As the vibrant greens of summer gracefully yield to the warm hues of fall, we get a new opportunity to craft autumn container gardens for the front porch or anywhere we spend outdoor time in the fall. I’m always looking to break away from the standard mums and pumpkins fare and am looking for front porch fall planter ideas with a little more creativity. I also like to create displays and container gardens that have bit more flair and sophistication as well as a bit of genius loci magic. These three fall planters recipes are assembled with an array of fall flowers for pots. Each is a unique expression of the fall season’s splendor.
Fall Flowers for Pots and Autumn Container Garden Plants
Autumn container plants, known for their vibrant colors and resilience to cooler temperatures, are a popular choice among gardeners. The plants are selected to add a touch of fresh beauty and life to outdoor spaces during the fall season and the fall front porch planter has become a reliable icon of the American suburban home.
Chrysanthemum – the standard fall flowers for pots
One of the most popular plants for autumn pots is the Chrysanthemum. Mums are an autumn-blooming flower that comes in various shades of red, yellow, and orange. Its cushion-like blossoms create a stunning mounded visual display and contribute to the overall aesthetic of gardens.
But chrysanthemums are also fragile, predictable and difficlut to mix with other plants. They are bred and pruned into perfect mounds of blooms that come and go in a matter of a couple weeks. Once they are done, they tend to look pretty shabby and you’ll want to dump them straigh into the compost heap.
I use them as needed, but I tend to prefer asters instead. Asters have similar pincushion-like daisy flowers in a range of colors. But, they are native, and have a better shape for mixing with other fall flowers in pots. Plus they are less fragile, and are more reliable fall blooming perennials that will come back next year.
When you see chrysanthemums in front porch fall planter ideas, you can reliably make a swap for asters as a better choice.
Other popular plants for fall planters
Another popular fall plant for autumn pots is the Heuchera. Heuchera is a perennial plant native to North America that thrives in containers throughout autumn (as well as in spring and summer too!). Its foliage, characterized by stunning hues of burgundy, plum, and bronze, adds a dramatic element to any garden setup.
I haven’t used Huechera in any of these containers but the coleus and the heuchera serve the same purpose and could substitute for each other.
Other common autumn container plants include pansies, ornamental grasses, and a variety of vegetables suitable for container gardening.
Option # 1 – Fall Planters – Feathery Fireworks
Texture features large in this loosely planted autumn container arrangement that I am dubbing ‘Feathery Fall Fireworks’. I hope this inspires you beyond the typical container garden planting of mums for this fall season.
My personal preference for container gardens is for plants that aren’t quite so dense and allow for a little bit of movement. I started with the Cuphea vermillionaire. This tough-as-nails plant was still alive, blooming, and quite pretty despite the last many weeks of dry, baking, weather here in New England. (It is very drought tolerant!).
I transplanted it to my fall planters and started building around its open wild habit. I suspect that had it not been so parched through August it would have been fuller and thicker – but thankfully I prefer it this way.
To compliment the orange tubular flowers (Commonly called firecracker plant, the flowers look like those little black cat firecrackers that just spark and loudly explode), and help them stand out I added in Coleus ‘Sedona‘ whose deep orange-red foliage is very similar to the cuphea.
Artemisia ‘Silver Mound’ drapes over the base.
I harvested pine saplings from the woods behind my house to build on the theme of feathery soft open foliage.
Using Materials from the Landscape to Add a sense of Place to your Autumn planters
I encourage you to gather materials from your landscape to add to your container – it will always help it to look more natural in your garden. Not everything needs to be purchased at the garden center.
I thought about adding a pretty orange pumpkin but it didn’t seem to need it. If I was struggling to make it all come together I would have added it. I find that adding a focal point (like a bright orange pumpkin) can often be the perfect way to give an arrangement the final touch.
This container was purchased from Napa Home and Garden many years ago. It is metal (not terrazzo) and quite lightweight, but it has stood the test of time!
Plant List for Feathery Fall Fireworks Autumn Container Garden:
Cuphea hybrid -Vermillionaire® (Large Firecracker Plant).
