Are you looking for some easy ways to get your garden looking good in autumn? This guide to the best fall plants and fall flowers for pots is packed with autumn plant inspiration.
What flowers are good for pots in the fall?
If you’re wondering “what is a good fall plant?”, you’ve got lots of lovely options.
This post covers a wide range of fall flowers for pots and autumn plants for pots. All of the plants included are perfectly suited to the season, and will make your container garden look fantastic right through into winter.
I’ve also included tips on container planting, and how to look after your fall potted plants and hanging baskets to help you get the most from them.
What do you put in a fall planter?
In autumn, lots of garden plants start to shut down in preparation for the cold winter months. Having spent the summer producing flowers, then seeds, they are ready to slow things down and prepare for next spring’s new growth.
This can leave your autumn garden looking a little drab and uninspiring. You will probably start to notice gaps in the borders, dead stems, and a general lack of colour.
The good news is that you can introduce plenty of new colour, texture and interest with autumn flowering plants.
Concentrating on plants for autumn in pots and hanging baskets allows you to focus your efforts on areas that you are still using regularly, or can see from inside your home. For example, a patio area probably still gets a fair amount of use in autumn, so you might like to arrange your fall potted plants here where you can enjoy them often.
There are other benefits to be had from focusing on fall flowers for pots too. As you’re not working on the whole garden, it’s a budget-friendly and low-effort way to perk up your outdoor space in fall. Container plants are ideal for renters too, as they allow you to literally take your garden with you when you move.
When should I plant fall flowers?
If you’re a little confused about when to plant fall containers, use this rule of thumb as a guide.
If the weather isn’t really hot and dry in late summer (that’s mid to late August in the northern hemisphere), you can plant fall flowers. Getting them started at this point will mean you can enjoy your plants for the maximum amount of time in autumn.
If it’s really warm, you can still have a go at planting your autumn containers, but bear in mind you will need to work harder to keep the plants happy until they get established.
If you’ve left it later than August, don’t panic! It’s OK to plant fall flowers for pots in early to mid autumn. The only drawback is it will take a little time for your containers to look their best.
The best fall flowers for pots and autumn hanging basket flowers
Are you ready to write your fall plants wish list? Here’s a bumper selection of fall plants for pots and hanging baskets to save you lots of time.
There are lots of great autumn bedding plants for colour and interest, but you’ve also got some fabulous perennial shrubs, bulbs and foliage plants to choose from. Take your pick from this selection of autumn plants for pots.
Autumn flowering plants for pots and hanging baskets
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to autumn flowering plants for container gardens. These flowering plants for autumn pots and hanging baskets are all perfect for a fall display.
Dahlias are one of the stars in a late summer garden, but they will also flower throughout autumn if you look after them. With their showy blooms they make wonderful autumn flowers for pots.
Dahlias can get pretty big, so they’re a nice plant for a large container. They are loved by slugs and snails, so you may need to provide some form of deterrent such as crushed eggshells or *metaldehyde-free slug pellets to keep your plants intact.
Aster (Michaelmas Daisy)
The flowering period for Asters is August to October, so if you’re planting up an autumn container in late summer they’re ideal.
As well as looking bright and cheerful in a pot, asters are a good source of pollen and nectar for butterflies and bees, and an easy way to make your garden wildlife friendly.
Pansies and violas
You might think of pansies and violas as winter plants for pots, but they’re usually available in autumn too. Pansies and their smaller cousins, violas, are very hardy plants that can cope with winter conditions, so if you plant them in an autumn container they will still be looking good months later.
Pansies and violas are also cheap plants to buy, and require very little in the way of maintenance. They’re not fussy about soil type either.
Hardy chrysanthemums bloom in October and November, so they make great fall plants for pots and hanging baskets. They enjoy a sunny location, and if you deadhead them regularly (scroll down for how to do this) they will just keep on flowering.
Miniature or shorter varieties of hardy chrysanthemums are your best options for pots.
If you like your flowers on the bold side, primroses will do the trick. They’re available in some pretty bright shades, and will definitely perk up a pot with a shot of colour. In my experience primroses are a firm favourite when gardening with children too.
Marigolds are another great choice if you want bold, bright fall flowers for pots. As well as showy blooms, they have delicate foliage which has a strong scent.
Marigolds grow best in full sun and enjoy a sheltered position. Deadhead them regularly to keep them going.
