(Image credit: gsheldon)

If your summer containers and patio pots are looking tired and spent, you may want to consider giving them a refreshing fall makeover. Even if your porch is on the small side, you can still add a little something to make it feel more welcoming for autumn.

10 Best Fall Flowers for Pots and Containers

Here are our top 10 fall flowers for porch decor, starting with a classic.

1. Garden Mums

(Image credit: gsheldon)

Of course the number one plant on the list today is the garden mum. They are the ultimate fall superstar! With colors ranging from fiery oranges to deep reds to purples and whites, you can easily find a mum to fit into your decor.

Selecting Mums

These potted chrysanthemums begin to appear on store shelves in late summer, enticing customers with their colorful blooms. But don’t be so quick to pick up the first plant you see. Due to their high demand, mums are often available for sale at a wide range of retailers, some of which may not practice good plant care. Selecting the right mum plants is the key to success.

Before buying, examine mum plants for the following:

  1. First, look for a mum that is tightly budded. Because, spoiler alert, mums do not bloom that long. The more buds on a plant, the more flowers are in your future. The blooms will last longer in cooler weather, but it's still best to mix in other plants into your containers for a display with longer appeal.
  2. Also, watch out for any plants that are wilted. This means the plant has not been watered properly.
  3. Light green or yellowing foliage should also be avoided. Look for plants that are a lush shade of deep green.
  4. Once you’ve picked out the perfect plant, give it a whirl to check for any broken or damaged branches as they will need to be cut out, leaving your mum bare in certain areas.
  5. Last but not least, be sure to select the right size of mum. These fall plants are usually available in small 4” pots to tuck into tight spaces in your containers, or larger 6 to 8” pots to create more of a centerpieces in your planter. Or, look for those large patio pots to add instant charm to a front porch or patio. Pick the size that best suits your space.

Planting Mums

Once you get your new plants home, the best thing you can do is repot them. Repotting mums will extend their longevity by providing more soil space for the roots to spread and help to retain moisture after watering.

Gently remove the plant from its pot and lightly loosen any tight roots the best you can. Fill in the extra space with additional potting mix or any of the plants from the list below.

Overwintering Mums

One last word of advice on fall mums. They generally aren’t meant to survive the winter, especially in pots. They can be treated as annuals and discarded at the end of the growing season, or you can take a chance and overwinter mums by planting them in the ground. In some zones, they may return in the spring after a period of winter dormancy. Just don’t get your hopes up.

2. Asters

Purple Aster Flowers

Asters are perennial flowers you don’t often think of for container gardening. But you really should! Not only do they bloom well into the fall, but they're a favorite of native pollinators like bees and butterflies. They’re available in shades of blue, purple, pink and white.

If your plan is to plant asters just as an annual for the fall season, the specific type doesn't matter. But, as I said, these are perennials and can be planted in the ground when you're done enjoying them on your front porch. If planting in the ground, do a bit of research as some varieties stay compact while others can grow upwards of 3’ (0.9 m) tall or higher.

3. Cabbage/Kale

Ornamental Cabbage Plants

Every good combination pot needs a foliage accent. Something that will add color, texture and interest even when other plants are faded or no longer in bloom. Ornamental cabbage and flowering kale fit this description perfectly. They can be planted on their own or added to large mixed containers to surely grab attention with lots of visual interest.

Plus, these plants thrive in cooler weather, even intensifying in color as the temperatures decrease. The flat, fringed or ruffled leaves introduce rich grayish green tones that are matched well by the gradient of colors radiating from the center of the plant in shades of purple, pink or white.

4. Pansies

Beautiful Colorful Pansies

Pansies are another good choice for fall gardening. These little happy-faced plants produce flowers throughout the season, even surviving frost and single digit temperatures. They're available in various shades of pink, red, orange, blue, yellow, purple, and white to match any aesthetic. They’re tiny enough to pop into any mixed container or plant them alone to create a WOW effect that will keep blooming for months on end.

5. Ornamental Peppers

ornamental peppers1

With their explosion of fall-like colors, ornamental peppers are becoming more popular as a spicy addition to fall containers. The multi-colored fruits cover the plant, adding a fun and unique interest to your pots.

It's common to have peppers in various stages of coloration on the same plant, which adds to its appeal. Plus, these same fruits commonly remain on the plant for several months, never losing their vibrant colors.

Even though they're technically pepper plants, these are grown as a decorative accent, not for food. They are edible... but the flavor may be disappointing. In fact, some are very, very, very hot.

6. Sunflowers

Field Of Sunflowers

In late summer you may begin to notice potted sunflowers hit the shelves at your local garden center.

But these aren't your typical sunflower. These are often reblooming sunflowers that not only stay compact, but continue to bloom for weeks on end.