With its vibrant scarlet tubular flowers and lush green foliage, Cuphea ‘Vermillionaire is a captivating addition to any fall planter garden. Cuphea attracts hummingbirds with its nectar-rich blooms, creating a delightful and dynamic spectacle that also contributes to the ecological tapestry of your garden by supporting essential pollinators.
Solenostemon scutellarioides – Coleus – Color Blaze Sedona Coleus
Solenostemon scutellarioides, commonly known as Coleus, has been bred to come in an ever increasing collection of rich colors and patterns. Coleus Color Blaze Sedona’s striking foliage, features a blend of fiery reds, oranges, and yellows that can electrify any garden or container (in the fall or during any season).
The intriguing color combinations and ease of care make coleus varieties a favorite choice for amazing foliage.
Front Porch Fall planter ideas – Artmesia ‘Silver Mound’ is a good contrast for fall colors
Artemisia ‘Silver Mound’ is a perennial herbaceous plant known for its finely textured, silver-gray foliage. This compact and low-growing herb forms a dense mound of delicate, fern-like leaves that add soft and silvery elegance to the garden. Additionally, its aromatic foliage emits a pleasant, herbal fragrance when brushed against, enhancing the sensory experience in your outdoor space. This hardy and low-maintenance plant thrives in sunny locations.
Pine Tree Sapling (var. unknown) from the woods at the end of the garden
I thought that a bit of height and variation in texture woud be a great addition to this collection of nursery plants . So, I turned to the wilder areas just beyond the cultivated areas of my garden. The tree saplings add height and genius loci to tie the autumn container garden to the wider fall landscape.
Option #2 – Salvaging the Un-dead – An Autumn Planter with Cut Fall Flowers
Here’s the thing about fall decorating – it’s all going to end up in the compost pile pretty quickly – in about six weeks.
So, if it’s only going to last a short amount of time, and its all going to die anyway, why would you spend a whole lot of time and money on it?
What you want is something quick, and easy, and cheap, but that looks great. What you want is something that doesn’t need attention. And that is what this autumn planter delivers.
Plus, it also has a certain ‘retro chic’ sensibility.
What gardener doesn’t have a lengthy list of plants that didn’t quite live up to expectations?
This year, I planted a lot of Coleus, but for some reason (I take full responsibility for poor placement and low water) the one I was most excited about – Coleus ‘Fishnet Stockings’ – didn’t take off like the rest of the varieties. I’m still smitten with its sexy leaves, and despite neglect, it lived. So I decided to give the small but healthy plants a new life in this container planting.
I had about a half-dozen of these planted around the garden, so I dug them all up to transplant here to get some leaf volume. If you have had better luck with a favorite coleus or other foliage plant, then maybe you only need a plant or two – but I have five here.
Additional Plants for this fall planter:
Pennisetum ‘Red Head’ (cuttings) – Plants for Autumn Pots
Pennisetum ‘Red Head’ is one of my favorite grasses and I have it planted throughout my own garden. This warm-season grass features graceful, arching foliage that takes on a deep green hue during the growing season. But what truly sets ‘Red Head’ apart is its stunning, bottlebrush-like flower heads that emerge in mid to late summer.
These fluffy, burgundy-red plumes rise above the foliage, adding a burst of color and texture to the landscape. Use the heads as cutting in your contianer gardens – the plumes – shoved into the soil will last longer than mums and through the fall container garden season.
Hydrangea ‘Limelight’ (cuttings)
Hydrangea ‘Limelight’ is a show-stopping deciduous shrub known for its distinctive large flower heads. In early summer, Limelight Hydrangea blooms emerge as lime green, with a refreshing appearance. As summer progresses, the blossoms transition to a creamy, chartreuse hue, before taking on pink and burgundy tones in the fall.
Limelight’s blooms also dry very well – use them in fall containers a cuttings – they add lots of texture and fullness and will last far beyond the fall season.
