It’s time to change out warm season color for cool season color. One way to get the most out of this season — plus enjoy blooms all winter — is to mix fall and winter color together. You should also plan on a small touch-up or two after the first hard frost.
First, choose winter-hardy plants for containers that offer interest all winter long. The key is to choose evergreens, perennials, groundcovers and seasonal color that can last throughout our coldest temperatures in containers. For large pots that need vertical, evergreen height, consider yews, hollies, camellias, boxwoods, junipers, arborvitaes and Alberta spruce. Surround evergreens with cabbage, autumn ferns, sweet flag, coral bells, dusty miller, ajuga and English ivy for filler. For trailing color, use Cool Wave pansies, which provide cascading color all season.
Deciduous small trees like Japanese maples and contorted filberts also make good larger planter centerpieces. The winter structure of these trees is unique and interesting, even with no leaves. All of these plants can be kept in the planters for several seasons if they are placed in the appropriate amount of sun and have enough root room to grow, and can then be planted out in the landscape.
If you typically plant tropical plants in your containers and aren't sure about planting evergreens and perennials in them, just remember you can remove and plant these shrubs and perennials in your landscape next spring.
Now that you have the winter elements sorted, it’s time to add in fall items such as mums and pumpkins. There are many fall annuals to choose from such as marigolds, celosia, ornamental peppers, annual rudbeckia and crotons, just to name a few. Create accents with some of these fall elements. They can either be planted, or in the case of pumpkins, just tucked in among winter plants for bright color.
Once we get a hard frost, fall annuals are fading and pumpkin season has passed, you can remove them and fill in with more winter-hardy plants. Pansies should still be available then, as well as other items such as English ivy. In fact, your winter-hardy plants will have been growing all fall, so it’s possible you won’t even have areas to fill once the fall items are removed.
For professional results, choose quality plant materials and professional products like Good Earth brand Professional Growing Mix. Use Good Earth brand Jump Start when planting these and anything else. This product contains mycorrhizae, which can increase the water and nutrient utilization of your plants by up to 1,000 times. To increase blooming, apply Ferti-Lome Premium Bedding Plant Food as a granular, slow-release fertilizer to the soil when planting.
Don't forget to water your pots this fall and winter. Plants do not like to freeze dry. If they do, plant cells will actually explode, which causes visible and potentially deadly damage. Winter watering is especially important for containers located under covered areas, which only get the water you give them since rain won't reach them.
Visit The Good Earth Garden Center's online Learning Center for more details on this and other gardening topics.