By Laurel Aiello | Fort Collins Nursery
October’s colorful landscapes inspire gardeners to paint their yards with crimson and amber foliage, showy grasses, and late-season blooms. Autumn wreaths hang on front doors, and decorative gourds adorn neighborhood porches in celebration of the fall harvest. Even with impending frosts, there’s still time to enjoy the gifts of the growing season.
PLANT COLD-TOLERANT ANNUALS
While many annual flowers thrive in the heat of summer, some prefer cooler weather, making fall the perfect time for a container garden refresh. Pansies, violas, snapdragons, stock, alyssum, and dianthus bloom continuously through the fall, adding fresh life and color to patio pots and porch planters. Garden mums also make their yearly debut, with radiant blooms in shades of red, orange, yellow, and pink.
Play with different bloom colors, heights, and growth habits to create a living bouquet in your container garden. Tall fall annuals, like Sonnet and Rocket snapdragons, make great “thrillers,” whereas compact annuals, like pansies and violas, fill in the gaps. Deadhead the spent flowers to encourage more blooms and cover them with a frost cloth during the season’s early freezes.
INCORPORATE FALL FOLIAGE
As summer blooms give way to textured leaves and feathery grasses, opportunities arise to engage the sense of touch. Velvety coleus and dusty miller foliage add a softness to fall annual pots, contrasting the sharpness of cordyline leaves and sedge. Rubbery ornamental kale and cabbage leaves create a bed of green and magenta rosettes, whereas purple fountain grass creates a light, flowy feel as the burgundy seed heads sway in the cool autumn breeze.
Cold-tolerant foliage can serve as thrillers, fillers and spillers in fall patio pots. Fountain grasses with fluffy seed tops can be planted in the middle or back of the container (depending on the orientation), adding height and movement among the flowers. Silvery lamium and dusty miller are neutral fillers that help blend colorful blooms, and vibrant coleus leaves add pops of color throughout the entire arrangement. Moneywort and vinca vine spill over the edges of the pot, creating a waterfall of greenery.
ADD DECORATIVE TOUCHES
Gardeners have the advantage of coming up with their own DIY fall decor using homegrown pumpkins, gourds, corn stalks, pinecones, birch logs, and other natural decorations. Situate your potted annual arrangements on your patio and surround them with seasonal decor from your yard, or give them more height by placing them on hay bales or wooden crates.
You can also trade out your summer pots for fall-inspired containers, such as wooden barrels, lined wicker baskets, vintage wheelbarrows, and red wagons. Don’t hold back on the store-bought decor either: now is the time to break out the fall lanterns, string lights, and fall welcome mats, not to mention the outdoor throw pillows and cozy blankets for the porch swing.
ASK THE EXPERTS
If you’re having a hard time deciding on the plants and decor for your fall patio pots, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your local garden center will have plenty of ideas to share, and you might surprise yourself with your own creativity once you get your hands in the dirt.