Thursday, September 7, 2017

Fall Container Plantings

Right through until the last week of August, it was really hot and humid here. Then we had a couple of days of rain. By the time the clouds had moved on, the unpleasant heat and humidity had been washed away. 

Suddenly it seemed there was a hint to fall in the air.

Busy as I find myself, I wanted to give the garden a bit of a fall update. 

My hanging baskets and some container plantings still look nice, so I am leaving them as they are. Other containers need a few seasonal touches. Then there are also two large metal urns that need a complete overhaul! The pansies that lasted most of the summer are now looking positively worn out.

On the weekend I went looking for plants and a little inspiration at Terra Greenhouses. They always manage to have nice fall arrangements.

I bought a bunch of ornamental peppers, some flowering annuals and a few ornamental cabbages for my updates.

I find that ornamental cabbages cope with the frosty nights of late fall really well and are worth the investment. In mild years, I have had them last well into November.

As I have done in years past, I bought small Coleus seedlings in the spring. Some Coleus I put right out into my container plantings. Other seedlings I grew-on in pots, so I'd they'd be a nice size for the fall.

Coleus can have wacky splashes of bright colors, but my favourites have become the cultivars with solid colored leaves. When the foliage is a deep, rich color, the leaves look as though they are made of velvet.

This year my absolute favourite has been a red colored Coleus. All summer it made the perfect backdrop for another big pot filled with marigolds, red snapdragons and sweet potato vines.

 Coleus 'Campfire'

Cameras seem to struggle with the color red. I made numerous attempts to capture the exact color of this Colues. This image is the closest representation of the plant's striking mix of red, orange and magenta. As it's name suggests, 'Campfire' glows.

Two pots at the back of the garden filled with a mix of Coleus and pansies didn't need much of a seasonal makeover. 

Back in June (seen above) you could barely see the Coleus for all the pansies. They filled out nicely when I cut back the pansies in early summer.

Here's the same container now. All I added was an ornamental pepper to replace one of the pansies that had really faded.

Pansies hate the heat. To keep them going through the summer, you really need a cool, part-shade location. I also find that you need to be vigilant about deadheading the spent flowers and pinching back any leggy growth. If the plant gets too spindly, it's really hard to bring them back to looking attractive again.

The big urn near the back gate needed more of an overhaul. The ivy geranium and the sweet potato vine were still looking good, so I decided to work with them, even if that meant the finished color scheme would not be a traditional fall one.

I added in two Coleus, an ornamental pepper and a Celosia. To balance the chartreuse of the sweet potato vine, I also included a Sedum Orpin 'Lemon Ball'.

1. Coleus 2. Coleus 3. Celosia 4. Sweet Potato Vine 5. Ornamental Pepper 6. Ivy geranium 7. Sedum Orpin 'Lemon Ball'

The window box at the side of the house was still holding up nicely I left the sweet potato vine, the yellow Coleus and a couple of the white Nicotiana. I replaced the rest with a Coleus 'Rusty Orange', two ornamental cabbages and an ornamental pepper.


Here's how it looks now. The window box is really full, but plant growth is slow in the cool days of early fall, so you can easily get away with cramming in a bit more.

Rudbeckia hirta

I don't mind fall mums, but it's fun to do something a little different each year. I liked the way they used Rudbeckia hirta in the big pots I saw at the nursery, so they became the inspiration for one of the two metal urns I had to revamp.

Echinacea purpurea 'Kim's Knee High' (right) and Sedum 'Autumn Joy' (left)

If you don't like yellow flowers, you could use Echinacea or maybe Sedum. A perennial flower can always be transplanted out into the garden in late fall.

One of the two metal urns back in May.

The metal urns were filled with pansies, but I've been so busy they got neglected. Time to start over!

In the first urn I used an annual Rudbeckia along with Red Fountain Grass, Pennisetum setaceum Rubrum', a couple of Coleus and an ornamental pepper.

Here's the finished urn.

In the second urn I used:

1. Celosia 2. Fountain Grass, Pennisetum 3Dusty Miller (which I find deals with the cold really well) 4. an ornamental pepper 5. an ornamental cabbage 6. Coleus

The pots on the front porch remain to be done, but the rest of the garden is ready for fall.

Up next I will announce the winner of the latest book draw and there will be a post on my 
visit to the Willow Farms Nursery.


  1. Your pots look beautiful, all fresh and updated for the fall season. I am just beginning to give a try with flower gardening; I am in central Minnesota-our climates are probably similar. I can't wait to dig further into your blog. Thank you so much!

    1. Thanks and welcome to my blog. I would think our climates are quite similar and I think you're going to love gardening.

  2. Oh, I love your containers. So unique for fall. Happy Gardening!

  3. Wow, SO SO SO beautiful! You have a wonderful eye for what will work together.

  4. Love your containers beautiful but here in the Laurentians Quebec Canada our fall can get quite a bit colder. Any recommendations for a cooler climate?

    1. I sometimes like to use simple dogwood branches (or any other branches you can harvest from your garden) for a bit of height in my fall containers. You can leave them all fall and then add fir boughs for a more Christmasy effect. I'd also suggest you try the ornamental cabbages. You can get cabbages with different accent colors and leaf shapes and combine them together. As I said in the post, I find they deal with cold really well.
      There are also pansies that are specifically bred to handle the a fair bit of cold.
      A perennial like Heuchera would be a good alternative to the Coleus. Heuchera come in an amazing array of fall-like colors. The great bonus is you can plant them out into the garden toward the end of the season.

  5. I adore the "birds" - can you share the source ?

    1. Here in Toronto you can find the rusty birds at the Toronto Botanical Gardens gift shop and at Terra Greenhouses. You can also find them online at:

  6. Just gorgeous! I always have good intentions but life seems to get in the way when it comes to my pots��

  7. Such gorgeous plant combinations! Love the window box arrangement. And I love the idea of sprucing them up with just a few tweaks as the season cools. I did some extra perennials in pots this year for a change but need to get them back in the ground at some point. The little bird ornament is so sweet!


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