Porch and patio planters aren’t just for spring and summer posies. With attention to temperature tolerance and growing habits, gardeners can create interesting fall container plantings that go beyond the typical potted chrysanthemum. The selection of cold-tolerant plants that will retain their good looks past the early frosts that turn most autumn bloomers brown and brittle is greater than most gardeners think. Gardeners willing to think outside the box will discover an interesting variety of leafy plants and decorative grasses that will maintain their color and beauty through Thanksgiving and into the winter.
- Festuca (Festuca), also known as Ornamental Blue Fescue, makes an eye-catching container display. This compact, soft textured, dusty blue-green ornamental grass grows in well-defined, rounded clumps from which shoot tan spikes tipped with fuzzy “flowers.” Large enough to stand alone, Festuca can be left in containers through the winter to add textural beauty to the winter landscape.
- Heuchera (Heuchera), also called Coral Bells, grows in low clumps of charming, scallop-edged leaves. Leaf color ranges from deep green to dark maroon to golden brown, depending on variety. Long stems supporting clusters of bell-shaped flowers grow from plant centers and bloom in spring or summer. Because of their low profile, Heuchera are most effective in small planters or low patio boxes or paired with taller items. Create a whimsical Great Pumpkin display by planting a “skirt” of Heuchera around the base of a large pumpkin.
- Ornamental Cabbage and Kale (Bassica) look like gigantic rose blossoms. Deeply-frilled, tightly-packed broad leaves open in creamy white or pink centers that resemble giant roses in full bloom. Colorful centers are surrounded by overly-large, gray-blue, scalloped leaves. Their globe-like shape achieves enough height to serve as a stand-alone container plant in small to medium pots. For larger displays, group several plants together or display with selection of fall gourds.