This is another plant that you can ‘borrow’ from winter and plant in an autumn container. Cyclamen have unusual, delicate blooms on slim stems, and a backdrop of pretty leaves. Choose from white or shades of pink and red.
Do make sure you buy a hardy variety such as Cyclamen hederifolium or Cyclamen coum; some varieties are only suited to growing indoors.
Winter heather (Erica carnea)
Heathers will really earn their space in an autumn container, providing an abundance of textured flower spikes in a range of colours. Heathers will carry on flowering throughout winter too.
Bulbs for fall hanging baskets and pots
We tend to think of flowering bulbs as a ‘spring thing’, but there are actually lots of autumn flowering bulbs that work well as fall flowers for pots.
Adding a few bulbs to your fall hanging baskets and fall planters is a thrifty way to boost your flower display and keep you container looking smart for longer. If you haven’t tried this before, check out my bulb lasagne post which has a step-by-step guide to layering bulbs in pots.
All of these autumn flowering bulbs can be added to your containers and pots.
Autumn crocus (Colchicum)
We’re all familiar with spring flowering crocus, but did you know there are autumn-flowering crocus too?
Also known as autumn crocus and ‘naked ladies’, Colchicum are fantastic bulbs for autumn planters. They look crocus-like, and there are lots of varieties to browse. ‘Autumn Queen’ is an early flowerer, ‘Innocence’ is a white stunner, and ‘Pink Goblet’ is honey-scented.
Nerines produce beautiful, lily-like flowers in autumn. Ideally they need to be planted in spring.
Snowdrops in October? Why not! This tough little plant will add a delicate touch to an autumn container, and works well in a hanging basket too.
Autumn daffodil (Sternbergia lutea)
This isn’t really a daffodil, but the bright yellow flowers and deep green leaves explain why it has acquired its name. Sternbergia bulbs like well-drained soil and a warm spot.
Foliage fall plants for pots
Foliage plants play a crucial role in a container display. They may not be as showy as their flowering neighbours, but they can work hard to add texture, contrast and even height to an arrangement. Some foliage plants can deliver wow factor all on their own too.
These foliage plants are all excellent options for fall hanging baskets and pots.
Cineraria has interestingly-shaped silver-grey leaves with a slightly fuzzy surface, so it really delivers on interest, texture and colour. It works nicely with cool tones, and is pretty hardy. If your pots are in a sheltered spot you may find that cineraria will live for years; prune it regularly to keep it under control.
Super-tough and always reliable, ivy is a good filler for an autumn container. You can choose from variegated and all-green varieties, and the trailing habit makes it perfect for autumn hanging baskets.
If you like the idea of a low maintenance foliage plant with big impact, you can’t go wrong with a heuchera. These tough plants are available in a range of rich colours and truly striking leaves.
Heucheras tend to be at their best in autumn, because their colour starts to get stronger as temperatures drop. They work really well in a mixed container, but can also look impressive on their own in a pot.
Not all succulents can cope with being outdoors in cooler weather, but there are some varieties that are happy to grow in autumn pots and hanging baskets.
The key here is to buy a variety that’s labelled as frost-hardy. These will add an exotic, modern feel to an autumn arrangement.
Ornamental kale & ornamental cabbage
For a foliage plant that looks like flowers, choose ornamental cabbage or kale. Their leaves are the star of the show, with beautiful patterns and colours. I think they work particularly well in cool, contemporary planting schemes.
Phormiums are brilliant for adding height and formality to a potted display. They’re available in a range of colours, including reds, greens, golds and coppers.
Ornamental grasses are invaluable if you’d like to max out the texture in your autumn pots. Grasses can inject height and colour to an arrangement, and when the wind blows you also get movement and gentle noise.
At this time of year it makes sense to choose an evergreen ornamental grass, so you can enjoy it throughout the colder months.
Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’ has the traditional green-and-yellow stripes, while Bronze Carex comans has red-brown leaves. Festuca Glauca is available in gorgeous blue tones, and Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ is a striking dark-leaved option that works fabulously against cool colours and in contemporary pots. One of my favourites is Stipa tenuissima, which has delicate, feathery stems that move beautifully in the breeze.
Copper shield fern (Dryopteris erythrosora)
How about adding a fern to your autumn container garden? Copper shield fern forms a compact clump, and as the name suggests, the fronds can be shades of copper with hints of pink. This plant will thrive in a shady spot with well-drained soil.
