As summer winds down and the container gardens begin to look a little tired, it’s time for a refresh with cool weather container plants. Depending on how your planters are looking, you can carefully edit by removing the spent plants and leaving those that are still doing well, or you can clean out the container completely and start fresh.
You’ll find plenty of options at your local garden center, but these five plants are among the best for adding bold late season colour to your pots and planters.
1) Fall mums
Fall Chrysanthemums are a staple in late summer and fall gardens and containers. They come in a wide assortment of colours, as well as flower shapes and sizes. Keep in mind that some varieties flower early, others mid-season and still others late. If you want the longest display of colour, choose a mixture of these three types. Fall mums are very easy to care for, just water regularly to maintain bloom quality and deadhead spent flowers to encourage more buds to form.
2) Ornamental Cabbage and Kale
Want gorgeous, long-lasting colour and interest that will take you from late summer to autumn to winter? Plant ornamental varieties of cabbage and kale. These cabbage cousins are prized for their brightly coloured foliage and forms. Depending on the variety, they may have smooth wavy leaves, or deeply serrated feathery foliage. Generally, the outside of the plants are green with bright pink, white or red centers. And while technically these plants are edible, they’re bred for beauty not flavour and are quite bitter. If you want a great-tasting kale that is also super pretty in planters, go with Redbor or Dinosaur.
3) Ornamental Grasses
There are a lot of different types of grasses you can plant in containers, but my favourite is Purple Fountain Grass which has bronze-purple foliage and soft burgundy tassels. It’s very easy to grow and the arching leaves and seedheads add texture to mixed containers. Of course there are many types of grasses and millets you can find at your local garden centre in late summer, so don’t be shy about experimenting with the various colours, forms, and textures.
Like fall mums, adding asters to late summer containers is a quick way to provide long-lasting colour. The small, daisy-like flowers are also very pollinator friendly, attracting bees and butterflies. You’ll find asters with lavender, deep purple, pink, red or white flowers with some growing just a foot tall and others reaching heights of two to three-feet.
Rudbeckias, more commonly known as Brown-eyed Susan’s, can be annuals, biennials, or perennials. ‘Toto’ is a popular annual Rudbeckia that grows just a foot tall but pumps out medium-sized, daisy-like flowers with bright orange petals and deep chocolate centers. For something a little taller, try Rustic Dwarfs, which grow up to two-feet tall (excellent for cut flowers) and offer a pretty mixture of maghogany, gold, and bronze flowers.
Deadhead spent flowers often to promote new growth. Once you’ve potted up your late summer container garden, don’t forget to add fun accents like gourds, branches of Chinese lanterns, or cattails.