12 Easy-Care All-Foliage Container Gardens for Fall


1. Ruffled Up

A fountain of ‘First Knight’ fountain grass (Pennisetum ‘First Knight’) and a red cabbage anchor this handsome fall container, one of a pair of urns flanking the entrance of an elegant Chicago home. Designer Jennifer Hoxsie of Greenhaven Landscapes says she gravitates toward simplified and symmetrical arrangements like this one to complement formal homes. Layers of cold-hardy, extra-ruffled kales — ‘Red Russian’, ‘Red Chidori’ and ‘Redbor’ — fill the mid-layer with plenty of texture.

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Although Hoxsie changes container plantings for her client seasonally, the plants used here, save for the fountain grass, could last until the holidays.

Water requirement: Moderate; irrigated two to three times a week in fall
Light requirement: Full sun

2. Foliage Medley

Designer Toni Cross of Seasonal Color Pots created this trio of containers in Seattle for multiple seasons of interest. The contrast of bright plum ‘Spellbound’ coral bells (Heuchera ‘Spellbound’) with variegated periwinkle (Vinca minor ‘Bowles’), bronze ‘Jack Spratt’ New Zealand flax (Phormium ‘Jack Spratt’) and gray-green spurge (Euphorbia characias ‘Humpty Dumpty’) make for a dynamic foliage-forward container display next to an entryway.

Tender plants, such as periwinkle and spurge, can overwinter in moderate climates and can be used as annuals elsewhere.

Water requirement: Moderate
Light requirement: Mostly shade

3. Fall Embers

With a warm, fire-like glow, this eye-catching container design by Karen Chapman of Le Jardinet makes for a welcome addition to a fall deck or doorstep. Plants include red-bronze ‘Tequila Sunrise’ mirror plant (Coprosma ‘Tequila Sunrise’), fiery ‘Delta Dawn’ coral bells (Heuchera ‘Delta Dawn’), red-leafed mukdenia (Mukdenia rossii ‘Crimson Fans’), black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’), wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) and yew (Taxus sp.). All of the plants used are evergreen in the Pacific Northwest, where this garden is located, allowing this container to transition seamlessly into winter.

Water requirement: Moderate
Light requirement: Partial shade

4. Classic Boxwood

You can’t go wrong with potting up evergreen boxwood (Buxus sp.) to grace a porch or entryway, as seen in this landscape by Boxleaf Design. These versatile shrubs look good year-round, standing alone or serving as a handsome green backdrop to seasonal color.

Despite common belief, not all boxwood thrive in containers. Choose a variety that stays small (such as B. Green Mound’ or B. microphylla ‘Compacta’) and is suited to your climate, and the plants will require little pruning or additional care.

Water requirement: Moderate
Light requirement: Full to partial sun

5. Butterscotch Beauty

Purple ‘Midnight Fire’ ornamental peppers and cool blue-purple ‘Peacock Red’ kale help set off the butterscotch-colored foliage of a ruffled coral bells (Heuchera sp.) in this fall container design by Stephanie Town of Garden Stories. For more textural interest, the designer added dried dogwood stems, clips of bittersweet berries and wispy Red Rooster sedge (Carex buchananii ‘Red Rooster’).

To transition the container from fall to winter, Town says: “I would transplant the Coral Bells and kale into the bed somewhere. This particular client loves red and a bit of ‘bling,’ so I’ll add spruce tips, red glitter lotus pods and bright red ‘Cardinal’ dogwood, with a skirting of white pine and pepperberry.”

Water requirement: Moderate (watered by hand two to three times a week)
Light requirement: Full sun

Note: Oriental bittersweet can be invasive; American bittersweet is a good substitute. Both species are toxic.

6. Dwarf Conifer

Keep it simple with a cold-hardy dwarf conifer potted in a handsome container for a garden accent that will last year-round. Here, designer Tish Treherne of Bliss Garden Design planted a dwarf Siberian pine (Pinus pumila ‘Blue Dwarf’) in a textured ceramic container, which she placed in a garden bed as a focal point. ‘Goldcrest’ Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Goldcrest’) is another standout conifer for containers but is less cold-hardy than the dwarf Siberian pine.

