Fill Your Container Garden With Fall Color (In 5 Easy Steps)

Updating your summer container garden for fall is a great way to usher in the new season! Here are some great tips from my friend Melissa Nelson, owner of Melissa Nelson Design.


I got into floral/container design over 15 years ago. My house was featured in a holiday home tour for my children’s elementary school fundraiser. I always fill my outdoor and indoor containers with fresh, seasonal plants, flowers and greens. Several attendees reached out after to see if I could help them do the same and the rest is history as they say!

Now that summer is officially behind us, you’ve probably noticed that your once-vibrant summer annuals are starting to look a little sad. This is a perfect time to refresh them before the weather changes.

Fortunately, most nurseries and big box stores offer a wonderful selection of fall annuals and perennials, allowing you to create a fresh and inviting display that will last well into the cooler months.

1. Gather Your Garden Tools

To begin, gather your tools and prepare for a little container gardening magic. Start by laying down a tarp, drop cloth, or an old towel to avoid getting soil everywhere. This makes for quicker cleanup.

2. Out With the Old

Now, carefully remove the spent plants, either using your gloved hands or a shovel, taking care not to disturb the roots of any plants that will remain. Any discarded plant material can find a new purpose in your compost bin.

3. Evaluate the Situation

Take a moment to evaluate your container’s soil. If there are any empty spots or areas where the soil has become depleted, refresh it. I personally like to use Miracle-Gro potting mix because it contains fertilizer, giving my new plants the nutrients they need to thrive.

4. Variety Choices and Planting

Pro Tip: “Planting” plants in their original containers means they can be easily replaced once the buds have run their course.

Now comes the fun part – selecting your new plants! I like to use a mix of both fall annuals and perennials in my containers. This allows me to enjoy a variety of colors and textures without the need for frequent replanting.

When choosing plants, think about the color palette and aesthetics you want to achieve. White pansies, violas, and Chrysanthemums are excellent choices for fall containers, as they thrive in cooler weather and can last through the winter. Look for bright autumn hues like reds and oranges, as well as interesting green and red coleus and cabbage varieties.

A note on mums: though beautiful, Chrysanthemums don’t last as long as some other fall blooms. To extend their beauty, I like to “plant” them in their original containers, allowing for easy replacement once their buds have run their course.

As you plant your new selections, be sure to cover the roots thoroughly with soil.

To get your plants off to a good start, water them generously and establish a regular watering routine, as container plants tend to dry out quicker than those in the ground.



5. Don’t Forget to Decorate!

Add your finishing touches by incorporating some seasonal decor like pumpkins, gourds, and other fall-themed elements onto your porch or garden. These accents will not only complement your vibrant container garden but also infuse your outdoor space with the spirit of the season!

There is nothing quite like the joy of transforming your outdoor spaces with seasonal beauty. With a little effort and creativity, you can refresh your garden for fall, creating a welcoming and enchanting space that will be the envy of your neighborhood!

Happy Planting!

Melissa Nelson

Melissa Nelson Design

Melissa Nelson is an independent designer and decorator based in Portland, Oregon. She specializes in personalizing people’s homes both inside and out throughout the year and seasonally with accessories as well as potted plants and fresh arrangements. Melissa and her husband are now empty nesters after raising their son and daughter.

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