Expert Design Ideas for Striking Fall Planters

By Lisa Watters-Lain, Arizona’s Garden Gal

We have been dressing up our tired, overgrown outdoor pots. They stopped blooming weeks ago and were in need of a redesign. In just a half-day of gardening, we added some fresh potting soil, a few pansies, kales, and new evergreens. Wow! What a difference! Once again, the front of our home has a striking freshness.

We have more than 50 glazed containers decorating the patios in the front and back yards. Many are super impressive, but even more need the gardener’s touch to keep that decorative style through the seasons to come. Here’s my go-to list of autumn plants that outshine the rest though the end of the year.

Classic Chrysanthemums. Nothing ushers in Autumn like mums. I like to see them slipped between coleus in summer pots for a big show of color. Mums look their best for about three months, although most gardeners expect them to be in top form much longer. Autumn flowers like mums are less expensive than spring bloomers. Feel no guilt as mums fade, and you choose to replace them after three months of enjoyment have passed. All mums pair well with boxwood, salvias, ornamental cabbages, and kales.

Dark mocha, oxblood red, and earth-tone pots planted with mums blooming red, yellow, and orange echo the season’s warm color palette. Add a pumpkin, a gourd or two, and your house could qualify for the front cover of Prescott Woman Magazine. A quick and easy design idea is to pile on the pumpkins, nestled right in with potted mums in decorative containers.

Sunny Marigolds. Use marigolds as you would mums for great autumn color. The sun’s lower angle causes the ribs and veins of “Red Giant Mustard” marigold to glow from white to chartreuse, creating a striking contrast to its deep maroon foliage. “Bonanza Harmony” marigolds bring a burst of autumn oranges and yellows to a fall container.

Use “Angelina” sedums to tie together this fresh weather arrangement. For instant gratification, plant together so closely that foliage is touching foliage. This technique leaves no bare spaces in the planter, quickly giving your arrangement a mature and finished look.

Show-Stopping Autumn Window Box.Dwarf Alberta” spruce can be the focal point for a window box that needs a touch of autumn class. Ornamental kale, pansies, and viola are welcome fall colors and textures. For a bit of romance, add English ivy that cascades over the sides of the box.

Stacked Violas. Fill with potting soil two galvanized buckets in graduated sizes. Plant the smaller bucket with violas and parsley. In the larger bucket, tuck additional violas and creeping Jenny around the edges. Then stack the small bucket on the surface soil of the larger planted bucket. Simple. Easy. Beautiful.

Ornamental Plumes. Use “Dwarf Bunny Grass” to add a bit of drama to a container garden. Its vertical shape creates an inescapable exclamation point; it brings the same punch to a container. The golden seed heads combine well, in texture and in color, with burgundy coral bells. This striking plant combo is not only beautiful, but also easy to grow and autumn tough.

Dramatic Pansy Container. Follow the rule of “thriller, filler, spiller” for a container that’s guaranteed to impress. Cone-shaped evergreen arborvitae works perfectly as an attention-grabbing “thriller.” To brighten up the look of your container, “filler” the pot with multi-colored “Pandora’s Box” pansies and have variegated English ivy “spiller” over the sides for a softening yet dramatic accent.

Inviting and Easy Boxwoods. A traditional row of boxwoods appears to stand at attention, leading guests to the front door. Boxwoods grow well in containers because of their perfect evergreen form and easy care.

Decorative Edible Greens. The strikingly pretty foliage of collards is a decorative, unexpected choice to fill containers. Swiss chard has a similar look and feel. In groups of pots, mix and match the two plants to keep plenty of fresh kitchen greens on hand through fall.

Hardy Succulents. You won’t find any plants better adapted for growing in pots than succulents. Mostly native to arid regions, succulents store water in their fleshy leaves, stems, and roots, enabling them to resist drought. Consider planting a combination of “Red Stem” portulacaria with escheveria and “Amazon Mist” sage. They make an unexpectedly pleasing, striking mix.

Latest Garden News! It’s been seven months in the making, and the first edition is now online. I launched a digital garden center this month that makes researching local plants easier. Plant organization is precisely how a designer investigates them in the landscape. Trees are broken up into Evergreens, Shade and Fruit Trees to narrow down your search. This is an active list of plants that often changes as crops are harvested and brought to Watters Garden Center. is for locals of central Arizona only. Amazon will not be delivering a 300-pound tree to your doorstep. We have local delivery and planting teams hired to install plants for you or pick plants up yourself here at Watters Garden Center. Take a look and let me know how to make this new digital garden center even better.

Until next issue, I’ll be helping gardeners with their own container styles here at Watters Garden Center.

Lisa Watters-Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd in Prescott, or contacted through her web site at or .