance.

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Classic Mums

Classic Mums
Photo: Ralph Anderson

Mums are abundant this time of year and require little attention. We chose red, yellow, and orange blooms to echo the season's warm color palette and painted terracotta pots to complement the color of the flowers.

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Heirloom Viola Container

Heirloom Viola Container
Photo: Ralph Lee Anderson

A small, perfectly placed container makes a big impact in this cottage garden. Heirloom violas, also called 'Johnny Jump-Ups', hang along the top of a picket fence, a spot that's not only easy to water, but easy for a passerby to enjoy.

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