14 Fall Flowers to Plant in Pots, According to Experts

published Sep 25, 2023
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Although fall can seem like a sad time if you’re a garden-lover, as you do final tasks to prepare your yard for cold winter weather, there’s still time to enjoy your outdoor space. One way you can let foliage linger for a bit is by planting fall flowers in pots. Plenty of autumnal vegetation thrives in containers while adding pops of color to patios, balconies, and entryways. And by putting cool-weather flowers in planters, there is the added benefit of mobility, meaning you can relocate your potted flowers depending on where you feel they look best.

Before you rush out to the nursery or garden center, knowing which plants will last throughout the fall season and tolerate chillier weather is essential. I called on gardening, landscaping, and outdoor experts to find out which plants were best and the pros and cons of each variety. Whether you add a solo plant or combine species for a burst of hues, here are 14 fall flowers to plant in containers.

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1. Chrysanthemums

Anna Ohler of Bright Lane Gardens recognizes that chrysanthemums (aka mums) are among the most popular autumnal potted plants. ”Mums are a very common fall flower option, as they bloom right up until the first frost of the season,” she says.

With proper care, you can also grow many varieties as perennials, even in northern climates. Check the growing zones of both your hometown and the particular mum species. If your mum is a cold-weather perennial, you can let it winter outside, but if it needs warmer temperatures, Ohler suggests bringing it into a garage or living room during chilly months.

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2. Autumn Joy Sedum

Ward Dilmore of Petrus Landscape recommends sedum for a low-maintenance addition to your fall containers. “It is a fantastic, tough, and unique-looking plant for the landscape,” he says. 

While there are around 460 varieties of sedum, a favorite for Dilmore is Autumn Joy Sedum. This particular variety of sedum has long-lasting flowers that start as deep pink and age to a dusty red as the season wears on. Autumn Joy is an easy-to-care-for plant you can easily cut back once frigid temperatures arrive.

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3. Alyssum

Brock Ingham of Bigger Garden likes planting alyssum in containers and hanging baskets, which allows the dainty flowers to spill over the edge for a dramatic effect. He’s also fond of their scent. “The blooms are incredibly fragrant, emitting a sweet, honey-like scent that can fill your potted garden with a pleasant aroma,” says Ingham.

Alyssum’s possible colors include white, pink, red, and purple. The plant is also drought-tolerant and low-maintenance, which is a big plus, as you finally settle into your busy fall schedule.

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4. Pansies

A common find in garden centers and grocery stores, pansies have bright, cheerful flower heads and can tolerate chilly temperatures well. Another plus is that they often drop seeds as they wither, meaning that you’ll probably find more pansies in the same spot next year. Aaditya Bhatta, the editor of Plants Craze, favors pansies due to the wide range of hues and their versatility. They’re uncomplicated, enjoy sun or partial shade, and require minimal attention.

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5. Coneflowers

Coneflowers (also called echinacea) are native to several U.S. regions, making them a beneficial flower for your local ecosystem. Ohler recommends placing potted coneflowers in a sunny location and bringing them indoors for the winter. Because they are a hardier species, though, you can easily overwinter them outdoors as well. The blooms will die early in the fall season, but they’re such a bright and happy plant that they’re worth having around — even if only for a few weeks. 

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6. Marigolds

Birding expert Joseph Bourdane likes to add marigolds to his fall containers, and for good reason. These blooms attract insects, which in turn grabs the attention of insect-loving birds — great for the ecosystem and avian-loving hobbyists.

Marigolds come in gorgeous fall-centric colors, such as orange and red, and pair well with harvest decor. They are also hardy plants that tolerate frost and will last well throughout the fall season. Most varieties of marigolds are annuals, but these plants can self-seed, so you may find new marigolds next year after the parent plants retire.

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7. Lantana

Expert gardener Gabriel Keith has a fondness for using lantana in fall containers. “Lantanas are a personal favorite of mine because they attract butterflies with their vibrant, multi-colored blooms,” he says. Not only do they add stunning pops of color, but they’re also drought-tolerant once established in their pot. Also, note that lantanas will get bushy, so give them ample space in the container to spread out and thrive.

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8. Coral Bells

Also referred to as heuchera, coral bells are known for their stunning foliage and delicate, bell-shaped blooms. Ingham notes that this fall potted plant can range from shades of green to striking purples, silvers, and reds.

The leaves of coral bells are highly textured and deeply lobed, which adds visual interest when coupled with marigolds and alyssum in pots. Although these plants can tolerate morning sun, they thrive best in shaded areas and enjoy staying fully hydrated.

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9. Pennisetum

Pennisetum, or fountain grass, is technically classified as an ornamental grass and not a flower, but Dilmore notes that it provides graceful movement and texture to container gardens. Instead of flower heads, many grasses offer attractive seed heads that add dimension when mixed in with other fall-potted plants.

The word “grass” might bring about visions of greenery, but ornamental varieties range in color from beige and red to deep purple — all lovely autumnal tones that will enhance the look of your garden.

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10. Lavender

The long stalks of lavender blooming with tiny, purple flowers are a favorite of many. Aside from its pretty color and soothing fragrance, Gene Caballero of Your Green Pal says lavender also provides a natural deterrent for pests.

To care for potted lavender, Caballero suggests planting in a pot with sufficient drainage, placing it in full sunlight, and letting the soil dry out between waterings. To keep your plant until next year, move the pot indoors and put it outside again in the spring.

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11. Russian Sage

When you need height and texture, Russian sage is an ideal plant to do the job. With almost a bush-like appearance, it can overwinter outdoors, and it’s the perfect complement to shorter flowers.

“I like to plant Russian sage in larger planters and will add other short varieties of annual flowers, such as petunias or marigolds, to add more color and extend the blooming season of my planter,” says Ohler. Russian sage looks a lot like lavender, although the flowers are closer to blue than purple.

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12. Miniature Roses

Many seasoned gardenes plant Knock Out Roses in their in-ground garden beds because they’re easy to care for. The same is true for the miniature version, which is perfect for pots. “The bold red flowers will continue to bloom all fall, so it’s a great little plant to keep on display until you are ready to swap your gourds for garlands in November,” says Heidi Mortensen of Star Roses and Plants. Another plus is that with the right steps, you can protect the roses over the winter months so they’ll re-emerge next spring.

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13. Ornamental Kale

Ornamental kale can produce flowers, but it’s rare. Still, many gardeners think of it as having the impact of a flower due to the multiple rows of ornate leaves, giving it an appearance similar to a large rose head. Ornamental kale is tolerant of frost and cold, fuss-free, and comes in a range of rich colors. Bhatta particularly enjoys them because colorful foliage perfectly adds visual interest to your fall flower pots — even after the petals of your blooming plants have faded. 

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14. Asters

Asters bear charming, daisy-like flowers in various vibrant colors, such as pink, purple, and white. Depending on the variety, Ingham says they can also vary in size, ranging from small and delicate to more substantial. Asters enjoy full sun and are pollinator-friendly, attracting bees and butterflies when food is scarce. This plant also thrives with deadheading, so try to remove spent blooms to keep this potted plant looking fresh and to encourage it to continue to produce blooms all season long.