If your container gardens need a new look for the new season, consider some of these autumn-thriving plants.
Ornamental grasses are the perfect vertical accent for your planter. Ranging in height from two to six feet, their foliage and flowers (plumes) sway in the autumn breezes. Grasses have the added bonus of being perennials, so be sure to transplant them into your in-ground garden before Thanksgiving.
An uncommon shrub named Lespedeza (Japanese Bush Clover) offers rosy purple pearlized flowers along graceful arched stems, creating a fountain-like appearance. Move the plant to your permanent garden when it’s completely finished blooming, and it will reward you in years to come.
Other tall vertical options for height in a pot include Centaurea 'Gloucester White', a silver foliage plant with deeply cut leaves and Cuphea 'David Verity', which offers orange tubular blossoms along the stems.
Midsize container plants that flourish in the cool of fall include Nemesia, Argyranthemum, Arctotis, Osteospermum and Snapdragon. Each of these plants grows to 12 to 24 inches, making them suitable for the middle layer of a planter or as a backdrop in a window box. Flowering until frost, which typically occurs in November, these annuals typically bloom twice as long as the popular fall mum. Another midsize container plant is Nandina ‘Woods Dwarf’, a low, mounding shrub (to 2') which has green foliage that turns crimson red as fall progresses. It will remain red into the new year, and it is stunning planted in conjunction with Christmas greens (simply insert greens into soil 3 to 4 inches deep) and branches of Winterberry. (Holiday greens are sold at McArdle’s from mid-November until Christmas.)
Low and sprawling plants to add to your containers are Pansy and Viola, which sometimes continue to bloom well into the winter season and then again in spring. The newer Sorbet series of Violas are nice complements in pots. Ornamental Cabbage and Kale are excellent low focal points that provide color until the temperature dips to 15 degrees. Lysimachia Creeping Jenny and Acorus and Carex grasses are perennials that sprawl over the side of pots and can be planted in your in-ground garden by Thanksgiving for return next year.
For color to continue the entire winter in your containers, you will need to depend on hardiness zone four or below evergreens like the conical shaped Alberta Spruce, which comes in a variety of sizes ranging from 12 to 80 inches. McArdle's also offers Albertas that are spirally and poodle shaped. Other container-hardy evergreens include the Blue Colorado Spruce, Dwarf Spruce, Weeping Norway Spruce, Siberian Cypress and Green Mountain Boxwood. All of the above evergreens have the added benefit of being deer resistant, giving you the option of planting them into your in-ground garden in spring, if you decide to start fresh again in your containers. Keep in mind that no plant is guaranteed to survive the winter in a pot.