Don’t rule out some hardy herbs for your autumn pots. Woody varieties such as thyme, sage and rosemary can all look lovely in combination with autumn flowering plants. Planting herbs in your containers will also help to create a fragrant display – and you can of course use them in your cooking.
Autumn flowering shrubs for containers
Not all shrubs are large plants; some are perfectly small enough to be happy in a pot. Shrubs work well as a specimen plant in a pot, and if you look after them you’ll be able to enjoy them for many years.
The following shrubs are all good options for autumn containers.
Many varieties of salvia are at their best in autumn, and can bloom into November if you grow them in a sheltered location. A compact variety such as ‘Dyson’s Crimson’ or ‘Dyson’s Joy’ will be best suited to a pot.
Euphorbia is a great plant for the garden border, but you can also find compact evergreen varieties that work well in pots. Good varieties include ‘Silver Swan’, ‘x martinii’ and ‘Blackbird’.
Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’
Alstroemerias aren’t exactly low maintenance outdoor potted plants, but they reward your efforts with stunning flowers. ‘Indian Summer’ will bloom from late summer into autumn, and is best suited to larger containers. Make sure you protect it over winter.
Viburnum x bodnantense
If you’re keen on a specimen shrub for an autumn pot, consider Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’. It’s not small, but it will certainly deliver on impact, with clusters of scented pink and white flowers offset by deep green leaves. It will be happiest growing in full sun or partial shade.
A late-flowering clematis is a thing of beauty in a stylish pot. Clematis rehderiana, Clematis tangutica and ‘Gipsy Queen’ will all flower into October. Other September bloomers include ‘Etoile Violette’, ‘Minuet’ and Clematis x triternata.
OK, so this isn’t a flowering shrub, but it definitely needs to be included in a list of autumn shrubs for containers. Box plants look brilliant in pots; they’re usually sold in clipped, neat shapes which are well-suited to front doors and more formal gardens.
When choosing a box plant, go for one that’s the right size for your pot now – they’re very slow-growing plants.
What do you put in fall hanging baskets?
Lots of the plants we’ve covered here are fantastic options for fall hanging baskets.
The following varieties are particularly well-suited to autumn hanging baskets.
- Pansies / Violas
- Autumn crocus
- Autumn snowdrop
How do you decorate a fall planter?
Obviously the plants themselves are the main attractions in your fall planters and hanging baskets. However, you can also add some additional decoration to dial up the impact. Here are a few suggestions:
- Paint a pattern or design on the planter itself.
- Add small decorative squash or pumpkins.
- Use twigs and branches to bulk out the display.
- Add pine cones for a rustic look.
- Use seed heads from the garden – allium, echinacea, nigella, poppies, teasel and sea holly all work brilliantly.
- Add shop-bought decorations and garden ornaments e.g. a decorative bird house, a small sign.
- For kids autumn planters – pop in a cute fairy or animal decoration, a colourful windmill, or a homemade sign.
You can of course improvise and get creative!
How do you plant a fall container garden?
Planting up an autumn container display is pretty straightforward. You do need a few basic tools though.
A good quality, well-fitting pair of *gardening gloves is essential if you want to protect your hands. Make sure your hands can move freely while wearing them.
A *hand trowel is a must for adding compost to your pot. You can also use it for weeding if your container is large.
You will also need a *watering can. It’s important that it has a rose attachment; this will slow down the flow of water and stop you accidentally drowning your containers. I like to use a *mini watering can on small containers (these are perfect for watering indoor plants too).
Finally, you will of course need some pots and hanging baskets. Always make sure these have drainage holes in the bottom, and choose a size that’s big enough for your autumn plants. Remember they will grow; it’s a good idea to pick a pot that has a bit of room for the plants to spread out.
Fall flowers for pots: the importance of compost
Using decent compost is really important when you garden in containers.
The plants have limited access to nutrients because they’re not growing in the ground. Eventually, those nutrients will get used up, and this is when container plants start to struggle.
A good quality *peat-free compost is the best way to get your plants off to a good start. It’s tempting to save a bit of money and go for the cheapest option, but you will definitely get what you pay for (and there are lots other options if you’re gardening on a budget).
Using poor quality compost will make it harder for your plants to thrive and create a nice display, and you will also need to rely on plant food more. This means buying cheap compost can actually be a false economy.
