18 Fall Plants Perfect for Pots

Helenium
Photo: fotolinchen/Getty Images

When the air turns cool and crisp, it's a good time to refresh containers. The heat and humidity-loving plants of summer are fading with the cooling temperatures. We're waving goodbye to them—until next summer, at least. Fall is the season for plants that can thrive with less sun and chillier temps while still bringing the drama with blooms and foliage. It's time to get your hands dirty and put those green thumbs to work on planting fall container gardens. We've collected a few of our favorite fall plants that will last in your container gardens all season long. We included classics like mums and zinnias as well as a few plants you might not already have on your autumn planting radar. Read on for our September-to-November favorites—what are your favorite fall plants for pots and hanging baskets?

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Aster

Aster
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Asteraceae

These perennials are loaded with daisy-like flowers in white, purple, blue, or pink that also attract bees and butterflies. They bloom in late summer and fall. Asters can require sun or shade, depending on the species, so make sure to check plant labels. Add them to your containers for a pop of fall color and then plant them in the ground; asters are winter hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 8.

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Begonia

begonia hanging basket
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Begoniaceae

Most types of begonias have fleshy leaves and bloom in summer and fall. But multiflora tuberous begonias—like the old favorite 'Non-Stop' series—have abundant, showy flowers in a variety of colors that last late in the season, blooming until first frost. Grow in full or part shade.

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Chrysanthemum

Chrysanthemum
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Chrysanthemum

When fall arrives, Southerners know that it's time for mums. They're the classic fall container plant, and you'll rarely find a porch without a pot of mums or two come October. Mums like regular watering and full sun. Deadhead the flowers to keep your mums blooming.

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Autumn Crocus

Colchicum
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Colchicaceae

Colchicums are actually in the lily family and are also called meadow saffron or autumn crocus. They produce pink, lilac, or white cup-shaped flowers on bare, leafless stalks (the foliage will make an appearance later). Bury the bulbs in your containers in late summer for a flower show in fall.

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Cosmos

Cosmos
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Asteraceae

Cosmos is a sun-loving annual that will bloom all summer and into fall. The ferny foliage bears flowers that resemble daisies and come in many colors—crimson, pink, chocolate brown, yellow, orange, and gold, for starters. They also attract pollinators. Pinch stems after the first bloom to reduce height and encourage branching.

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Globe Amaranth

Globe Amaranth
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Amaranthaceae

These long-blooming flowers offer garden color from summer through fall. They produce rounded, cloverlike flower heads in shades of purple, pink, magenta, red, orange, and white. The plants themselves are drought tolerant, and many selections make great container plants for full sun.

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Helenium

Helenium
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Helenium

Also known as sneezeweed and Helen's flower, Heleniums are summer and fall bloomers that bear flowers with red, yellow, bronze, and copper petals surrounding dark centers—perfect colors for containers in autumn. These plants in the daisy family prefer to grow in full sun and can reach heights of 3 feet tall.

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Impatiens

Impatiens
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Impatiens

You may have planted your impatiens during the heat of summer, but many selections of impatiens will continue to bloom until killed by the first frost. Impatiens produce flowers in eye-catching, jewel-toned hues, including magenta, crimson, violet, pink, lilac, and white. They are great choices for shady and partly shady container gardens as well as flower beds.

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Marigold

Marigold
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Marigold

Marigolds add a dose of cheery color to containers because they continue to bloom into the fall, when other annuals have finished producing flowers. French and African marigolds, particularly, produce an abundance of bright blooms in sunny spots until the first frost. They're even used in Day of the Dead celebrations on Nov. 1 and 2.

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Pansy

Pansy
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Violaceae

Pansies and their relatives, violets and violas, are often treated as cool-season annuals because they don't thrive in heat. They're enlisted to provide beds, containers, and borders with plenty of fall (and even winter!) garden color. In the South, they can last through winter to provide another season of blooms in spring.

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Petunia

Petunia
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Solanaceae

In warm climates that generally stay above freezing, petunias can be grown as winter annuals. Plant them in containers in fall, and you'll be able to enjoy them throughout the autumn and winter months. Bring containers indoors for the night when there's a cold snap to prolong the growing season.

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Zinnia

Zinnia
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Zinnia

These beautiful bloomers produce bright flowers in shades of red, pink, coral, white, and yellow from spring until the first frost. In very humid climates, zinnias can even have a resurgence during the dry months of fall. Place in full sun and cut off faded flowers to encourage additional blooms.

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Crossandra

Spruce Topiary Container Garden
Robbie Caponetto; Produced by: Mark Thompson

Also called firecracker flower, crossandra blooms from late August through early fall. It can withstand late-season heat waves with plenty of water. Leave it planted until the first frost. Here, we paired a spruce topiary with fiery 'Orange Marmalade' firecracker flower.

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Echinacea

Rose-Pink Coneflowers
Ralph Anderson

Sun-loving coneflowers show off their perky blooms throughout the summer and until the first frost. Deadheading spent blooms from these perennials will prolong flowering. If you're craving fall color, newer varieties come in sunset-inspired hues sure to brighten your containers.

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Mexican Bush Sage

Mexican Bush Sage (S. leucantha)
Photo: Roger Foley

Add height to fall containers with Mexican bush sage, a late-blooming species hardy to USDA Zone 8 that blooms throughout the fall (in the Tropical South, it'll grow until spring). This drought-tolerant evergreen shrub produces tall, spiky purple flowers. Plant it in well-draining soil in a sunny spot.

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Ornamental Cabbage and Kale

Purple and White ornamental cabbage

These cool-weather annuals perform well in containers and deliver leafy fall color. Give them moist, well-drained soil and full or part sun, and they'll stay happy throughout fall and winter in the South.

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Ornamental Peppers

Ornamental peppers
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Spice up fall containers with ornamental peppers. These vibrant peppers come in a variety of shapes, colors, and textures for growing in a sunny spot. And they are remarkably resilient, surviving snappy temperatures in fall. You can harvest the peppers before the first frost for cooking—just know they tend to be very, very hot.

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Snapdragons

Snapdragon Flowers
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Snapdragons prefer cool temperatures, which you might have suspected when they fried in the summer heat. Now is a great time to add them to containers, where they will bloom long after many flowers. Set them in a sunny spot and give them extra water whenever freezing temperatures arrive. If you live in USDA Zone 7 or warmer, they will survive the winter to bloom again in spring.

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