Coleus ‘ Fishnet Stockings’ for Fall Planters
Coleus ‘Fishnet Stockings’ is a captivating cultivar within the Coleus genus, celebrated for its striking and intricate foliage. What makes ‘Fishnet Stockings’ particularly interesting is its unique leaf pattern, which resembles the delicate texture of fishnet stockings. The leaves are lime green, while their intricate veins and margins are traced with a contrasting rich burgundy hue.
The coleus is the only thing living in this arrangement and that is the beauty of this container planting. The grass and the hydrangea are both great materials for fall plantings for a few reasons:
- They look great and very ‘of the fall season’ as this is their time to bloom anyway
- They fill lots of space (for cheap!) and add texture
- They look just as good dead as they do alive – so in a month or so, they will look better than that coleus*
*I once had a fresh (and then dried) bouquet of grass heads and hydrangea on my dresser for a couple of years. The only thing not pretty about it was the eventual dust.
The green container is a second hand treasure I found in a local second-hand store. It’s avocado colored and it is a straight sided round vintage ceramic masterpiece. I somehow seems to stylistically match the grasses and come out on the positive side of modern.
Option #3 – Front Porch Fall Planter Idea: Autumnal Marsala with Apples
Autumn has arrived and even though the summer seems to be hanging on, it is time to think about making a few decorative changes around the house (both inside and out) to welcome the crisper air, the fall harvest, and most colorful season of all.
Every year, Pantone announces, with much fanfare, the color of the year for the following year. The announcement is the precursor of a trend and it is a predictor of the mood that product colors and fashion will take for the following few seasons. The 2015 color was Marsala – I think it is the perfect inspiration for fall front porch planter ideas – it is a timeless color option. Pantone describes the hue:
Much like the fortified wine that gives Marsala its name, this tasteful hue embodies the satisfying richness of a fulfilling meal while its grounding red-brown roots emanate a sophisticated, natural earthiness.– Pantone
Marsala seemed a wonderful inspiration for a container planting recipe that celebrates fall plants and gardens and I created this one to inspire your fall designs.
As the season progresses, the apples and the chrysanthemums can be removed and the remaining plants can come inside as houseplants through the winter. I think I might add some small white birch logs to fill in the holes – stacked and perhaps strung together with some seasonally appropriate ribbon or maybe just some burlap twine.
I like to look around for alternative ways to mulch a container garden. Apples are a great option that I happened to have growing in the garden.
It is the perfect use for the few fruit that have worm holes or damage that make them less than appetizing.
Moss, is another favorite mulch or mine but many interesting items can be used to cover the soil to help retain moisture – don’t over think it and keep you mind open to options that you might find just laying around the house or garden.
Plants used in the Autumnal Marsala Front Porch Fall Planter:
Loropetalum Jazz Hands mini – Chinese Fringe Flower
Loropetalum Jazz Hands Mini is a fun cultivar of Loropetalum known for its compact size and pretty, finely textured foliage. ‘Jazz Hands Mini’ brings a touch of elegance to smaller garden spaces or containers. Its evergreen (or everpurple) leaves are dainty and vibrant, with new growth often displaying shades of red, burgundy, or bronze, creating a stunning contrast with the older foliage. This compact shrub’s versatility and low-maintenance nature make it a favorite among gardeners where it is hardy (zone 7 and above). Here in the north, we use it as an annual or overwinter it indoors.
Begonia rex, commonly known as Rex Begonia or Painted-Leaf Begonia, is a captivating and highly decorative houseplant. Its intricate foliage comes in all sorts of patterns and painterly leaves. The large, asymmetrical leaves are characterized by their vibrant and often iridescent patterns, which can include shades of black, silver, pink, deep reds, white, purple, and green. Begonia rex are prized with collectors as living works of art. If you grow begonias in the north, plan to bring them in as houseplants through the winter. Set them outside or include them in seasonal container garden arrangements in the summer.
Cortland Apples – I get mine from a tree in my garden – but you can substitute any variety or other fruit.
Chrysanthemum ‘Jaqueline Pink Improved’. Fall mums come in many colors and are the ubiquitous autumn container garden plant. Look for smaller pots when adding them to fall mixed planters – they will be much easier to work with.