A general-purpose compost should be fine for most autumn container plants. Do check the care label when you buy your plants though. Our guide to the best compost for pots has more advice and tips.
You will probably also come across compost that is specifically designed for container plants. This will probably have some slow-release fertiliser and water-retaining crystals in the mix. It’s a sensible option if you’re a bit nervous about looking after your pots, or simply want to spend less time doing it. It’s not usually the cheapest way to buy compost though, and you can of course create something very similar by adding *water-retaining crystals and *slow-release fertiliser to standard all-purpose compost.
How to take care of autumn plants in pots and hanging baskets
So you’ve chosen your plants and potted them up – what now?
Fall hanging baskets and pots don’t need a huge amount of maintenance, but there are a few areas you need to stay on top of.
Feeding your autumn plants in pots and hanging baskets
We’ve already touched on the importance of providing your autumn plants with plenty of nutrients. Combining quality compost with plant food is the best way to do this.
Plant food is available in a few different formats. A *concentrated liquid must be diluted (usually in your watering can) before use, while *granules are added to the compost when planting or raked into the surface of the soil. There is also *ready-to-use liquid feed which you pour straight into the pot. Choose a format that suits you best. Do bear in mind that ready-to-use feed is usually a more costly option, and not ideal if you’re practising sustainable gardening.
Watering tips for fall plants in containers
Plants that are grown in pots and hanging baskets dry out faster than plants grown in the garden. The cooler temperatures of autumn may mean that you don’t need to water your containers very often, but it’s still important to check them on a regular basis.
Working out whether your pots need a drink is really easy. Just poke a finger into the surface of the soil; if it feels dry, it’s time to water them.
Fall flowers for pots: the importance of drainage
You do need to water regularly, but it’s also really important to avoid over-watering your pots. This is particularly relevant in the cooler months of the year, when less evaporation occurs.
Most plants really hate to have their roots sitting in very wet compost. Too much water will eventually rot the roots and kill the plant.
The good news is that it’s simple to avoid this problem by providing decent drainage.
Always use a container that has drainage holes in the bottom. Adding a layer of stones or broken pot to the bottom of the container before you plant it up will help with drainage too.
You can also add grit or *perlite to your compost, this will loosen it up and allow water to drain more easily. Lifting pots off the ground with bricks or *pot feet will also help to stop them becoming waterlogged.
How to get maximum blooms from your autumn flowering plants
We all want maximum flowers from our plants, right?
Deadheading is a simple way to make sure that’s exactly what you get.
Deadheading is quick and easy; all you do is remove any flower that is dead, drooping, or forming a seed head. This stops the plant setting seed and encourages it to make more flowers instead.
You can use your fingers to pinch off the flower heads, but in my experience *snips make this job quicker and easier.
Try to deadhead your plants on a regular basis for best results – it only takes a few minutes.
Protecting autumn hanging baskets and autumn planters
Temperatures can get pretty chilly towards the end of autumn, and there’s certainly a risk of frost as we move towards winter. This means you need to think about protecting your fall plants.
The best approach here is to select plants that are happy to grow outdoors at this time of year. That way you can keep the maintenance to a minimum.
Drainage also plays a big part here; you need to avoid lots of very cold or frozen water collecting in your pots.
Keep an eye on your containers; if your plants are struggling you can always move the pot or hanging basket display to a more sheltered area. Near the house or tucked into a corner are both good options.
Take a look at my post on protecting plants from frost and cold weather for more tips.
And there you have it – loads of fall plants for containers, and how to look after them. I hope you’ve found this guide to fall flowers for pots inspiring, and are raring to go with some beautiful autumn container displays!
More container gardening resources and ideas
I’ve got lots of other container gardening resources on the blog for you to explore.
In spring you can take your pick from my spring flowers for pots and hanging baskets.
For summer I’ve got a selection of great summer plants for pots.
All year round, you’ll find my low maintenance plants for outdoor pots, outdoor plants for shallow pots and low maintenance evergreen plants for pots useful. There’s even a list of easy vegetables to grow in pots to encourage you to grow your own no matter what size of garden you have, and a guide to annual vs. perennial plants to help you understand your options.
My tips on how to get rid of ants in plant pots might come in handy too.
And last but not least, check out my gardening jobs for each month series – it’s a great way to get organised!
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