colors in a fall planter at Gethsemane Garden
Center in Chicago
about now, any pots or window boxes that held flowering
plants are starting to wind down with the cooler
weather. But that’s no reason not to get one more
hurrah out of the gardening season with a pot that’s
replanted for a blast of autumnal color.
are four seasons for containers, but fall is one that
often gets overlooked, because if your summer containers
look good into October, you’re hesitant to pull out
the plants," says Carol Rice, manager of annual
plants at Gethsemane Garden Center in Chicago’s
Andersonville neighborhood. Rice creates hundreds of
containers, many going beyond the usual mums and cabbage
plants, to highlight the change of season.
in that in-between time when most perennials are done,
but it’s too early for a winter container of twigs,
berries and evergreen branches. If you want nice colors
right now, the only way you’ll get it is with (fresh)
annuals," Rice says. A bonus with fall container
plantings is that you won’t need to water as much or
fertilize or remove the spent flowers because the plants
grow slowly at this time of year.
creates elegant container designs that typically feature
just a few varieties but several of each plant, a
minimalist take that displays oomph. But customers can
select from a virtual salad bar of plants to create
their own color schemes with plenty of individual
the pictured example, hot-colored peppers, celosia,
golden creeping Jenny, cabbage, pansies and variegated
sweet flag are packed for a vibrant medley.
of the most unusual plants in the container is the lemon
cypress. "It gives the height in the back, and the
chartreuse-lime foliage is always popular," Rice
explains. "It looks like an evergreen, and although
it’s not hardy, you can winter it indoors."
lemon color is echoed in the trailing creeping Jenny.
And while many of us think golds and reds in autumn,
"It’s all about the lime-green color at this time
of year," Rice says.
leaves on the Black Pearl ornamental pepper are almost
pure black, which creates another striking contrast
against the peppers that slowly change from black to
deep red. Except for the lemon cypress, which can often
survive a light freeze, the plants shown here should be
protected when frost is predicted. (To keep your fall
container looking good, see Rice’s tips in the
frequently ask Rice to suggest plants that are going to
last the longest in a pot before the winter settles in,
and that brings us back to a more typical choice:
"Mums are a common fall container plant, along with
cabbage, kale and pansies. Even in a light snow, they’ll
plants in this pot will handle full sun to part shade.
Before freezing weather arrives, put the lemon cypress
in a smaller pot and bring it indoors, where it can
spend the winter in a sunny window. There it can grow
with occasional watering until mid-May, when you can
transplant it into a spring container.
variegated sweet flag (Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’).
"It’s great for a pop of color and
brightness," Rice says.
celosia (Celosia caracus ‘Intenz’). Spikes of
vibrant color add height to the pot.
cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Goldcrest’). Adds an
outstanding focal point in a fall container with its
narrow, upright habit and bright color.
Chili hot pepper. (Capsicum annuum ‘Chilly Chili’).
As they mature, the peppers turn from green-yellow to
orange to red.
Deep Yellow pepper (Capsicum annuum ‘Mambo Deep Yellow’).
A compact plant with highly ornamental peppers.
Pearl pepper (Capsicum annuum ‘Black Pearl Pepper’).
Fantastic dark leaves contrast with the fruits.
creeping Jenny. (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Goldilocks’).
"This is a perennial if planted in the
ground," Rice says. The trailing lime-colored
leaves provide a counterpoint to the lemon cypress.
kale. (Brassica oleracea ‘Redbor’). Redbor kale
turns darker purple with cool night temps. Cool weather
helps kales color up
Making it last
Rice shares these tips for fall containers.
the spent flowers on pansies so they don’t form big
seed pods. This helps them continue to flower.
mums just as the flower buds are starting to show color,
and they should last six to eight weeks. If we get
80-degree weather, it might not be as long.
the temperatures start to drop into the 30s, protect the
plants. If it’s a container that you can move, put it
inside or in a garage or cover it. A sheet works better
than a plastic garbage bag.
the third week of November, think about planting for
winter containers with twigs, berries and evergreen
branches. "Get your winter containers done before
the soil freezes. Once that happens, you’d have to
drill the holes to stick in berry branches and