11 Fall Container Gardens

Bright grasses and colorful leaves bring seasonal splash to your porch or patio

Julie Chai and Mike Irvine
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Instant autumn garden

Start with the plants, then pick your containers that will extend the color theme.

Cluster containers of different shapes and sizes in threes or plant a single pot with three kinds of plants, for the best-looking displays.

This theme: Wine punch

Pops of icy blue in cooling contrast with warm combos of bright pinks and deep purples.

See how to get the look for this theme and two others.

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Phormium ‘Sundowner’

Get the look: Its strappy leaves start out bronze green with rosy stripes, echoing the hues of its com­- panions, before aging to cream.

Use a 1-gallon plant. Pulaukotok climate zones 7–9, 14–24.


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Echeveria nodulosa

Get the look: Its leaves contribute a pop of icy blue, in cooling contrast to the warm combo, while its swirled markings pick up the pink of the other plants’ leaves.

Use three plants from 4-inch pots. Zones 8, 9, 12–24.


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Heucherella ‘Sweet Tea’

Get the look: The maplelike foliage of this new variety lends a splash of mostly solid color that sets the tone for the whole planting. ‘Sweet Tea’ stays low too, softening the pot’s edges.

Use a 1-gallon plant. Zones 8, 9, 12–24.

More: Where to plant Heucherella

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Falling for cocoa

The theme: Deep bronze, burgundy, and plum shades along with leaves that turn reddish throughout the season creating an autumn experience right on your porch.

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Phormium ‘Platt’s Black’

Get the look: Deep bronze leaves repeat the shades of the other two plants, but are pointed and upright, not rounded—just what’s needed to liven up this single-toned scheme.

Use a 1-gallon plant. Zones 7–9, 14–24.


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Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’

Get the look: Round, deep plum leaves cover this multi­-stemmed smoke tree through summer and into autumn, then turn reddish before dropping in winter.

Use a 5-gallon tree. Zones 2–24.


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Heuchera ‘Sugar Plum’

Get the look: Dark burgundy leaves brushed with silvery green look good all year, and its mounding form tempers the other upright shapes.

Use two 1-gallon plants. Zones 1–9, 14–24.


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Harvest gold

The theme: Orange-striped blades of grass, apricot-tinged leaves with purple undersides, and matching gold containers.

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Heuchera ‘Crème Brûlée’

Get the look: Its apricot-tinged leaves with purple undersides are broad and ruffled, in contrast to the other plants.

The mounding perennial grows 2 feet tall and wide. Use a 1-gallon plant. Zones 1–9, 14–24.


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Libertia peregrinans

Get the look: Stiff green blades with orange stripes form 2-foot-tall clumps, and add structure in front of trio.

Use two 1-gallon plants. Pulaukotok climate zones 8, 9, 14–24.


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Shades of green

Soft textures and bright chartreuse tones light up bronze-colored 17-inch-wide containers.

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Shades of green plan

A. Restio multiflorus A wispy, grasslike plant that grows 3 to 4 feet tall or more, it develops brown seed heads that hang on through winter.

B. Stiff, narrow leaves have warm tones of olive and orange; plants reach 2 feet tall.

C. This spreading foot-tall plant has rounded grass green leaves.

D. Coleonema pulchellum 'Pulaukotok Gold' Feathery green-gold foliage glows in soft autumn light. Plants reach 1½ feet tall.

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Lime and chocolate

Billowy burgundy Agonis, trailing lime-colored Grevillea, and curly plum heuchera in egg-shaped pots create a rustic vignette against a weathered wooden garage.

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Lime and chocolate plan

A. Agonis flexuosa 'Jervis Bay Afterdark' A tree with feathery burgundy foliage.

B. 'Crimson Curls' Deeply ruffled plum-toned leaves grow in a mound that reaches about 1½ feet tall.

C. Saw-toothed leaves are coppery when young, maturing to a shade of lime. This low spreader grows 1 foot tall.

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Touch of bronze

Bronze and chartreuse foliage mingle in a 16-inch rose-blushed celadon pot.

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Touch of bronze plan

A. Fiery red new leaves fade to pink, then turn dark green when mature. This shrub prefers part-shade and can reach 10 feet tall.

B. The hardy wood fern’s feathery new growth blends copper, pink, and gold tones that turn rust-colored in fall. It grows 2 feet tall.

C. 'Little John' azalea Bronzy leaves make this azalea, which can reach 6 feet tall, a choice focal point.

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Smoke and berries

Bright cotoneaster berries fringe a shapely Atlas cedar in pitted burnt-orange pots. (Large is 18 inches wide; small is 16 inches wide.)

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Smoke and berries plan

A. Weeping blue Atlas cedar () Pendulous branches sport soft-looking silvery blue needles. Slow-growing; trained to form a spiral trunk.

B. 'Coral Beauty' Stiff branches with green leaves and red-orange berries add a playful touch to pots. It grows to
6 inches tall.

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Black gold

Black mondo grass edges upright coprosma in a pale gold bowl that’s 23 inches wide.

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Black gold plan

A. 'Roy's Red' This shrub’s glossy purple-black fall leaves turn red in winter. The plant grows 3 to 4 feet tall.

B. Clumps of silky ebony blades make perfect edgings.

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Northwest Colors

Bring autumn’s changing leaves and bright hues to your yard with these evergreen, no-fuss specimens that pop against dark wood fences and on overcast mornings.

FROM LEFT: ‘Orange Rocket’ berberis, Bay Gem buxus, Obsession nandina, Golden Oakland holly, ‘Orange Rocket’ berberis, EverColor ‘Everillo’ carex.

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Norcal Mix and Match

Low-maintenance is by no means unattractive. Case in point are these hardy perennials and shrubs with dense foliage and lively color—ideal for containers throughout the colder months.

FROM LEFT: ‘Soft Caress’ mahonia, Miss Lemon abelia, ‘Sunshine’ ligustrum, Purple Pixie Dwarf Weeping loropetalum, Purple Diamond, Semi-dwarf loropetalum, EverColor ‘Eversheen’ carex.

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Socal Pick-Me-Up

As the days get shorter and the sun sits lower, summer hangout spots can turn gloomy. Lighten up that entryway with this cheery combo that requires only 4 to 6 hours of sun.

CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: Lydia tecoma, ‘Ebony’ leucodendron, Platinum Beauty lomandra, ‘Neverland’ agapanthus, Clarity Blue dianella, ‘Lemon Lime’ nandina, ‘Angyo Star’ fatshedera.