Every year as summers bright, showy containers begin to fade, we face a rather harsh reality with our porch pots and hanging baskets, do we really have to refresh our faded summer pots with the drab hues of winter even though flowers continue to bloom in the landscape?
Perhaps not, try these 3 (or maybe 4) plants with bright, showy fall color and continuing interest through winter. But don’t forget winter standbys like Pansies and Cyclamen.
Rich, leathery, mahogany-red leaves with a new color for every season.
A lovely, upright Switch Grass with rich purple blades in late summer and fall, and handsome seedheads that sway in the breeze in winter.
Helleborus ‘Wester Flisk’
Striking in or out of bloom with glossy silver leaves and shocking red centers. Chartreuse flowers with red stems are showy starting in January, and open in February.
Bonus if you can find it: Mukdenia ‘Crimson Fans’ — By summer, a rather non-descript shade perennial with cute little white flowers, but as other perennials fade, Mukdenia is the star, often with fire engine red and sunny yellow fall color on one plant at the same time.
This combination keeps your containers bright through fall while there are still bright colors in the landscape to compete with, and keeps giving through winter with the changing colors of the Heuchera and the Hellebore’s bloom time.
As a winter pot, light exposure isn’t very important, but when you’re ready to change your containers in spring, move the Panicum out to a sunny spot and the Heuchera and Hellebore to part shade, or all of them together into a spot with sun all morning and shade all afternoon.
- They won’t grow much over the winter, so plant your containers full for now. When you move the plants out in spring, plant the Heuchera and Hellebore near the front with about 18” between them, and 30-36” between them and the Panicum, which should be in the back as it will grow to about 5’ tall.
- Fertilizer isn’t as important to fall plantings as it is at other times of year, but a mild starter fertilizer such as EB stone Sure Start is still well worth adding at planting time to encourage rooting in.
Special Considerations: Bright Colors
Cupressus ‘Wilma Goldcrest’
Don’t forget the importance of bright colors to ward off winter’s gloom. Consider adding one or more of these screaming chartreuse plants if you have room: Acorus ‘Ogon’, Carex ‘Everillo’, Vinca ‘Illumination’, Heuchera (any or several Lime varieties), or Cupressus ‘Wilma Goldcrest’.
Schizachyrium: Little Bluestem Grass
‘Red Head’ Fountain Grasses
Sometimes you can’t find all the plants mentioned or you would like a slightly different look. Other plants with fun fall foliage and continuing winter interest include Schizachyrium (Little Bluestem Grass), Pennisetum ‘Karley Rose’ or ‘Red Head’ (Fountain Grasses), Heuchera ‘Electra’ or ‘Solar Eclipse’, Dryopteris erythrosora (Autumn Fern), and Helleborus argutifolius or ‘Merlin.’
Care & Maintenance:
- The best time to plant this combination is when trees around the neighborhood are in fall color, October or November.
- Water when the top 1” of soil is dry, probably once every few weeks in winter if the pot is under cover.