Commonly referred to as Sunfinity, Suncredible or Sunbuzz sunflowers, these plants are a great addition to a mixed container and a perfect way to greet the fall season. Although they produce little pollen and few seeds, the nectar rich flowers are visited by bees and birds. Watch it "buzz" with activity all season long.

7. Millet

Ornamental millet

To add a tall focal point, millet will deliver both height and drama with its strappy foliage and cattail-like plumes. This accent plant would make you think it's a hybrid between ornamental grass and corn, but it's actually a member of the Pennisetum family which also contains the very popular fountain grass.

If produced, millet's seed spikes may be left on the plant to provide food for birds or may be cut and used in floral arrangements.

8. Celosia

For an additional pop of color, try celosia. The colors can range from deep red to orange and magenta, adding a feathery and fluffy inflorescence to your containers. Not only are colors abundant, but they’re offered in various sizes and shapes as well. These flowers will tolerate a bit of cold, but unfortunately will not survive a hard frost. Just remember to deadhead any old blooms before they start to lose color. This will encourage new flowers to develop.

9. Coral Bells

Pink flowers on coral bells plants

Another perennial plant on this list that adds texture and unmatched color to your pots is coral bells. The saturated leaves come in a spectrum of shades, from earthy purples, to oranges to lime green and almost black. Plus, the variation of leaf forms would give your container a unique visual appeal.

You may even be able to save a bit of money on these plants by taking advantage of any fall sales at your local garden center that would include perennials. Their leaves look great throughout autumn and remain in good condition throughout the winter months extending the color display.

10. Ornamental Grasses

Several ornamental grasses in the sunshine

Similar to the millet, ornamental grasses work well in fall containers to add height and texture.

Plus, their pretty plumes will add an additional layer of whimsy and interest to your display.

Tall grasses that work well in this position would be dwarf fountain grass, purple fountain grass and switch grass.

Shorter grasses also work well in the front of a container to provide contrast to other blooming plants.

These include blue fescue or sedge grass. Even as the grasses fade, the autumnal brown tones continue to add the perfect seasonal color to your display.

Seasonal Accents

So that concludes our top 10 plants for pretty fall containers! But we can't forget about a few seasonal accents.

Whether that be corn stalks, scarecrows, straw bales or metal garden art, any addition to your display will result in a fall-tastic entryway brimming with fun!

To add additional character we cannot forget about another fall staple, pumpkins. Small pumpkins and gourds can be added right to your containers while larger pumpkins can be piled around your display or even stacked to create a unique presentation.

Fall Container Gardening Tips

Fall container gardening doesn't follow the same rules as spring or summer. Especially if you're in a region where winter comes early, your plants might not be in their containers for very long. If this is the case, the usual rules about light, water and compatibility may not apply. In other words, don't worry about longevity. Just plant what looks good.

If you’re planting mixed containers or multiple containers, remember to play around with varying heights, textures and colors to create an eye-catching display.

Choosing a Fall Container

There's no reason to go out and buy new pottery. Your current containers will make a great home for fall blooming plants, just in time for your summer plants to be winding down.

After pulling out your tired-looking spring and summer annuals, you'll need to refresh the soil. Loosen any compacted soil and replenish with either new potting mix or compost to provide essential nutrients to your new plants.

Watering Fall Flowers in Containers

Then, once your new container is designed and planted, give it a good drink of water. Even though fall is cooler and the plants don’t require as much water, they still need proper hydration. Proper watering practices should also be followed. This includes watering at the base of the plants, not over the flowers or foliage. This is especially true for garden mums. While there isn’t much you can do about rain water, keeping the hose or watering can at the base of the soil will help to prevent any fungal growth on the wet leaves.

Plant Hardiness

If the fall season means a drop in temperatures in your area, you'll want to select plants that will not only tolerate, but thrive in those conditions. Many plants will continue to bloom and provide interest under a broad range of conditions, often into winter.

Some plants are perennials in many growing zones and can be overwintered in the pot or in the ground. Hardy plants can be cut back and moved inside to a cold but above freezing area for the winter months. Or, if you get them into the ground early enough, you may be able to enjoy them for years to come.

Amy Draiss
Digital Community Manager

Amy Draiss, Digital Community Manager at Gardening Know How since 2021, seamlessly blends her hands-on gardening experience with a digital green thumb. With roots in family landscaping and management at a garden center, Amy has cultivated expertise in plants, supplies, and customer relations. Residing in the Midwest, Amy tends to her two-acre haven, showcasing a diverse range of trees, shrubs, and perennials. As the Hydrangea Queen, she shares her love for these blooms and imparts gardening wisdom through videos and social media. Beyond gardening, Amy enjoys quality time with her family, travel, and theme parks. Amy's mission is to inspire and advise plant enthusiasts, fostering flourishing gardens for both seasoned and budding gardeners alike.