Make a Fall Container Garden with Perennials

Martha Stewart
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fall perennials

Shopping for fall perennials? Start by looking for rich colors, textures and garden performance.

Often, people will look for instant gratification when selecting plants instead of looking at labels that describe what the plant can, or cannot, withstand. Consider periods of time when they will not be in bloom, and look ahead to future seasons.

It’s important to find variegated foliage and unique colorings, while still judging how these plants will mature over time before making final selections.

Fall Container Garden

Before planting a container garden, decide if you want it to be formal, dramatic or simple, and then select the colors and textures of the plants you want to use. Container gardens often feature “thriller,” “filler,” and “spiller” plants.

A thriller is a central plant that acts as the focal point, and is generally big and bold; fillers are usually mid-height foliage or flowering plants; then, the spiller is a trailing plant that will cascade out of the pot.

Container Garden How-To:


  1. Select a container with a drainage hole. Partially cover the hole with a pottery shard, and fill the container halfway with potting soil.
  2. Remove plants from nursery pots and loosen their roots; divide plants if desired.
  3. Place plants in container, add or take away soil to prop them as needed. Position the plants the way you want them to grow.
  4. Fill pot with potting soil, firming it down around the roots, and then water.

Fall Perennials Glossary

Carex comans ‘Brown Curls’ (Brown Sedge): 

Ornamental grasses, like the finely textured ‘Brown Sedge’, have become a garden staple, but they’re great for spilling over the edges of containers, too.

Rudbekia hirta ‘Prairie Sun’ (Prairie Sun): A great fill-in plant with an average height of 24 to 30 inches, the Rudbekia has brightly colored flowers that work beautifully in a container garden, or equally great when cut and placed in an arrangement.

Viola cornuta ‘Sorbet Blueberries and Cream’ (Johnny Jump-Up): A profuse bloomer with many flat-faced, violet-like flowers. The Johnny Jump-Up blooms best in early spring and fall; its pale-blue and cream color intensifies in cooler temperatures.

Heuchera X ‘Dolce Creme Brulee’ (Coral Bells): This perennial features unique shades of bronze, salmon and peach in its beautiful foliage and requires virtually no maintenance. Coral Bells are drought-tolerant and will not need to be cut back during the season. This plant works best in shade or partially sunny conditions; if exposed to full sun, the colors will not appear as vibrant.

Sedum X ‘Neon’ (Sedum): A drought-tolerant plant, the sedum has vibrant pink star-shaped flowers that stay in bloom for 4 to 6 weeks.

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