Fall Container Planting: Landscape Design Tips

Posted on Sep 25, 2014

fall foliage
For most, fall conjures images of colored foliage and falling leaves, of crisp winds and gentle rains, of hot tea and cozy couches–everything but gardening. However, while spring is certainly a great season for gardening, fall provides a surprisingly ideal time for planting.

Why Fall Container Planting?

Here in the Pacific Northwest, fall brings the rains. This shift towards a cooler, more humid climate is a key reason why fall planting is so successful. In fall, soils temperatures are still warm but air temperatures stay cool. This allows soil to stay moist and creates a perfect environment for root systems to become established and thrive.

Container gardens can be particularly sensitive to harsh summer temperatures because their loose soil heats up and dries out much more quickly. In a single afternoon, tender new plants can burn and wilt, and won’t come recover until next season, if at all. This is why fall provides a unique window to safely plant your containers.

Our landscape designers pulled together their favorite plant combinations that are PNW-hardy, low maintenance, look beautiful in every season (including winter!) and are perfect to plant right now.

Three Simple Container Combinations

1 – Northwest Native Feel

  • Mountain Hemlock – Tsuga mertensiana
    This slowgrowing tree is perfect for container planting, and is the the vertical, evergreen center of the container. It’s delicate, blue-green needles and dark cones contrast against silvery bark. Evergreen.
  • Lady’s Leek – Allium cernuum
    This native member of the onion flower puts out gorgeous, vibrant pink flower clusters in spring, which contrast with it’s bright green foliage. Perennial.
  • Bear Grass – Xerophyllum tenax
    A natural companion of the Mountain Hemlock, this blue-green grass with tall, dramatic white flower spikes in spring ties the container together. Evergreen.

2 – Tropical Look

  • Japanese Aralia – Fatsia japonica variegata OR Feijoa – Pineapple guava
    Either of these evergreen shrubs make great centerpieces for a tropical feel. Japanese variegated Aralia has large, dramatic green leaves with splotches of creamy white supported by thick upright stems. Pineapple guava has silvery green leaves and bright pink flowers which mature into a delicious fruit. Evergreen.
  • Eucomus sparkling burgundy – Purple pineapple lily
    This dramatic accent plant produces strap-like foliage of dark burgundy – a perfect contrast in this container. In late summer, the rosette-like plant produces a 2 foot stalk with a bloom that resembles a miniature purple pineapple. Perennial.
  • Hakonechloa aureola – Japanese forest grass
    This variegated grass provides a groundcover and cascading element in the container. It’s gold and lime green variegated leaves have purple tips, which pair nicely with the palette of the other plants. Deciduous.

3 – Designer Plants

  • Azara microphylla – Boxleaf Azara
    The vertical, evergreen central element in the container, Azara microphylla is very popular amongst designers as it can be pruned and espelied to grow in many forms and spaces. It’s delicate foliage is airy and beautiful, and comes in solid deep green and variegated varieties. Evergreen.
  • Ledebouria cooperi – Cooper’s False Scilla
    This easy-to-grow, South African bulb forms a beautiful olive-green ground cover in this container, with lovely pink flower spikes in early spring. Perennial.
  • Hebe decumbens
    A handsome groundcover with black stems and olive-green leaves edged in red, this creeping evergreen groundcover is a stunner, especially with its lavender flowers which fade to white in summer. A perfect cascading element in this container. Evergreen.

What are your favorite plant combinations for container gardening? Share with us in the comments, or join the conversation on facebook

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