Water requirement: Low
Light requirement: Full sun

7. Jewel Box

The brilliant foliage and rich textures of ‘Golden Mop’ sawara false cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Golden Mop’), red-tinged coastal doghobble (Leucothoe axillaris) and creeping juniper (Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’) steal the show in this half-barrel container garden. “If you think about texture and form more than color, you are off to a good start,” says designer Amy Wilbur of Sweet Dirt Designs. “I like chartreuse-y plants, like the ‘Golden Mop’ in the photo, lemon-scented cypress and lime-y heuchera, with purple-leafed cabbages and kales.”

Water requirement: Moderate to low, depending on season; Wilbur reports that the plants received no water in winter in New York.
Light requirement: Full sun

8. Bronze Trio

A simple planting of ‘Sweet Tea’ heucherella (x Heucherella ‘Sweet Tea’) in matching bronze pots feels perfectly fall-like in this Pacific Northwest arrangement by Bliss Garden Design. Heucherella (a hybrid between Heuchera and Tiarella) comes in a wide variety of colors, all with showy foliage. The plants are evergreen in the Pacific Northwest and other moderate-winter climates, although leaf colors may fade in winter.

Water requirement: Moderate
Light requirement: Full sun to partial shade

9. Ferns and Ivy

Gardeners in mild-winter climates can turn to this fresh combination by Amy Martin Landscape Design of fuzzy foxtail fern (Asparagus densiflorus ‘Myers’) and trailing variegated ivy for a low-maintenance combination that thrives in part-shade. Foxtail fern stays green year-round in mild climates, forming bright red jewel-like berries in fall in all climates.

Overwinter these plants indoors in cold-winter regions. Both the foxtail fern and the variegated ivy require little supplemental water in the cool season but will need more consistent water in spring and summer.

Water requirement: Low to moderate
Light requirement: Partial shade

10. Texture Feast

Ruffled red cabbages and kales combine with trailing and upright junipers, bronze ornamental grass, chartreuse ‘Ascot Rainbow’ spurge (Euphorbia x martinii ‘Ascot Rainbow’) and a small button-shaped mum (Chrysanthemum sp.) in this container by Joseph Basone Landscape Design & Garden Maint.

Although it was designed for a fall show, this container could easily transition into winter by removing all plants except for the junipers, filling in the gaps with mounds of preserved moss or clipped conifer branches and adding a few springs of decorative red berries.

Water requirement: Moderate
Light requirement: Full sun

11. Succulent Centerpiece

Cactus and succulents may not be the first plants that come to mind for fall color, but many varieties will be at their brightest after a summer of full sun, with washes of orange, yellow and red. In this container by Garden Studio, a crush of echeveria, ghost plants (Graptopetalum sp.) and stonecrop (Sedum sp.) looks as decorative as a pile of gourds and pumpkins on an outdoor table. While succulents can stay outside year-round in mild-winter regions, bring them indoors elsewhere once temperatures drop.

Water requirement: Low
Light requirement: Partial to full sun

12. Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental grasses of all kinds make great container plants, but not all of them transition well between seasons — unless you don’t mind a tawny backdrop in winter when most go dormant. Some ornamental grasses, such as blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis), have decorative seed heads that cling to the stems from fall into winter, adding interest with texture and movement. In this Phoenix garden designed by Coffman Studio, ‘Blonde Ambition’ blue grama grass fills a Cor-Ten planter next to Golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii) and angelita daisy (Hymenoxys Acaulis).

Water requirement: Moderate; low once established
Light requirement: Partial to full sun

It’s easy to jump to late-blooming flowers as a default for fall container gardens, but foliage plants can be just as beautiful and easier to maintain over the season. Take the jewel-toned leaves of coral bells, combined with texture-rich autumn ferns or a cascade of a weeping conifer, and you have a showstopper arrangement that will carry you through fall and even into winter, depending on your climate. The following 12 foliage-forward container designs offer ideas for gardens through fall and even into winter.

This content was originally published here.

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