Fall Containers Not Just for Pansies Anymore!


Fall automatically brings to mind changing colors and inspires us to change out our tender summer annuals for new shades. Traditional pansies and mums are a classic seasonal adornment to bridge the gap from summer to winter, but have you tried combining them with other late-season color?

Try some of these ideas and you’ll have containers you’ll love through to Thanksgiving! Most of these are perennials, so they can be pulled out and planted in the ground when you are ready to change out for holiday decorations.

Ornamental Kale/Cabbage- most commonly found as large rosettes in shades of green, icy blue-green, purple, pink, or red, kales are long-lasting and easy to maintain. Annual.

flowering kale
Sedum- covers a wide range of colors, textures, and heights. Some varieties are only a few inches tall, while others such as Autumn Joy can reach 2 feet. Mixing varieties in the same container can produce an amazing results—a tall, billowing sedum in the back of a pot can be nicely balanced by ‘Dragons Blood’ spilling off the front in shades of red (or ‘Angelina’ for yellow). Many varieties have quarter-size fleshy leaves that shift in tone from cool blues to fall tones.

Euphorbias- flower vividly in the spring and have red/orange/yellow leaves as fall sets in. Foliage texture can be rigidly upright to wispy and delicate. Some have a full & fluffy look, while others are more airy.

Heucheras/ Coral Bells – Available in a wide range of fall colors from deep, rich purples to caramel. Green varieties blend to reds and purples as the season progresses and add a sophisticated flair.

Rudbeckia- Plants (and flowers!) can be mammoth or miniscule depending on variety. ‘Toto’ reaches a pint-sized 1’ in height and bronzed ‘Autumn Colors’ will reach 2+’. Also in the tall group are ‘Indian Summer’ and ‘Prairie Sun’. ‘Goldsturm’ has smaller flowers but a ton of them.

Ornamental Grasses- Easy fillers that come in a range of tones. Provide structure and overall form for the combination.


Now that you have some ideas, how to put them together? Generally speaking, container plantings look best when you follow the adage “Thriller, Spiller, Filler”. Sedums can be any of those, depending on the varieties you select. Euphorbias are likely to be fillers or thrillers. Rudbeckias make a great thriller, and heucheras are lovely fillers. Adding back in the mums and pansies, a large patio pot might contain:

  • 1 Autumn Joy Sedum
  • 1 Grass, Zebra (yellow and green)
  • 2 Heucheras- one purple, one red or caramel
  • 1 6pk pansies, any colors , 2 Mums, any color
  • 1 Kale

For a smaller container, try:
– 1 kale
– 1 mum
– 2 small sedums


Remember to pull out and plant perennials in the ground if you would like to have them come back next spring. Plants are less likely to overwinter successfully in containers.